Patrick Schwerdtfeger is a motivational speaker who can speak about American news media and it’s bias towards simplistic coverage at your next business event. Contact us to check availability. The full transcript of the above video is included below.
Full Video Transcript:
Hi, and welcome to another edition of Strategic Business Insights. Today we’re going to talk about American news media and how completely awful it is by international standards, in my opinion. I grew up in Canada. I grew up in Vancouver, Canada, and when you live in Canada, when you watch the news, you almost always get three different perspectives. You get the American perspective, you get the European perspective, and you get the Asian perspective.
Now, you have to understand, Canada is larger than the United States geographically but the population is only about one-tenth, slightly more than that but about maybe 12% of what the US population is. So it’s a much smaller population. And it also has a larger import/export sector, so a lot of the Canadian economy is selling goods to other countries. In fact, the biggest trading partner of Canada is America, but we also sell a lot to Europe and we also sell a lot to Asia. A lot of it is resource-based because Canada is a resource-based economy. We have a lot of wheat. We have a lot of minerals. We have a lot of oil. So Canada is constantly selling to other parts of the world.
That means that Canadians, it’s important for them to know what’s going on in other parts of the world. It affects their lives. Knowing what’s going on in Europe, knowing what’s going on in Asia, China, Japan, Korea, and what’s happening south of the border here in America, it’s important. It affects the daily lives of Canadians.
Now, I moved down to America in 1998, and I was astonished at the media, how poor the media is. You never hear anything about other countries around the world unless it’s a country that we’re at war with like Iraq or Afghanistan, or some other country that might be at war like Syria is currently. But you don’t hear hardly anything. I mean, certainly about Canada, I didn’t hear anything about Canada for like the first full year that I was down here. I couldn’t believe it. Why is that?
It is that way because the United States has over 300 million people. Now, again, geographically America is actually slightly smaller than Canada. Canada has a huge land mass, but most of that’s very far north, so nobody lives there. So geographically America is huge but it’s not actually as big as Canada, but there are so many people living there. There are so many cities. There are so many subplots and storylines and things going on right here inside our own country, so the people, there’s no need.
In other words, the media isn’t necessarily to blame. The media, they are profit-maximizing corporations. They are in business to make a profit. So they provide the media that people want to see and hear. They provide the stories that people are interested in.
And because the country is so huge, there are so many subplots right here within the country, nobody cares. Nobody cares what’s going on in Europe. Very few people. The demand isn’t big enough to warrant putting a lot of attention into European stories, Asian stories, certainly Canadian stories. The demand just isn’t there.
And so American media, they don’t provide it. All they provide is basically no media at all. It’s local stories. It’s a lot of lifestyle stories, talking about silly things that aren’t really relevant. They’re almost like talk-show-type topics that are covered, and they’re regurgitated over and over. If you watch CNN, they’ll take one story and they’ll just talk about it for three days in a row. Meanwhile, there are all sorts of other stories taking place around the world that they don’t cover because the audience doesn’t care.
Now, this has a very real impact on the American population. The US population has a very low knowledge level of what’s going on around the world. It’s appalling. There has been study after study after study after study showing that in some cases European students, kids in high school, they had a higher percentage of people in Europe that could identify America on a globe than kids right here in America. It’s astonishing to me how poor the knowledge level is of the general US electorate in terms of the actual issues that are going on here and around the world. There’s a very low knowledge level.
Certainly, if you ask American students to point out Afghanistan or Iraq or Egypt or Syria or any of the European countries on a globe, it’s astonishing how few of those people, of those students, can actually do it. And the percentages don’t rise a lot as you get older. People in their 30s, 40s and 50s, again, the knowledge level is astonishingly low.
Now, when the knowledge level is low, it breeds an overly simplistic view of the world, and so you get these very simplistic extremists. Frankly, a lot of the views are extremist when it comes to like “the war on terror,” which is such a classic example of George Bush, who has just an unbelievably simplistic view of the world and a complete lack of acknowledgement to the real realities and the real situations and dynamics that are taking place across the world, and particularly in the Muslim world. And George Bush has painted it with a broad brush as “the war on terror,” and a large percentage of the US population just accepted it as fact, that that must be exactly what the problem is, is the war on terror.
Meanwhile, of course that’s a problem. No one’s saying that that isn’t a problem. But there are so many dynamics and so many things that play into that, which is all exemplified by what a disaster we’ve had in Iraq and Afghanistan when we go in there with our supposedly democratic values, and the whole thing explodes in our face because it’s not what they need or want. We’re imposing our cultural imperatives on top of their society, which functions on a totally different set of rules.
So there’s a low knowledge base which breeds an overly simplistic view of the world. It’s dangerous for America, especially because America’s a democracy. So we’re voting in – it means that our politicians have to speak to us in overly simplistic terms, because if they don’t they won’t get elected. If they actually acknowledged the true realities of what’s going on, it’s beyond most people’s understanding, most people’s reality, and people don’t vote for what they don’t understand. They vote for things they understand. So all the politicians have to dumb it down for the majority of Americans to accept it, so they say things like “the war on terror” or whatever the case may be.
And I really strongly encourage, if you’re watching this video, I encourage you to broaden out your source of media coverage, your source of news. And I have found that the PBS News Hour is an excellent source of news. It used to be very left-leaning. I would say today it’s quite balanced. And they have conservative commentators on there as well, so they’re giving I think a fairly balanced view. The BBC coming out of London, coming out of the UK, is an excellent source of global news, and you can get that on your iPhone or on your Android. I look at the news on my Android every single morning from the BBC and they do an outstanding job of covering the true top stories of what’s going on around the world.
And then if you want to go to the extreme, and again this isn’t for everybody—I don’t do this very often—but you can even go to places like Al Jazeera that has English-language websites where you can get a very biased view of the world. It’s not a balanced view at all. But it’s the opposite bias from the one we have here. And so what it ends up doing is giving you a fairly broad perspective because you see the biases here in America and you see the opposite bias coming out of Al Jazeera.
So again, I wouldn’t recommend only going to Al Jazeera. I would never recommend that. But if you’re going to watch American media, then balance it with something that’s equally biased, because American media is very biased, and it’s good to see the other side of the story.
BBC I think is one of the best news sources out there, and I’m certainly a proponent. I would encourage anyone to watch that news or get it on their iPhone or their Android, which is what I do.
Anyway, thank you so much for watching this video. Once again, this is Patrick reminding you to think bigger about your business, think bigger about yourself.
Patrick Schwerdtfeger is a keynote speaker who has spoken at business conferences in North America, South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.