Our innate tribal mentality causes us to be protective of our beliefs and ideals, sometimes so much than what’s typically expected. But noble as this mindset may be, it can be pretty dangerous if used against us – which is what the news nowadays is actually doing. Rodney Flowers dissects this topic with author Peter Montoya, who highlights the major takeaways of his book, The Second Civil War. Peter explains how news outlets spark public outrage and division by pumping fear and hatred nonstop. As a result, humans revert to their tribal-like personalities, throwing repetitive talking points at each other that become worthless over time. Peter also talks about driving change to today’s society by going back to our default settings, embracing anxieties and tapping into our survival instincts.
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How The News Takes Advantage Of Our Tribal Mentality With Peter Montoya
As always, I’m excited about this episode. I have a gentleman here with me who is an exceptional person. He has published his bestselling book, The Second Civil War: A citizen’s guide to healing our fractured nation. This is an important topic because we’re in a space where there’s a lot of pain, hurt and division. This book is about, “What are the dividing lines? How can we bridge the gap? How can we bring ourselves closer together and heal some of the wounds that have resulted from some of the division and all the conflict that’s going on in the world?” Welcome to the show, Peter Montoya.
Rodney, I’m thrilled to be here.
I’m glad to have you here. This is your second time around, as a matter of fact.
I have done 100 podcast interviews, and you’re one of my absolute favorite people to have a conversation with. You’re exceptional.
I appreciate that. You’re exceptional as well. I’m excited about the book that you have, The Second Civil War: A citizen’s guide to healing our fractured nation. I want to get into that and ask you because it has been a little while since I’ve had a chance to talk to you. How have you been with everything that’s going on in the world? How are you holding up?
The pandemic was transformative in so many positive ways, and yet I don’t want to go through it again. I have spent way too many hours in the four walls of this office here. One of the good things is I learned I could do training by Zoom versus having to get on an airplane. I learned how much more effective I am sitting behind a desk versus being in an airplane 100 days a year. That has been transformative. I wrote a book, and on top of that, I launched a new social media platform. It was a creatively inspired time.
I appreciate that. Those are all of the positive effects that have come out of the pandemic. I realized that it’s a choice to view it that way because we could talk about all the negative things that have occurred as a result of that. It’s good that you’re doing well. I’m excited to have you back on the show. Thank you for thinking of me, the Game Changer Mentality brand and the team because we love what we do. We love putting out good content that can help change the world. The pandemic is just one issue of many that we’re all facing, hence the book that you’ve written. Tell us a little bit about your book. Why did you write this book?
I wrote this book because of my dad. My dad has now since passed away. My dad, for the bulk of my life, was completely and totally apolitical. I didn’t even know a party he belonged to. He never talked about politics. One day, all of a sudden, he started bringing to all politics. When he started bringing politics, he was angry. His brow was furrowed. His face got a little bit red. He was passionate about it and caught up in what we call a Manichaean worldview. A Manichaean worldview is where everything is good or evil, good or bad. There’s no middle ground. Everything was very divided. It was strange it was at my house.
I went over to his house one day for dinner. I got there before he did, and his wife was there. I was sitting there talking with her. He came in and barely said hello. He sat down in front of the TV. He turned on cable news and started watching cable news before he engaged with me. I go, “Does he normally do this?” She goes, “Yes, this is pretty much a schedule.” He got and sat in front of the TV, and he fell asleep watching cable news. He woke up in the morning watching more cable news. He got in the car listening to what I will call hate radio.
While he was driving to work in the morning, he was calling his wife complaining about the stories he heard on the radio. When he was at work, all he would do was talk with his coworkers about how awful everything was happening around the world. He became completely indoctrinated and engrossed in this world of politics. It was awful and terrible. I didn’t argue politics, but I lost my relationship with him because he wasn’t present anymore. He was in a completely different world. I wanted to figure out what was going on.When you start thinking about humanity and country before your political party, you can emphasize before you criticize. Click To Tweet
Walk us through that. What did you discover?
The first chapter in the book is called Politics is our New Religion. I’m not talking about religion as one’s walk in faith to a higher power. I mean religion in the sense of a way of life. For some people, their religion is their family, Christianity or surfboarding. For a lot of Americans, especially during the pandemic, their new religion has become politics.
What we see now on TV is a version of reality, but it isn’t reality. Rodney, I don’t know if you’re as old as I am to remember the late ’80s. The late ’80s was the last time we had real news journalism where news journalists came on. They told us the truth and tried to get the facts right. We also had these dramas. Are you old enough to remember Dynasty and Dallas?
Yes, I remember.
These were these huge nighttime dramas. We also had wrestling on Saturdays. We, as human beings, like to exercise this moral reasoning through these large archetypes of good versus evil. If you’ve watched wrestling or Dallas, you have your gods, demi-gods and foot soldiers. You’ve got the people who are your prognosticators and pastors explaining what’s going on. All those people exist in those worlds.
What happened with the advent of cable news and the internet is those worlds emerged. Now, we are basically exercising that same Greek tragedy archetypes in our brain watching the news. All news now is being divided. It’s saying, “It’s good versus evil,” versus giving us the information. I want to be informed and not influenced. The news now, all it’s trying to do is influence us by helping us manipulate those Manichaean archetypes types in our brain.
What do we do about that? For those that are reading, they’re like, “I agree. However, I want to stay informed. I feel like I’ve got to watch maybe more than one episode of news in order to confirm what I’m hearing to ensure that I’m getting the right information.” What are you suggesting to this?
I’m going to ask you a hard question. What is the value of being informed?
It depends on what the information is.
What’s the value of watching the national news?
You can take action to be in the know if there’s any action that you need to take. At least, for me, I don’t personally watch the news. If you want to know my opinion, I don’t because I feel like what I need to know will get shared from some outlet, either I’m passing someone or the people that I know in my network. I’ll get the information that I need to know. All the other stuff is irrelevant to me.
You hit my point right on the head. I was one of those people too. I was watching the news because I wanted to be informed of what’s happening in the world because news matters. What you said there is important. It’s not actionable news. What is happening in Afghanistan, Africa and China? There are many places around the world that have awful and terrible things that are happening, but those things I can’t do much more about. I wrote some checks to the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders. I did those kinds of things and made some donations, but those will only affect me.
What do I need to know each day? Maybe the weather and traffic, but I’ve got apps for that. If there was an invading force off the coast of California, I would need to know that. I might need some updates on the pandemic and the changing conditions of that. I might need to know a little about the drought here in California. Those are things I can make decisions on. Those are the areas of my influence. The other stuff outside of that, I can’t do anything about.
There has been a cognitive bias, which is an error in thinking. We think when we are informed and we know what’s going on in the world that we are doing something. We are not. Because you know what’s going on in the State of Texas when you live in California, you know what Governor Hochul did in New York and you know all the ins of that, you think you are doing something. You are not doing anything. You are maybe better informed, but there’s a lot of research out there that says, “The more news you watch, the more misinformed you are.”
The news is the news. The actionable information you can make decisions on, you can get off of apps. Secondly, your apps are right. I find that people are telling me, “Did you hear about Afghanistan?” “No, what’s going on?” “The exit is an absolute tragedy.” “Tragedy? Okay. Great.” I’m going to read a book about it and get the inside detail that hasn’t been morally divided for me. I want to know the facts.
People watch the news for purposes of knowing so they can have conversations. It’s a way of being social, in the know and in the in-crowd if that’s important to you and that’s what you value. I particularly don’t value being in the in-crowd relative to that type of information because it’s not serving, productive and constructive.
When I was watching the news, 20% of my time was going to focus on this information that was not moving my life forward. I wasn’t present for relationships. I wasn’t creative in problem-solving. I wasn’t exercising and making myself better. I was just fogging my mind with all the static. I want to touch on something you said there when you said that people want to be in the know so they can have conversations.The only way democracy works is through empathy and compromise. Click To Tweet
What the book also goes into is our very tribal roots. I’ve got a college degree. I have read 500 books. I listened to 5 to 10 hours of podcasts every week. I like to think that I’m a learned civilized man. The truth is I’m every bit as tribal as I was 10,000 years ago. The real reason we talk about politics is for that reason. It was 10,000 years ago.
I may have painted my face green and you may have painted your face yellow. If you and I came walking around a bend in the forest and we saw each other, I would go, “You’re not of my tribe.” I would have raised my spear and probably started yelling at you. We may have fought and run off because you’re not of my tribe. That’s all political conversations are now. It’s broad and general here. There are people that I’m sure have good conversations. I just haven’t seen them.
When we sit down and talk about politics, all we’re doing is recycling the talking points that we hear on the news. We hear each side pumps down their information, little talking points and sound bites. We go, “I think the election was stolen.” The other person goes, “I think it’s the freest and fairest election ever. It was the most secured election ever.” All each side is doing is repeating their talking points, which is the same thing. It’s either having a green or yellow face. That’s why we lose our minds. You’re talking about sharing news. What you’re doing is enacting a part of your brain, which is ancient and tribalistic. That’s why those conversations are so worthless. They don’t help anything.
You bring up a good point about our tribal mentality because it’s not as self-serving as it once was for us. If anything, at this point, it’s putting us at a disadvantage. The reason why I say that is because we don’t need that mentality anymore in retrospect to the people that are around us. We are more diverse now than ever and it’s going to keep going. We’re not inclusive and that’s because of that tribal mentality that we have. It’s this us versus them mentality that’s causing a lot of division and the idea that, “I have to protect my space and you’re not included in my tribe. You have to go over there and now we have to make sure that we do everything to stay superior.”
That mentality at one time served us because it was a survival mechanism. If you didn’t have that, then you die. Now, it’s totally flipped. We need each other to survive now. We have to recognize that the mentality that we’re taking with us from generation to generation is no longer serving us. We have to break that down. We have to develop a different view and approach to the way that we see others and deal with others, even those that don’t look like us. That’s an interesting point. Those are my thoughts on it to expand that.
Another thing that’s happening with all this political jargon that you hear about, like the political parties and all these differences in this side or that side, that’s all tribal mentality. Inclusivity includes all. We need to begin to discover, “How can we govern or make rules and policies that are more inclusive versus beneficial to one particular party or another?” That requires us to work together. It’s not, “This party and that party come together and represent.” It’s, “How can we be inclusive from the beginning and begin from there? Let’s start from that starting point and have that conversation.”
You raised phenomenal points there. What it turns out is we, as human beings, are capable of being in more than one tribe at a time. I can be part of my family. I’ve got a larger friend group and a workgroup that I’m a part of. I may have a softball team. I’ve got a city, state and country. I have the whole human race. We are capable of being loyal to multiple different tribes at the same point in time.
Manichaean is where it demonizes, vilifies and makes one side good and the other side evil. The more that happens to us, the more we objectify other people, which we can’t include them anymore because now they’re not human anymore. They’re baby-killers or they support that guy. They’re evil and now it’s an us versus them.
What my book does and goes into great detail about is it gives people pragmatic steps to put their loyalty where it belongs most, which is with the whole country, the United States of America, or more importantly, all of humanity. When you start doing and thinking that way first, you think humanity or the country 1st and party, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th or none at all, all of a sudden, you’re able to empathize before you criticize.
You’re able to say, “What is going on? Is it what’s being fed to me by my hate newscaster at night that’s telling these people are awful? Are they awful as he says they are?” I want to get in there to figure out things for myself and figure out how we can work together. Democracy, the only way it works is through empathy and compromise.
What is the psychological effect of what you’re talking about here, like consuming the news and being misinformed? Walk us through your philosophy on how this affects us.
There are a couple of things I was told as a kid that I came to find out that is not true. One of the things I was told as a kid is that we were born to be happy. That turns out that it’s not true. We are, by default, anxious and fearful creatures. How we know that is because we’re the ones who are still living and what would have been the survival of the fittest. If we were not the ones who were anxious and worried about the lion around the corner or the tribe that came and killed us, we would have died off, the ones who were too happy because they were too relaxed. The ones who survived were the ones that were anxious.
That bit of knowledge is helpful and useful. I felt weird sometimes because I felt so anxious. I thought, “There must be something wrong with me that I’m naturally anxious. I’m always concerned and worried.” Our brains are not built for happiness. Our brains are survival computers. How we survive is by avoiding harm and death. We are naturally programmed to want to be alerted to things that might threaten us.About an hour of evolutionary psychology training is worth about a year of talk therapy. Click To Tweet
When I say the media, I use that broadly. That does mean cable, traditional ABC and NBC, internet, newspapers, magazines, articles, monitors on gas pumps and elevators. Any kind of content has figured that out that we are tribalistic and anxious. It taps into that and says, “Let’s pump these people full of more fear.” The more we become alert, aware and fearful, that’s addictive. They discovered that outrage and fear are addictive. We will spend more time going back to the same waterhole, getting our daily intake of fear, hatred and outrage.
When you realize that you’re being manipulated when you watch the news, so I don’t watch any news. I know that now. I want to reduce my anxiety because I want to be more present for my family and relationships. I want to be working on solving problems, not just forming fear and anxiety in my own mind. I want to sleep well at night. I want to be a better husband and father versus worrying about things I have no control over.
What does your book suggest that we do? How do we flip the coin on this? What’s on the other side of all of this?
The heart of the book is a topic called Evolutionary Psychology. Evolutionary Psychology takes us back and helps us understand our default factory settings. Just because you realize your factory setting, doesn’t mean that you’re beholden to it. As soon as you realize that anxiety is your factory setting, you recognize that and then you can change it.
The book does a good job of helping people understand, “What are our default factory settings? What is going on in our brains?” Whether you’re a human being in the United States or China or in some isolated tribe down in South America somewhere, no matter what culture you are, what are the things that are common to us inside of our brains? It would be now or 10,000 years ago. Our brains haven’t changed in the last 10,000 years. That part is important and empowering.
What I’ve discovered is about an hour of Evolutionary Psych training is worth probably about a year of talk therapy. As soon as you realize, “I’m not built for happiness. I’m built to be in relationships,” that’s a little bit different. I’m built for anxiety. We are built to be in a relationship with one another. That’s very true too.
As soon as we realize that we take control of our lives and stop trying to fight the world the way that it is, that’s what a lot of what the book is about. It’s helping us understand those default settings, so we stop fighting against them and having so much anxiety as our natural tendencies are mismatched with the world around us.
You mentioned we’re not built for happiness multiple times. Could you explain to the readers what you mean by that?
We’re built for survival. How our brains have evolved is to survive. Being happy and relaxed in many circumstances would get you killed. There are species that are about 200,000 years old. If you were happy and relaxed at the wrong time, you would die. Our brains are alert. When you watch a TV and see the zebra is out there in the savannah and they’re standing all there together and chewing on grass, we’re going, “They’re all relaxed.” No, they’re aware of the lion lying around the corner and ready to react. Our brains are built the same way very much. We’re constantly on guard for what threats could be coming our way.
Are you suggesting that’s not a good thing?
It keeps us alive and survived. Being anxious is not a good thing. Knowing that’s our default mechanism and realizing it, first of all, you don’t have to go, “What’s wrong with me?” That’s a positive thing. If you’re anxious and stressed and you’re going, “What’s wrong with me? I was built for happiness,” anxiety is our natural state. The first thing is people can go, “I’m not defective.” You’re not defective. That’s our natural state.
The next thing we can do is change the inputs into your life and then reduce your anxiety appropriately. By and large, for most of us, we don’t live in life-or-death situations every day. The most dangerous things we do are probably driving in the car, but rarely are we faced with life-and-death scenarios where we need to have that level of stress. It’s realizing that. Reality is a construct. Once we know that, we change the inputs. We want to change the construct.
I teach in my Game Changer Mentality System the need to suffer whenever we find ourselves in that fight-or-flight mode. That’s what I call it. That’s a skill that we don’t teach in school. Many people don’t know how to do that. When tragedy strikes or there are some types of conflict or trauma, that anxiety goes way up. The cortisol starts running through your body.
To combat that is the need to self-regulate. That’s a skill to be learned because it’s the opposite of all of that. It’s necessary because it brings you back to a sense of calm and consciousness instead of being in a reactionary mode. It allows you to think. You’re not just going off, reacting and executing behaviors that are not serving you and potentially serving others.
Most of the time, they’re out of fear, which is another reason why I don’t watch the news because it causes you to feel and react in that way. You can get very emotionally wrapped up in things and you’re manipulated. You have to think and react to certain things. You’re spot-on. I want to help people. What are the go-to’s for individuals? If there are 1 or 2 takeaways from this book that you want to get to people, what is that?The more time you spend vilifying others, your enemies and rivals are the only ones who gain. Click To Tweet
The book is chock-full of practical recommendations. I’ll give a couple of more here before the end of our show. One of them is, “Don’t give any time or attention to any media, media personality or politician who demonizes another American.” If you’re watching and consuming any media or following any politician who is vilifying, demonizing, ridiculing, mocking, slandering or slurring another American, they’re taking advantage of you.
That’s a hard one to swallow because what they’re doing is tapping some very ancient and tribal mechanisms inside of your mind. They’re making you believe that the other party is a threat. They’re taking trust away from that other party and keeping it onto them. It’s called fearmongering. What it does is gives them more loyalty, attention and power.
You go, “Why should I do that?” It’s because they’re awful. I assure you, the people who you think are awful are not nearly as awful as you think. There are some awful people in this country, and they’re baby killer psychopaths who I hope most likely are in prison. It’s a small percentage of people who are evil that are on this country or planet. It’s a small number.
Anybody who is demonizing and vilifying another American, don’t consume them because the only party who wins when we are fighting one another is simple. It is our enemies and rivals. The world needs the United States’ leadership. We are leaders in having the most effective capitalistic and economic systems that have ever been embedded. I’m not saying capitalism is perfect, but it is the best system. It has lifted more people out of poverty.
We’ve had many years of world peace without a major world war. That’s because of the United States and the pacts it has enacted around the world. We are a beacon of hope and light. The world needs us out there fighting for human rights, fighting against corruption in other countries around the world and making progress on climate change. When we’re not there, do you know who wins? Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and the Taliban. The more time we spend vilifying one another, our enemies and rivals are the only ones who gain.
Thank you for your passion for this subject. How can people connect with you if they want to learn more about it?
I hope you buy my book, read my book and give it to a friend. It may look like a book about politics, but it is a political self-help book. Every person who has read this book has walked away with practical ideas going, “You’re saying exactly what I was feeling. I just didn’t know how to articulate it.” It’s going to help people understand how their minds work better than they ever have before.
I want you to buy it, read it and then pass it along to a loved one who you know is stuck in the Second Civil War. Being in the Second Civil War is a choice. The battleground is not out there somewhere. The battleground is in your mind. The second you choose yourself off of the battleground and decide, “I’m not doing it anymore,” your Second Civil War ends. The Second Civil War is not just hyperbole. It’s a war that’s being fought in our minds. You can find my book on Amazon and also on Barnes & Noble, audiobook, softbound, hardbound, Kindle or however you want to get it, please buy it and pass it along to a friend.
Thank you, Peter, for coming on the show and sharing your insights with us. Congratulations on the release of your book. This is something that we need in the world now. I know sitting there and watching the news doesn’t help anything. It’s the right action backed by the right information. I appreciate you writing the book and taking the time to stop by and share that with us.
It’s always good being with you, Rodney. Thank you so much for having me.
- The Second Civil War: A citizen’s guide to healing our fractured nation
- Amazon – The Second Civil War
- Barnes & Noble – The Second Civil War
- Is Life Knocking You Down? Read Rodney’s inspiring story – Get Up! I Can’t. I Will. I Did… Here’s How!
- Recognize Your Positive Potential – Essential Assertions by Rodney Flowers
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About Peter Montoya
There are seasoned entrepreneurs, gifted speakers, and best-selling authors, but rarely do you find all three in one person. Peter Montoya is that rare exception. A thought leader, skilled orator, tech entrepreneur, and successful business strategist, Peter’s expertise comes from decades of being deep in the trenches – guiding sales, marketing, service, and development teams to achieve seemingly unreachable goals by working together cohesively. That leadership grew his software company, Marketing.Pro, from a three-person startup to a multi-million-dollar exit…all without partners or investors.
Peter also wrote forerunning books on Personal Branding – The Brand Called YOU and The Personal Branding Phenomenon. He is currently building his latest game-changing tech startup, Urth, which is on track to transform the social media landscape by providing a civil, community-driven platform free of bots, trolls, and misinformation.