The mass media still doesn’t “get” the resilience movement
by Adam Taggart
“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)
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:
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’ storybut 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.