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Why you dislike your neighbor

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Jim Thompson

By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

Why do you dislike your neighbor? The simple answer is because there is money in it.

When I was young, we had newspapers, predominantly local, radio and three national television channels, and that was it as far as the media went. You got your news from the papers and radio and primarily entertainment from television, which, in the late 1950s, was predicted to soon obsolesce all the other media.

What have we today? Countless television stations. Radio beamed to us from satellites. All sorts of streaming services, too numerous to mention. International “billboards” such as Facebook, Google and many others.

All are trying to get your attention so they can show advertisers they have a serious audience. (Advertisers pay the bills.)
Headlines for all these services are often the tool to attract your attention. It is just like political campaigns: The more negative the headlines, the bigger the attraction. 

The negativity is usually directed at agitating you as relates to some institution or tribal group, in other words, possibly your neighbors. Then, you absorb these headlines and take it personally.  

I am an amateur student of history, especially history of what I self-describe as the “modern era” – since the start of the U.S. Civil War (which, if you read my column last week, is essentially since electricity started playing a major role in society).  

My conclusion? The politicians have always been scoundrels. Here in the U.S., it makes no difference which political party. In the rest of the world, the same thing – almost all politicians are scoundrels. The super rich have, by and large, been scoundrels, too.

What is different in the earlier times, say before 1980 or 1990, was that the media (newspapers, radio, television and so forth) were very expensive to launch and operate. Now, anyone can become a mouthpiece for any subject for a tiny investment. Even I can.  

I started an internationally, industry-focused media company in the early 2000s. It has grown nicely – not as fast as I would like – but a couple of six-month tours in hospitals may have had a lot to do with that.

I’ll beg that industry-focused media companies are a bit different than the general interests ones. At least I hope so, for if I am wrong, I am a hypocrite (ignoring this column which is of general interest!).

Further, I think I am correct regarding my own efforts, for I received the strangest email this week affirming the same, replicated here:

“Jim, Was nice to see the column today, as I was sad to see your passing a couple weeks ago. Since moving to Maine in 1987, till retiring in 2021 – you were a good-guy; a Legend in the area, the State of Maine, and the industry; and you always showed the human side of our industry. Thanks for all you did – All constructive, even this last posting. RIP my friend, you’ve done a great job.”

Now, this individual must think email has a direct link to the afterlife; yet, I appreciate the words.

However, the next time you get agitated about what you read, remember, it is not written for you, but for the advertisers.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at

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