What Your News and Your Groceries Have in Common
How blind profit motive poisons ours bodies and our minds
What does the apple on your kitchen counter have to do with your evening news? Well, both are ingested, one into your body, the other into your mind. While we all know that eating junk food is harmful to your health, it’s time we considered what effect our chronic consumption of mass media has on how we think, how we behave, and how we perceive the world.
In a prior article, I illustrated how blind profit motive is poisoning our bodies. Corporate food producers, in search of endless profit growth, engineer their foods, often by adding sugar, to tap into our biology so that we crave and eat beyond our physiological needs.
Additionally, in the search for ever-higher profit margins, food producers have been shifting away from nutrient rich foods and toward the production of products that store well on store shelves and are easily transported. Namely, carb-heavy, nutrient poor products. Potato chips, frozen meals…etc.
The result is that we are chronically overfed and malnourished at the hand of corporate profits, and this is likely the root cause of modern chronic illnesses like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.
What’s happening here is the food industry is externalizing its own costs onto you in the form of reduced lifespans, dental bills, higher healthcare premiums etc. We aren’t paying enough attention to the social costs of the blind pursuit of profits. Profit motive in the news media is little different, with profound ramifications for society.
The News Media
The news media has been consumed by the same open-ended profit motive. In order to continually expand their stock price, news corporations no longer report the news, they tap into your biology to keep you engaged.
They don’t add sugar, but they roll out flashy graphics, sound effects, catchy (and misleading) headlines, all carefully curated to trigger the parts of the brain that keep your attention.
Today’s news media is designed to pull at your heartstrings, push your buttons, keep you perpetually outraged, and glued to the TV or phone, just as our food is chemically engineered to keep us wanting more. But neither are wholesome, balanced, or even genuine.
And just as your potato chips come in various flavors, the media has even branded itself to suit differing socio-political leanings. But like those high calorie and low nutrition potato chips, the “news” that we consume today is predominantly soundbites and surface-level coverage that does as little to educate, as the chips do to satiate.
And just like your cereal aisle, only a few companies control a large portion of the market, creating the illusion of choice for the consumer. Modern corporate media is an oligopoly that is dominated by a few heavyweight giants.
Just as our food leaves us malnourished and overfed, our news media bombards us with more information than ever, but counterintuitively, is leaving us less informed. These uninformed masses are increasingly unable to engage in rational discussion and increasingly detached from reality.
This effect has been exacerbated in the era of social media. Social media enables like-minded and equally misinformed individuals to reinforce each other in echo chambers of ever cascading madness. Millions of people are falling into rabbit holes of their own creation.
The blind profit motive in the media is not good for humanity, and only serves the interests of corporate giants who profit from your addiction to distraction. But unlike the food industry, where we might impose an added sugar tax to internalize those negative externalities, there is no easy solution to the profit perversion of mass media.