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Why were there no earthquakes today?

This map of earthquakes of the world usually has a red quake or two from the last hour, several blue ones for the 24-hour period and usually a few more yellow ones than is shown on this map. What is unusual about this relative non-occurrence of quakes is that it will never be reported in the news media.

The media reports only on unusual things which have hurt people and almost never on things which are helpful to them. Why do they have that policy? In general there isn’t anything one can do about a news event except to think to oneself, I’m glad that happened to those people I don’t know and not to me or my friends. It’s a vanishingly small number of news articles that cause any person to take any action themselves. Most people’s responses are limited to going out and voting occasionally, or perhaps taking an umbrella when rain is expected, or if one lives in tornado alley being prepared to go to the basement for shelter if the wind gets loud, but not much more.

Even the business section, I suspect, gives little except for counterproductive news. Ten years ago I was tracking the stock recommendations for a while and was saving the various pundits’ recommendations, and I discovered that if you follow the published suggestions you would almost always lose your money. What keeps this game going is that there are winners, and that is what has survived, but those stocks were not obviously good choices at any specific earlier time. The media may follow hundreds of stocks and a large number of analysts are offering their suggestions at any time, but they only talk for any length of time about the their winners and forget about the losers they were formerly espousing. The reason these fools seem sentient is that they talk about the winners of the moment, and randomly speaking they are picking the ones that just happen to be at a peak. On average those ones which are at a peak means that those are the ones that will fall, on average, because what has been picked is their random moment at its local peak. It is like being in the ocean and always placing your money on the top of a wave and expecting it to keep rising, because it has been rising.

These effects can be seen in stocks because they are tracked numerically, but I propose that every type of event, if it could be measured and tracked, would show a similar bias by the media’s reporting. But what is to be learned from the media that is helpful? I will go back historically far enough not to bother many people -remember Archduke Ferdinand; he was reported to be a very unpopular prince, and when he got assassinated many people thought nothing much of it. Over the next few days the newspapers in Paris even stopped reporting it, or even much on the ensuing temporary diplomatic confusion, but a month later the deadliest war of all time, up to that time, was in progress. One would expect people to be fleeing the countries, to get out of the way of the coming disasters, but few did and millions died. Why didn’t the newspapers tell sensible people who could leave the about-to-be war-torn countries to do so? Even with these horrendous events newspapers don’t help anyone.

I remember watching a TV interviewer stopping a near-top US diplomat coming out of the UN building, and asking about some current top news item, and what he thought of the New York Times article. The diplomat said he hadn’t read it. The reporter was shocked, “You didn’t read the New York Times – how in the world do you know what’s going on?” He replied, “I don’t read the papers, I have better sources of information.” “What are those?” the reporter pressed. But the only reply was, “I have better sources than The New York Times.” And he walked away. That was an eye-opener event for me and I am sure that it never aired except for that brief live interview moment.

Here’s an experiment to illustrate my point. Go read a hundred year old New York Times, exactly to the day, and follow it for a couple of days. You will find the stories are very familiar, and only the names of the people in the stories has changed. I did this a few times when following some of my interests in Conan Doyle’s American adventures. He said, the thing that changed the most, in the thirty years between his visits, was the height of the buildings and the amount of facial hair the average guy was sporting. As the buildings got longer the hair got shorter.

Killer earthquakes, the assassinations of heads of state and kids trapped in wells get the media’s coverage. Those events are sad and interesting in their way, but they have little to do with a person’s real life and can be safely ignored. I knew a successful old guy, back in the 1950s, who said he never read any so called news in the newspapers because it was always the same old thing. He payed close attention to his own business and let other people take care of theirs.

Pay attention to good advice, that helps you through your day. All the rest is bad advice, so send it on its way.