“docu-mental is high quality, passionate, thoughtful. Your authentic voice makes it a rare gem.”
~Madelyn Glist, producer: The Smithsonian Channel, NPR’s Morning Edition, PBS’s Moyers on America
I’m Whitney M. Fishburn, a Washington, DC-based journalist and critic.
docu-mental is my answer to the “news fatigue” that stops us from thinking clearly.
And that’s important because America, we’ve lost our damn minds.
It started well before this administration, but now there’s no denying that our minds have been deranged for a while. It’s because we’ve outsourced our thinking to so many others: politicians, the media, celebrities, anyone with a pitch to sell.
We've outsourced our thinking.
We’ve let our minds be colonized.
We’ve become slaves to the cult of brands.
And now this is what we’ve got: A damn fine mess.
When norms are shattered, we can’t resort to automatic thinking.
docu-mental relies on data, thoughtful commentary and analyses, and interviews with innovative and surprising thinkers ranging from policymakers to monks to poets to scienstists and others in between.
I have covered the health sciences, policy, and economics for decades. I also write about opera and classical music in America. Over time, these two beats have helped me develop an ability to spot trends and describe their deeper meanings.
I have found two trends that matter to our future.
The first is that even in places you wouldn’t expect, such as the arts and sciences where progress is supposed to challenge the status quo, what we take for granted as true didn’t evolve intentionally or with a specific end in mind, but over time, became an accepted norm no one thinks to challenge.
Why not? Because we were taught to invest in these “norms” as the truth by others who have profited from us holding that belief, whatever it is.
The second is that once they had our power, we went on auto-pilot, and if for a brief moment we stirred, the ones holding our power found ways to scare us from taking it back.
Look at all the prescriptive thinking everywhere: “Top ten this”, “Here’s why you should do that”, “He didn’t do that and look what happened”…
These are real examples from headlines I have read in just the past two days of writing this.
Do you even realize how often you are told what to think, all day, every day? Some studies place it at about an average of 6,000 times per day.
No wonder we check out.
But mindlessness leads to bad policies, corruption, and a damn fine mess.
I don’t care what you think. I care that you think.
Through reporting, commentary, and podcasts with a variety of thinkers from industry, politics, culture and the arts, docu-mental deconstructs what we used to take for granted as the so-called american “norms” so you can see how you participated in helping them become “normal” and consider how you will be authentic now and in the future.
I am not interested in aligning with a party or point of view, and my only "should" for you is that if you’re thinking clearly and for yourself, you shouldn’t either.
I started docu-mental to publicly practice authentic thinking.
Get real, dammit.
Being firehosed with information such as we are these days makes it tempting to just tune out and let others do our thinking for us. That’s great for people who want to profit from our mental exhaustion, but not for our individual empowerment.
I don’t want to tell you your thinking is right or wrong, I want to help you think your most authentic thoughts.
Examples of how docu-mental offers insight into the status quo:
An exploration of how the FDA’s wimpy initial response to the opioid crisis, based on weak data and external pressure, indicates how they will respond to future crises.
Saudi Arabia owns a large share of water rights in drought-stricken California because of a law that dates back to the Gold Rush.
A psychologist’s reaction to an interview with a prominent psychiatrist in a docu-mental podcast includes her view that mental health diagnoses are not based in science.
Is Medicare-for-All the focus of healthcare debate when what’s really happening is a corporate take-over of our healthcare system by CVS?
Why you should worry if your life insurance company is owned by China
Journalism should be a customer service industry
Journalism is a public service, but I always have believed that if I view it as a customer service, I would fulfill the public part. Journalists are privileged in that we have access to people our readers typically don’t have. This is why I have always tried to ask the questions I know my readers would ask if only they had the chance.
Additionally, such access to a wide range of information and opinions also allows me to connect the dots between what are often not-so-obvious things. When you know the implications of these hidden connections, you might make different decisions than you make now.
Even if you don’t have access to the same sources I do, you can view them with the same healthy —and even friendly!— suspicion I have learned to apply. I believe it’s possible that by reading along and following my thought process as I report and comment on the news, you too will learn to start asking the right questions of those who want to tell you something definitively.
Washington Remembers: presented by docu-mental
This podcast series features the people in Washington who created or witnessed the creation of today’s “norms” in politics and policy.
Larry Barrett, TIME Magazine’s former senior political correspondent and Reagan biographer explains how the religious Right associated with Reagan actually came to power through President Jimmy Carter.
Donald Baker, former US assistant attorney for antitrust, discusses his role in creating the nation’s first antitrust guidelines and how Big Data is disrupting our thoughts about individual rights.
Dr. Allen Dyer, a psychiatrist and medical ethicist, and the only living member of the American Psychiatric Association’s ethics committee that crafted the so-called Goldwater Rule cited when psychiatrists say they aren’t allowed to speak publicly about POTUS45’s mental state. But are they really prevented from doing so, and if not, why not?
Kelly Johnston, a Conservative Republican former secretary of the Senate under Bob Dole, traces today’s nastiness in Congress not to impeachment of POTUS 45 but to the influence of special interests after Watergate ethics reform, Newt Gingrich, and air conditioning.
‘What’s with the weird name with the dash in it?’
The name “docu-mental” came to me when I was looking for a way to map, or essentially, document how certain states of mind are implicated when Americans abdicate their thinking to leaders, news media, or industry representatives.
I had begun to notice that my questions about the world often were borne of certain unquiet states of mind where I would go, but that the more information I had, the more I understood how A led to B and so forth, the more relaxed I became. I started seeing that others lived in these “noisy” places, too. I figured if I could think my way out, I could show others how to do it, too. I didn’t want to report on or editorialize the news so much as to document how I gather and process information by asking questions of the questioners and following the nuances between the words.
That’s how I came up with docu-mental (TM), which is trademarked.
Learn how to ask the right questions of those with a message to sell — including the media.
Those noisy states of mind make us weak, I realized. This leaves us vulnerable to being in a constant state of anxiety and or worse, depression. It’s when we are anxious and or depressed that we are too tired think for ourselves.
This makes us ripe for manipulation.
I started connecting the dots between how these states of mind, compounded by anxiety and depression can lead to the creation of bad policy, which then leads to bad outcomes, which leads to more anxiety and depression, which leads to more bad policy, and so on.
I thought if I could show others how this is happening, we could reverse the trends.
Five states of mind:
There might be more than five states of mind that leave us vulnerable to those who wish to harvest our minds, but these are the five I have identified:
If you’d like to know more about those five states and how I came to chart them, please visit this page.
Think for yourself, don’t let me do it for you.
For decades my byline (as Whitney McKnight) was in service to other mastheads, but no outlet I have worked with has shared my specific editorial vision combining public and customer service.
I want to map the american states of mind so you can get to a better state of mind.
docu-mental does these 5 things:
Inspires you to re-evaluate and clarify how you identify as “american” *
Gives you tools to predict how larger trends will affect you personally"
Helps you expand your sense of agency when dealing with those trends
Demonstrates how empowerment results in less anxiety and depression
Encourages you to apply this intellectual/emotional synthesis to all news media.
* I use american, little “a” to neutralize it. Kind of like how Jamiroquai uses “love” with a little “l” to cool things down.
Your mind is being harvested nearly every waking moment by people who want more control, more money, more influence, at your expense.
Our minds and all that they generate, including ideas, hope, faith, love, and understanding, are the only infinite resources on this earth. At a time when so much of what we once took for granted would always be available to us — abundant land, oil, potable water, a sense of identity with community — is now vanishing or diminished, our minds and all their potential are a precious commodity.
Take back your mind. Join with thousands of others who are publicly practicing authentic thinking.
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Formerly the managing editor of Psychiatric Annals, Pediatric Annals, and several other lifestyle and trade publications, I also was an award-winning reporter of policy and practice in Clinical Psychiatry News, Pediatric News, and Internal Medicine News, among other medical titles. Named 2017 Journalist of the Year by the Washington Psychiatric Society for my coverage of mental health policy and practice, I now focus on the mind sets that contribute to bad policy, and bad mental health outcomes.
To see clips from when I was a fulltime medical and policy reporter, visit here.
I am a member of the American Health Care Journalists; the National Association of Science Writers, where I sit on the Peggy Girshman Ideas Grant Committee; and the Music Critics Association of North America.
I love to wear my red buckaroos, and when I can get away with it, a leather turquoise belt with a rhinestone buckle.