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Failure To Communicate

The mass media still doesn't "get" the resilience movement
Monday, July 17, 2017, 9:06 PM

"What we've got here is Failure To Communicate."

~ The Captain, Cool Hand Luke

In 2010, They Didn't Get It

The first week Chris and I started working together back in 2010 was mostly spent dealing with a PR snafu.

Boston Magazine had sent one of its senior writers out to the Martenson's house a few months earlier. Chris and Becca opened up their homestead to her, spending the better part of three days explaining how developing a resilient lifestyle was the best way to prepare for the coming changes warned of in The Crash Course, not to mention the best way to move forward into the future with optimism rather than fear.

The Martensons were happy to have had the chance to tell their story in full. But unfortunately, the writer chose to take a narrow -- and alarmist -- view.

Chris was understandably upset when the story came out. "The End Is Near Inc." was the featured article in that issue of Boston Magazine, complete with a photo-shopped image of Chris sitting in an underground bunker surrounded by cannisters of stored food, stacks of gold bars, and a chicken. And the article itself focused much more on dystopian risks and the survivalist urge to buy guns.

The author seemed to have totally missed the heart of the Martenson's message: that resilience involves engaging with the world around us, not hunkering down against it. After sharing days worth of examples of community gardening, raw milk co-ops, neighborhood potlucks, tool sharing circles, and much more -- Boston Magazine portrayed them as 'us-against-the-world' doomsday preppers.

Interestingly, when we (and the PP.com community) loudly complained, the magazine's editors were shocked. They thought they had presented the Martensons in an accurate and favorable light. They truly believed they were helping out the PP cause with their coverage.

The lesson we learned that day is that the media has an extremely difficult time understanding the resilient living movement. As the news machine exists in a world of sound bytes, memes, and "what sells", it can only tolerate a very limited amount of nuance.

Start talking about The Three E trends discussed in The Crash Course? Got it. You guys are into doomer porn. Or you're tin-foil hat conspiracy theorists. Maybe both.

Advise that people increase their level of personal self-sufficiency? Oh, you're nut-job survivalists.

Try to explain the 8 Forms Of Capital, and how we can increase our quality of life by learning to live within our means? Uh...what? You lost me. I'll just call you guys "doomsday preppers"

The mass media simply doesn't have an established reference point for the concerned citizen who, through education and foresight, decides to take prudent steps today to reduce their future vulnerability while increasing their level of personal prosperity.

So, movements like ours get shunted into the existing constructs they do know, pretty much all of which exist on the "fringe".

In 2017, It's Not Much Better

Fast-forward seven years, and things haven't improved much.

Years of stock market highs fueled by massive central bank intervention and unsustainably low oil prices have removed much of the concerns the average Joe had back in 2010. The mainstream media has been a major cheerleader of the "recovery", painfully blind to the fact that nearly all of it is due to stealing prosperity from the future. The "Everything Is Awesome" meme dominates.

But we here at PeakProsperity.com took heart in the reception a piece in The New Yorker received back in January. While the article, Doomsday Prep For The Super-Rich, still took the same narrow alarmist and end-of-times angle, its message was harder for the media to dismiss. The people featured in the story were Silicon Valley executives -- many of the same people given credit in previous articles for the 'awesomeness' of today's economy.

This was a record-scratch moment for the media. Wait a minute....these guys are thinking this way? We look up to these guys. What do they know that we don't?

Our hope was that, by hearing the message from "credible" sources like these, the media would begin to take a more open-minded view. And, to a certain extent, it has. 

From my past days working in Silicon Valley, I happen to know personally several of the executives mentioned in the New Yorker article. In the weeks after its publication, they were inundated with follow-up calls from other media outlets wanting to know more about this phenomenon inspiring professionals to prepare for a more self-reliant future.

Familiar with my work, they referred many of those inquiries to me. After all, I write about this material for a living, and have changed my entire lifestyle around it.

In the ensuing months, I gave a number of interviews to media outlets both big and small, several of which sent film crews out to my home in northern California. My hope was that we'd finally have the opportunity to have an adult-sized conversation about the risks of our current growth-dependent global lifestyle, and the very doable measures individuals can take to stop being part of the problem and instead become part of the solution.

And I did get my wish...sort of.

Each time a film crew was sent to my house, I spent the better part of the day talking with the interviewers in depth about the material we cover here at PeakProsperity.com. They were clearly interested in the story, surprised by the data (much of which they 'kind of' knew about but didn't realize how extreme things have become), and very curious to learn about actionable steps individuals can take to reduce their risk as well as help society course change to a better, more sustainable trajectory.

An average day's shoot took about 6 hours. And of these, I would say only 30 minutes were focused on the risks we face (economic recession/depression, net energy shortage, resource depletion, etc), and the remaining 5 and a half hours were spent discussing or showing the investments in resilience I had made in my life. I went in detail into all 8 Forms Of Capital and had crews film my garden, orchard, livestock, bees -- as well me sweating through one of my CrossFit workouts.

I really enjoyed these shoots. The interviewers were smart, likeable people who really did seem to "get" the nuances of what we are trying to accomplish here at PeakProsperity.com. They asked informed, probing questions and gave me plenty of opportunity to answer in detail.

But...when I saw the finished segments that aired, I realized that not much has changed since our experience with Boston Magazine.

The hours of footage shot were reduced to a few snippets -- all of which focused on the collapse risk theme. None of my material on the positive aspects of resilient living -- on the key point that the Peak Prosperity movement is based on optimism not fear -- made it into final production.

Worse, my comments were often sandwiched between much more extreme prepper/survivalist material, like underground Armageddon bunkers for the super-rich. So by association, our message comes off looking all the more "doomsday-ish"

In some ways, I'm not surprised. First off, it's hard to capture the essence of all we discuss here at PeakProsperity.com within a few sound bytes -- Chris and I wrestle with that on a daily basis, so I don't expect other folks to be better at it than we are. Second, even though my hours with the interviewers may have expanded their understanding of our movement, that doesn't mean they similarly won over their editors -- who have to make my material work with the other guests featured in the same short segment. Third, editors like to keep the message simple -- they don't have time or tolerance for a nuanced voice like ours. And fourth, fear sells.

So you end up with coverage like this. Here's what AJ+, the online news and media channel of Al-Jazeera Media Network, aired:

(Note: I'm particularly frustrated by how my comments between 3m:57s - 4m:17s were clipped in a way that could be interpreted I was endorsing the doomsday prepper mindset. The longer answer I gave explained that, unlike the extremist POV which is often driven by fear and dogma, many professionals are coming to a similar conclusion that personal preparation is wise through a dispassionate analysis of the macro trend data)

Similarly, 60 Minutes (Australia) used very similar clips in its piece titled Apocalypse Soon:

For those wondering, I did take pains before each of these shoots to inform the interviewers that Peak Prosperity was about personal resilience and life enrichment, not fear-mongering.  As reference, here's the response from the 60 Minutes producer to our pre-shoot preparatory phone discussion:

Hi Adam,

Thanks so much for your time on the phone – it was great to hear your insights on preparation and self-reliance. I’ve also just watched the first few episodes of The Crash Course which is proving really helpful in better understanding the concept behind Peak Prosperity.

As we discussed, my aim is not to do a kind of ‘doomsday/the world is about to end’ story but instead to take a really honest look at the bigger picture i.e. what people can do and are doing to better prepare themselves for any number of different scenarios which may arise politically, financially or environmentally.

Judge for yourself if their Apocalypse Soon segment was a ‘doomsday/the world is about to end’ story or not...

But There's Hope

Personally, I'm glad for the coverage we've recently received by the mass media. It is flawed and very imprecise, yes. But, as they say, any news is good news. My hope is that the core fact that wealthy executives are now taking action will serve as a catalyzing stimulus for more people to start researching these issues on their own.

And as I said, I genuinely enjoyed my interactions with the interviewers -- whom I felt were good people trying to do their best to understand the story. I do think they took away from the discussion much more than was in their aired segments. So my hope is that any seeds I planted will germinate over time, and help these reporters learn how to more accurately portray this information in the future.

And I also had a few interviews that, in my opinion, were much more successful at getting across the full Peak Prosperity message. Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, these were smaller outlets. With more niche audiences, they usually have less time and editorial pressures to contend with.

One that I think does a particularly good job is this one with Living Wealthy Radio. If you have family or friends who are not yet familiar with Peak Prosperity, this is a good one to share for introducing them to our framework, the data we look at and the conclusions we draw, and how that can translate into steps they should consider taking in their lives to protect/increase their level of personal prosperity:

The longer it takes us a society to admit we have real problems and predicaments, the longer it will be before we take action to address them. And, as a consequence, the more painful it will be when we finally do so.

The mass media has a very important role to play in making people aware of these issues and fostering public debate on the options we can choose to take. But it's not stepping into that role yet.

In response to this vacuum of meaningful and accurate information, sites like PeakProsperity.com exist -- to help you, and other critically-thinking people like you, get access to the data and discussion necessary for informed decision-making.

Chris and I will continue to talk with any/all media outlets that can surface the important issues we deal with here at PP.com, whether our message is captured in full or only in part.

But one day, likely driven by global events, the world will once again be forced to care much more about these problems that it does right now. And when that happens, the body of work we're building here and the rich interaction of this site's engaged community will provide the insight, guidance and support the anxious masses will be looking for. Whether it's recognized or not by others right now, all of us here at PP.com today are an important part of the solution.

~ Adam Taggart

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19 Comments

NickAdams10's picture
NickAdams10
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 6 2015
Posts: 18
Media portrayal

As someone who spent a few years being a journalist, I have an appreciation for the difficulties of telling a nuanced story. Editors sometimes don't want them, and the audience rarely has the attention for them, especially when they're as challenging to accept as the narrative you're advancing. That said, some of your interviewers had some serious confirmation bias that interfered with their ability to really listen to you, which is unfortunate.

Taking the long view, though, more media exposure is really what you and Chris could use if you're going to challenge dominant narratives. Most Americans aren't aware that your site exists, so any coverage is at least going to spread the word about it. And I think there are enough Americans who are curious about the guns-and-bunkers crowd that they might just have a look at Peak Prosperity and draw their own conclusions.

Now, I'm off to harvest some peppers from the family garden.

mntnhousepermi's picture
mntnhousepermi
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 19 2016
Posts: 91
thanks for trying

I appreciate your opening up your home and time and trying to get the message out. I think it could well have some effect, they showed the charts, had tech industry people, like yourself,  saying they thought the direction we are going in would likely have these problems, so I think alot of people will hear that message.

AKGrannyWGrit's picture
AKGrannyWGrit
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 6 2011
Posts: 365
Chris's Pet Chicken

 

Well of course Chris had his chicken in his bunker with him. Remind you of someone?

AKGrannyWGrit's picture
AKGrannyWGrit
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 6 2011
Posts: 365
Where did the picture go?

 

 

http://www.art.com/products/p10291366-sa-i1170644/michael-sowa-fowl-with...

Darn, wasn't able to attach the art picture which Michael Sosa has for sale.   I thought it would remind Chris of his favorite old bird.

 

 

 

Rector's picture
Rector
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 8 2010
Posts: 463
Media Interviews

I occasionally get calls from local media regarding gun law issues.  One interview went for 30 minutes where the nuances of the problem were discussed and the clip used was all of 10 seconds and irrelevant to the matter at hand.  The story that resulted was meaningless and I learned much about journalists at that level.  

Next time, and every time in the future, I am sticking with my One Point - One Soundbite plan.  I will go through the introductions - respond to the first question with the main point I wish to make about the topic, and refuse to speak any more.  They can use my 15 second answer or not, but there won't be any opportunity to selectively edit a 30 minute nuanced answer into a misleading sound bite.  I have contempt for this profession and what it has become - low IQ "communications" majors at the local level and craven regime apologists at the national levels.  Every topic is reduced to the most inflammatory and sensationalist essence - and any concept more complicated than a dumpster fire is met with an eye roll.  With the advent of 24 hour "news" what we see in the media is garbage - because that is all they are capable of.

Rector

 

VitalyGo's picture
VitalyGo
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 9 2013
Posts: 22
Lesson Learned?

Hopefully you learned a lesson, never talk to the main stream media. They only create fake news and will do nothing to help your business or your message. You would have been better off traveling somewhere and have an informal talk with people that actually want to hear your message.

dcm's picture
dcm
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 14 2009
Posts: 147
The "media"

I remember, as a young prosecutor, watching as each "high profile" case was reported, and thinking to myself how wrong they got it. Then it dawned on me. If every thing I do is reported wrong, maybe everything everyone does is reported wrong as well? That said, I also saw a number of elected head prosecutors deliberately withhold facts as they talked to the press. Imagine that.   

While it's true a number of the reporters may not "get it," it is also true that media, just like any other industry in this modern and failing system is now consolidated into very few and very powerful hands. I don't have enough fingers and toes to count the number of guests on this site who think the powers that be are deliberately tweaking the story - just about any story. There's an irony somewhere in the smug smile of a 60 minute reporter from Australia, the continent that gave birth to permaculture and is now baking in the global warming oven. It's more than just a coincidence that the website based media does a more accurate job. It's more than just a coincidence that even though Jeff Bezos made his fortune on the web, he did not "liberate" the high profile paper he recently purchased. And it's more than just a coincidence that we found this site. 

Adam and Chris can try to break the flat screen ceiling but the screen is already broken. As we have already seen, as things get worse, so will the reporting. I think, beyond gardens, the best thing we can do is spread the word and encourage people to educate themselves.

thc0655's picture
thc0655
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 27 2010
Posts: 1387
Yes, yes and yes

Yes to dcm and yes to Rector and yes to Chris and Adam.  I'm like every other (big city) police officer in that I am highly apprehensive about being around the media, being asked a question or being filmed.  I have personal knowledge of many events that have been in the news and I expect their accounts to be inaccurate. I also expect them to do their best through editing and selective use of material to make cops look as bad as possible in every way possible.  Like all big city departments we have a Public Affairs unit that deals with the media for us so we don't have to, just for this reason.  When a sensational crime occurs cops love to come to the scene to see what happened, and it can be difficult for a supervisor to get them to return to their normally assigned patrol duties as quickly as possible.  That's why I'm so glad to see the media arrive at such a scene and see them start setting up their cameras: without fail, my cops head back to their vehicles and drive away.

When an officer in our city has been involved in a shooting, we all cringe knowing that our media beating is about to start.  Word among us spreads very quickly about what really happened, and then we sit back with our head in our hands having to read and hear the media's anti-police reporting.  Somehow we always look bad.  Even when the facts of the shooting clearly indicate the officer's actions were completely justified and legal with no gray areas, the media will quote somebody (usually a bereaved family member) who will say something like, "Why did they have to kill him?  Couldn't they have shot the knife out of his hand?" or "Why did they have to shoot him in the head?" or "He'd still be alive if he was white."  And when we hear of or read about a police shooting in a far away city where we aren't going to hear an eyewitness officer's account, we are highly skeptical what we're reading is anything close to the actual facts on the ground.  Sometimes the facts come out later, sometimes they don't, but the media always gets to create the narrative "everyone" must deal with in the meantime.  And they never do us any favors.  Of course, cops do enough bad stuff ourselves to make the media's job of bashing us waaay too easy.

ezlxq1949's picture
ezlxq1949
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 29 2009
Posts: 149
'Systematic' policing problem

It must be hard living and working in a gun-culture society. Today there is anger, shock and dismay in this country at the gunning down by a Minneapolis police officer of an Australian woman just outside her home. The woman had called for police help. Read the report for yourself:

http://thenewdaily.com.au/news/world/2017/07/19/justine-damond-victim-sy...

"Officer Noor was in only his second year as a police officer and was the subject of two other inquiries while on duty." Congressman Keith Ellison said that “Justine’s death shows no one should assume ‘officer-involved shootings’ only happen in a certain part of town or to certain kinds of people. This is a systemic problem which calls for a broad, comprehensive response.”

Something, much, is very wrong.

ezlxq1949's picture
ezlxq1949
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 29 2009
Posts: 149
Don't do sound bites

Or even take Michael Moore's approach: "I don't do sound bites."

Some years ago the director of my government bureau was contacted by the local media for an interview. He agreed, spent much time preparation, was duly interviewed and his responses recorded. It was an important matter of national significance, but the whole report was dumped in favour of some ephemeral, minor but dramatic triviality. A couple of years after that he was contacted again by the same media organisation but refused. When asked why, he told the story I just told you. The reporter got all sniffy and peeved and was sent away empty, but too bad. (I had to take the call.) I have heard many stories like this. So have you. Is the situation getting better or worse? Maybe, maybe not. Read up on Pulitzer's illustrious career and ask yourself why a coveted award is named after him.

The moral of the story is that the media (tend to) have the attention span of a butterfly, don't keep their promises, and distort the reports.

richcabot's picture
richcabot
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 5 2011
Posts: 80
The ones who matter don't want the message out.

The powers that be don't want people aware of what's going on.  The reporters may want to inform the public but the editors, who do what the owners direct, don't.  

Central to your story is that the system is being mismanaged by the people in control.  The people in control don't want that story out.  By portraying you in sound bites as preppers they can keep the public thinking that you are just a lunatic fringe and your message can be ignored. 

blackeagle's picture
blackeagle
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: May 16 2013
Posts: 190
In Quebec

Here in Quebec, most mass media is in the hands of a few powerful families/corporations.

And knowing that subscriber's money is not enough, the media needs advertising money to make ends meet. Which money come from big companies, which are friends with the powerful guys, which dictate what to say, which...etc...etc...

Certainly a very simplistic point of view.

 

ezlxq1949's picture
ezlxq1949
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 29 2009
Posts: 149
Ignorance is Strength

Same in Australia: most of the media are owned by big corporations, some formerly family corporations such as Fairfax. Murdoch arose in this country. (A reporter for the Saturday Paper has the audacity to refer to him as Lord Moloch.)

I know a man who had a job for a while as a ministerial advisor. (We live in the national capital.) One of his jobs was to read all the Murdoch press daily and clip out relevant articles. He told me that the tone and content of this press made him physically and emotionally ill. In the end he couldn't bear to read any of it and resigned with gratitude and relief.

The government-owned and funded ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) causes much grief of mind for the neoliberals because (a) it's a government asset shock horror, and (2) it dares to criticise the government and other corporations. Neolibs and their governmental allies constantly attack it, appointing closet neolibs to the board to try to wreck it from above, and seeking constantly to cut its funding to wreck it from below. The ideologues would privatise it tomorrow if they only could. But the confounded public get in the way and stubbornly support Their ABC, causing endless heartburn for the ideologues. Love it.

LogansRun's picture
LogansRun
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 18 2009
Posts: 1439
ezlxq1949 wrote: It must be
ezlxq1949 wrote:

It must be hard living and working in a gun-culture society. Today there is anger, shock and dismay in this country at the gunning down by a Minneapolis police officer of an Australian woman just outside her home. The woman had called for police help. Read the report for yourself:

http://thenewdaily.com.au/news/world/2017/07/19/justine-damond-victim-sy...

"Officer Noor was in only his second year as a police officer and was the subject of two other inquiries while on duty." Congressman Keith Ellison said that “Justine’s death shows no one should assume ‘officer-involved shootings’ only happen in a certain part of town or to certain kinds of people. This is a systemic problem which calls for a broad, comprehensive response.”

Something, much, is very wrong.

It must be hard living in a country where the citizens have no way to fight off a government, if that government decided to use force to intern or even eradicate the citizens.

KugsCheese's picture
KugsCheese
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 2 2010
Posts: 1369
The Machines Will Take Over...

Lots of hype now about machines taking over.   First, machines don't understand profit and have no emotions.  How will machines form strategy and objectives?  They can't.   Secondly, businesses need customers so machines cannot take every job.   All that will happen is the job landscape will change as it always has.   The much bigger threat is the central bankers and the big banks.   But few persons see that threat.  

ezlxq1949's picture
ezlxq1949
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 29 2009
Posts: 149
Fight off a government? Get real.

LogansRun wrote,

It must be hard living in a country where the citizens have no way to fight off a government, if that government decided to use force to intern or even eradicate the citizens.

No, it's comparatively peaceful and tranquil. Almost no-one needs worry about firearms popping up in a dispute. The police aren't jittery and nervous. And so on.

"Fight off a government"? Are you serious? You the People have popguns and They the Elites have every weapon known to man and then yet more being developed in secret even now.

The mass of the populace in this country agree that it's far better to eschew violence and firearms in favour of reason and political effort. Sure, it may fail, but then all speaking to power runs that risk.

mememonkey's picture
mememonkey
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 1 2009
Posts: 210
Enjoy your democide
ezlxq1949 wrote:

LogansRun wrote,

It must be hard living in a country where the citizens have no way to fight off a government, if that government decided to use force to intern or even eradicate the citizens.

No, it's comparatively peaceful and tranquil. Almost no-one needs worry about firearms popping up in a dispute. The police aren't jittery and nervous. And so on.

"Fight off a government"? Are you serious? You the People have popguns and They the Elites have every weapon known to man and then yet more being developed in secret even now.

The mass of the populace in this country agree that it's far better to eschew violence and firearms in favour of reason and political effort. Sure, it may fail, but then all speaking to power runs that risk.

 

I take it history wasn't your thing in school!  

I'll take asymmetric warfare with 'pop' guns over reason and political effort everytime when responding to the Mao's, Stalins, Hitlers, Mugabe's et all.   

Good luck with that eschewing violence thing when the wrong government gets control and your group is targeted.

Suggest you study gun control in the context of the great democides of the 20th century. You might want to brush up on your Chinese language skills while your at it!

 

mememonkey

 

CleanEnergyFan's picture
CleanEnergyFan
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 29 2012
Posts: 84
Enjoyed the Videos

Interesting article and videos Adam.  As others mentioned above, its not surprising that the media completely missed your message...they were obviously wanting to focus on the prepper theme and are quite adept at tailoring the sound bites to make their point.  It is unfortunate that they didn't even mention the energy or even the financial connection very much (it always seems to be "zombies" or apocalypse).  Also interesting in the videos to hear the Silicon Valley folks more concerned about the employment loss due to automation than the lack of net energy or a debt bubble (neither of which was discussed).  Even so, I think its great that you are reaching out to the mass media, even if they distort your message it may get more accurate over time and should at least expose more people to the site and you and Chris as spokesmen...even a distorted message may be better than no message at all.  Any publicity which can drive traffic to PP should be considered a win. 

brushhog's picture
brushhog
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 6 2015
Posts: 18
Media is a joke

Expecting reality from mainstream media is pretty naive, especially today. We've witnessed the deterioration of what we thought was news into a left wing propaganda tool. They've willingly tossed every semblance of objectivity and credibility out the window.

Whatever you say or do will be spun to support some kind of political narrative. That is the only function of today's media. I remember one of Chris' old interviews with a PBS reporter, whatever Chris would say they guy kept coming back to "well I dont understand because your on the right, and what your saying sounds like the left" and "but you talk to people on the right, and how do they respond to ideas that sound like the left" and etc etc. He could not mentally step away from his left wing political position enough to just have a conversation. Everything had to be categorized as "right" or "left". People in the media are the most extreme, political creatures on earth.

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