Welcome to the 24/7 Anxiety Machine

Advisory: Story Contains no technical information, just a chance to peek under the blindfold we were told to wear.



In 1995, Dave Pirner wrote a song called “Misery.” It was a commentary on the record industry, how it popularized angst and anxiety, then fed it to people in music. It included these lines:


” We could build a factory and make misery,

We’ll create the cure; we made the disease.

Frustrated, Incorporated”


What was true of the record industry 23 years ago has now become true about every detail of consumer culture, accelerated by advancing technology and addictive participation in ‘social media’, which is all used as a highly tailored tool, not to present consumer choices, but to trigger base emotional responses from people. Read any modern text on marketing and learn it is the goal of mass marketing to keep people in constant anxiety, because it makes eliciting emotional reactions much easier and suppresses calm thinking.



Pervasive Crisis Culture: At the gas station yesterday, a small screen on every pump was projecting a CNN story about how close world war III is, told by a reporter who wasn’t born in 1992 when the Cold War ended. At age 55, I am at the tail end of people who remember TV going off the air at night. Now, the anxiety machine runs 24/7 and nearly every person carries something that looks like a tiny TV in their pocket, but it is really a data gathering device for consumer companies and filled with addictive apps like Facebook.

Notice that this dire waring was being projected by a gas pump which was inoperative. The pumps didn’t work at the station,  but the screens kept going. This type of continuously pumped audio anxiety reminds me of the loudspeakers in communist political re-education camps and Pakistani madrasas. To think, we once called ourselves “The Free World.”




An Easy Example of modern marketing:  

Look at printed car ads from the 1970s, they contain long lists of mechanical features buyers compared and evaluated. People were thinking. Now look at todays car advertising: ‘Subaru, it about love” and Mazdas pathetic “Zoom Zoom” , these are just targeted to illicit an emotional response. We hardly noticed when MPG numbers were dropped out of the ads 15 years ago. You may not think much of them, but they are pervasive because they work, particular on a society awash in anxiety.


How people are self conditioned to respond:

Back when TV went off after the National Anthem and the test pattern ran for 30 minutes, adults with different view points could actually have discussions, and as mature people felt obligated to actually consider the logic of the opposing perspective. Go to Youtube and look at William F. Buckley Jr. on Firing line, having a civil debate with Hughie Newton, Co-founder of the Black Panthers. This type of discourse requires thought, not pure emotional reaction.

Now think about a 1,000 stupid political arguments you have seen in the era of social media: Notice that neither side is listening, nor thinking. All they are doing is waiting for something I call a “Dog whistle phrase” to have an emotional reaction, ranging from labeling and dismissing what they are hearing, to having an emotional fit about it. If they do, and they call the other person names, they will get immediate validation for the behavior in the form of “likes” from others having a purely emotional reaction.  If that dosent sound sad enough, consider that a protection dog with an IQ of 15 or 20 could be trained to snarl at people who say conditioned phrases, the like button being replaced with praise from the trainer. That is an indication of how little gray matter is working on a person who has been conditioned to have emotional reactions. And just to make sure they stay that way, plenty of things to make them angry will be channeled to their specific ‘news’ feed.  (feed being a very descriptive and accurate term)


Anxiety is not a new issue in Western Civilization:

I am reasonably well read in the tenants of Greek Philosophy. Most schools of thought 2,400 years ago specifically identified anxiety as the main poison which ruined the value of peoples lives. Their very practical approach was to strictly divide everything in one’s world into things you can control and things you can’t, and note how all anxiety is caused by spending time worrying about things that are not within ones control. The Romans really took Greek stoic thought as an absolute faith, and it served them in their greatest period, including the rein of Marcus Aurelius, who was a devout Stoic. Even though he was head of an empire, his personal code way one of absolute allegiance to his moral purpose, not the state.  This was 800 years of of western civilization devoted to the elimination of anxiety….

Sixteen centuries later, the pendulum has gone full swing, and now an unholy equation of technology, marketing, corporate power and globalism have combined with a goal of getting a vast amount of the population to stop thinking, and replace reason with conditioned emotional responses, and live in a state of near constant anxiety, because it makes them easier to control.  Being a slave in the Roman Empire meant someone owned your body.  Today, if a person spends almost no time in rational thought, and their ‘decisions’ , opinions and emotional reactions are just triggered by phrases, they are called a ‘consumer’.  Perhaps the worst type of slavery is when someone doesn’t understand they are one.


OK, what does this have to do with my airplane project? 

It’s good to love aviation, and to be passionate about it, but I am wary of people who are in aviation who don’t trust reason, don’t like thinking, can’t hear different perspectives, and have more conditioned emotional responses than real thoughts.  I give these people a wide berth, and for my own sanity, I don’t put much hope in ‘de-programming’ their responses.  Aviation and the sky are big places, and it isn’t hard to avoid these people.

When I got started in homebuilding, nearly 30 years ago, there were far less of these people.  Thats sad, but Stoic thought tells me to put that fact in the category of ‘things I don’t control’, and I’ll experience a lot less personal stress. My only responsibility is not to be one of them myself.

While the rest of the world lets go of reason, your workshop, project and life and conduct as an aviator are all things under your full control. There are great rewards for accepting this and making these elements of your life a sanctuary of reason, a tranquil place removed from the world of constant crisis, perpetual wars, partisan conflict, consumer greed and mindless desires, all driven by the anxiety machine. When you take this approach, you will find many other people in aviation have quietly made the same choice. I try to be polite to most people I meet at airports, but I try to only keep company with people who value reason.

A decade ago I stopped watching TV news, 5 years ago I stopped listening to radio and all its banal advertisements, and in the last year I have had little to do with social media, as it is dominated by people who don’t like to think. Lots of people talk about “living off the grid”, but for the value of my life, and my hours in aviation, the ‘grid’ I have worked to ween myself off is the vast and pervasive anxiety distribution grid.


wewjr .






16 Replies to “Welcome to the 24/7 Anxiety Machine”

  1. Although it may seem so at times, all is not doom and gloom. If I may be so bold as to say that I believe there is hope for the future.

    Like an air mass thunderstorm, the frenzy of media is beginning to run out of energy. People in general are just tired of their nonsense.

    It may be true that the millennial generation will never find happiness and generations will be paying for their financial mismanagement; however, when I spend time with my son and daughter and their friends, I see the spark in them of ingenuity and innovation that makes us shine as humans beings. I see them rising above the selfishness to make a bright future for their children and the children after them.

    Hope that helps.

    1. I guess it may have sounded more negative than I intended. I do think that young people will have a chance to do many things, they just will not know a peace or privacy we once did, but it many not be as important to them. To my own perspective, I just have to navigate a rapidly changing world, with an older set of expectations, and limited exposure to the most aggressive marketing is a big part of my answer, in addition to more time with thoughtful people-ww.

  2. I’m usually the optimistic one but in this case I’m more with William. There would be hope, but for one thing: the education system failed so long ago that people lack the intellectual tools to cope with adversity and become self-sufficient — instead are drawn like moths to the mercantile flame and will be mindless when it’s not there. There is still the same distribution of smarter and stupider people, but if they never got hooked up with analytical skills to know what’s real and what’s fake, odds are against your acquiring them except very painfully.

    There is a bright side, though — it’s just that a massive reset, like the Cultural Revolution in China, may be effective in breaking that all up when there is no more fake money to go along with the fake news.

  3. fill your ears with good music, build, laugh, fly, spend quality time with family and friends and enjoy every minute of life, we only get so many you know!! Dan-o

  4. The crowd is and always has been ‘wrong’. Platonic and Stoic thought is good. It’s like flight checklists: binary, either/or, Chemistry/Physics. Excellent for reliable life preservation. On the other hand, Hebrew thought is like a ‘cat’s cradle’ of truths found in the tension of many different, somewhat elastic, tensions. One is precisely mechanical, algorithmic, formulaic; the other is creative, artistic, poetic. Like good tools, each has it’s proper place and use. One insures another day and a high probability of more days, and the other to fully and richly enjoy the transcendence of flight for the pure fun and poetry of it. Oh, and Jesus said a number of times: ‘Be anxious for NOTHING’. Happy Easter!

  5. William, you have a knack for painting with words of insight and wisdom. We have few reasons to be optimistic for the future unless we come off the spectator balcony and engage ourselves in actual democratic action. Or what we take for granted may be taken away from us. Here in Sweden the government has proposed to change the constitution to ban private citizens from accessing certain public databases..

  6. I love it william, its so true. i need to take your lead and wein myself off all the social media. anxiety machines. love your thoughts. stan bohman

  7. For a few decades, I lead the technology team at a CT marketing agency. As time went on, the corporate marketing speak began to really bug me. Two words, in particular, rubbed me the wrong way, one of which you referred to.

    “Today, if a person spends almost no time in rational thought, and their ‘decisions’, opinions and emotional reactions are just triggered by phrases, they are called a ‘consumer’.”

    “Consumer” is a cold, clinical, and inhuman grouping people as onto takers, users, abusers, breeders… sheep. They are consumers. They consume. It is used so often, marketing firms and most corporations do not know any other way of thinking.

    There is a well-known book on building your business titled “Hug your Customer”. That is valid. You don’t “hug your consumer”.

    The other term is “Content”. There was a time when newspapers contained “all the news that was fit to print”. Now everything just has “content”. It truly seems that marketing people don’t want to be specific or are not allowed to be specific. To marketing people, It means to produce something – anything that gets attention. It’s not news, or opinion pieces, or stories, or investigative work, or poetry, or jokes, or artwork… it’s “content”. Just hearing the word makes me feel sick.

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