Healthy Skepticism

All media has a point of view. Challenge it. Especially if the viewpoint parallels your perception of the truth.

Neil Young made headlines this week when he pulled his music from Spotify to protest the streaming platform’s continued carriage of the Joe Rogan podcast. Joni Mitchell followed suit this weekend. Rogan’s schtick is famously anti-vax and Spotify reports 11 million people are regular consumers.

Like Twitter and Facebook before them, Spotify claims to be “… balancing both safety for listeners and freedom for creators.” It’s easy to forget that Spotify is a for-profit business trading at $171.32 per share with a market capitalization of 37.45 billion dollars.

Their fiduciary responsibility is, to their shareholders.

The same goes for Fox Corporation, which owns Fox News, Comcast, MSNBC’s parent company, and AT&T the owner of CNN.

Each of these corporations cultivates what they hope will be a profitable market segment. They earn money by drawing attention and creating controversy.

“If it bleeds, it leads,” is an old cliche describing the news priorities at many local stations. So-called “reality TV” is another analog. The Kardashians continue to be rich and famous because “viewers like you,” support their lifestyle.

Positive news and commendable behavior doesn’t generate cash. Sensation sells.

And we take the bait. We post unverified “news stories” which affirm our own world view. Just as these corporate behemoths exist to enrich themselves, we too invest in, consume and proliferate self-benefiting ideas. We can easily fall under the spell of celebrities and politicians who stoke our fears for their own personal benefit.

Without healthy skepticism, demagogues can seduce us to the point where we willingly sacrifice constitutional freedom for what feels like a comfort zone.

“Comfort zones,” Stan Dale tells us, “are plush lined coffins. When you stay in your plush lined coffins, you die.”

Accepting any idea without due diligence because it fits our comfort zone is dangerous. Those fear-bytes tossed at you by your friends at Fox, MSNBC, CNN and on social media are wake-up calls to gut check your definition of both fact and fake. Challenging convention is a time consuming and uncomfortable necessity.

Edmund Burke nailed it when he said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Charles F. Glassman Wrote, “Fear and anxiety many times indicates that we are moving in a positive direction, out of the safe confines of our comfort zone, and in the direction of our true purpose.”

And the first step is almost always a healthy dose of skepticism.