By Nathan Barton
Every day, we see or read or hear news stories, from locally, our region, the Fifty States, and around the world.
Sometimes, especially for local stories, we see something that is just not right: sometimes not quite right, and sometimes totally wrong. Is this an error or a lie?
Sometimes, it is both.
It isn’t just the mainstream media. And certainly not just the “alt-media” or the blogosphere or web- or urban-legends.
In the past few years, I have attended many hearings, and public meetings, and even been in court, and then a few hours or days later, read a report or heard a news story about what was said and done in those gatherings. And I have been involved in bad situations: accidents, spills, fires, and such; seen for myself what was going on. And then, again, read or heard something. And asked myself what meeting or event was the media reporting on? It didn’t sound or read very much like what I saw and heard (or did) at the the time.
We all hear something and pass it on, only to find out it was in error, or we misunderstood it. We (well, we old fogies) have all played the game of gossip, where we stand or sit in a big circle (with 20 or more people) and start whispering a message from one person to another. Norman Rockwell painted a version of that, way back when.
But is a far cry from what passes for journalism these days, all too often.
It isn’t just a matter of poor work, of poor quality control, or of “professionals” who are anything but. Yes, too many people who work in media these days (as in most other industries) are less and less literate: not just unable to comprehend what they read, and write in an understandable manner, but unable to use reason, logic, and organize what they read and write (or say). As the quality of the mostly government-run, tax-funded education deteriorates, the ability of the average worker in television, radio, newspapers, magazines, and even advertising declines. And incompetent people make mistakes. Lots of them. They don’t even listen very well, and are often incapable of remembering what really happened. Or don’t have the ability to even understand what is happening.
But that is a symptom, and perhaps while a feature and not a bug in the system, is not the real reason we can’t believe much of what we read.
It is the intentional lying. The media people (whether very good at it or not) who report what is not true, and who omit what really happened. They do not tell the truth, for one or more reasons.
All too often, one of those reasons is that the events, the things said or done, the actions taken, are something that they themselves oppose. A reporter (or editor or publisher) who has been raised and educated (propagandized) to believe that women are an oppressed minority, that homosexuality must be normal and not just accepted but endorsed, that abortion is a sacred right, that humankind is “unnatural” and its commercial and industrial activities are destroying Mother Earth, is NOT going to willingly report something which weakens the arguments for their position, and is NOT going to report favorably on something which they view as threatening to their causes.
But there is also the matter of control, that by limiting the information provided and by telling people something that is not true, those readers and viewers will be incorrectly informed. And therefore they will act in ways which benefit the allies and masters of the media people. Wrong or incomplete information makes people more likely to make the wrong decisions, and what information is provided skews the decisions, in the way that the controllers want it to be skewed.
Sometimes it is something of only a local concern, or even involving just a few people. If you, as an elected official, do not want to see the business of your friend or a family member challenged by a new business in your community, what can you do? Find ways to get other people to discredit the new business or those behind it. It can be done in many ways, especially if you have allies in the media. You can exaggerate the risks involved. You can attack their motives, their honesty, or their competence. And that often can be done by what is (and is not) reported in the media.
On a state or Fifty States level, it is even more obvious. We are seeing that the 2016 campaign to elect a new Massa is far from over as, again and again, the media is used by their allies in both the right and left to attack their opponents, including especially those recently elected and appointed to office. The lies, half-lies, half-truths, and innuendos are slathered across the screens and pages and babbled incessantly on the airwaves.
Our response should be the same in both cases. Seek out the truth, and never accept anything heard on the media without verifying it (if possible). And never depend on the media at any level for the truth, or for information on which to make important decisions about our businesses or our lives.
Mama’s Note: I’ll add that it is important to think critically about our own prejudices and preconceptions, both before and after reading or watching the “news.” Critical thinking isn’t taught in government “school,” but it can be learned. Questioning the prevailing “authorities” is just about the best way to start this process for anyone. Do some digging into the background, track record and financial ties of the “news” source, as well as those they write about, both for and against. As the old saying goes, who benefits?