Saturday, November 12, 2016
Some Thoughts About "The Media"
It is something most of us have experienced at one time or another. A dark and dreary day when for a brief moment the sun breaks through an opening in the clouds and reveals surprising, hitherto unseen, details about the surrounding landscape. When such occurs one looks about with pure wonder.
All of us who are awake and with our eyes open have had such a moment lately. That as a bright and revealing light has shown forth on the media revealing all that it is worth.
Which is little as it turns out. Very little.
Here then are a few thoughts that 'showed up on the lit landscape' from where I was standing.
The first is how large a field the media is. How much it encompasses.
For a time there was a phrase "the Mainstream Media." This was the 'same old, same old' group that was understood to include the big newspapers -- most famously the New York Times, The Chicago Times and the Washington Post and all their little brothers and sisters. Also the network TV stations -- those of the nightly news with their familiar-to-all hosts whose hair and articulation are equally well groomed.
Then there was the so-called "new media" -- that which inhabited the lowlands with its snide commentary and revealed 'dirty little secrets.' Among these the most famous is perhaps the Drudge Report but also to be included are such as the Huffington Post and Mother Jones.
Then there were those few that inhabited the supposed high places: The organs of the so-called Think Tanks (of the left and right). Less familiar to many, but highly respected among a few, such includes the Brookings Institution and the Heritage Foundation. Also a few who blended scholarship, both bogus and real, with some popular flair. This group includes such as National Review and the Weekly Standard -- both of the right -- and the left's New Republic, Politico and Third Way.
Each of the above has its own niche and partisan supporters, but in fact they have a heck of a lot in common. Including a sharing in all that follows.
What Has Been Revealed
1) The were WRONG. All of them.
It has been said, with some humor, that even a stopped clock is right twice a day. If that is so than all of the above are less accurate then a stopped clock. Think about that!
Most of America, every single day, "turns on" or "goes to" this or that of the above news and information sources, and during the last full year or longer, as perhaps the most major political story in twenty years unfolded, not a single one of them got it right. The recent flash of light revealed that. People were feeding on... WRONG.
Will we forget this? Alas, the power of old habits makes that likely. Let's not.
2) They are OWNED.
Evidence is abundant that that what they -- the media as a whole -- produce was 'incorrect', not just by mistake, but by intent. That each was, to varying degrees, paying homage to its master.
In many cases that master was He of the Status Quo.
Let's face it, left or right, those on the 'inside' have their entire living -- and not just the monetary part of it -- connected to keeping in power those presently in power. "Those" being the people, the institutions and even that 'status quo' mode of thought. But also another group of status quo lovers: Us. Yes us. You and me.
Yes, satisfying us -- their readers and listeners -- telling us what we wanted to hear --also affected what they said and wrote.
Said and sang Paul Simon in his song The Boxer...
All lies and jests
Still a man hears
What he wants to hear
And disregards the rest
As did Simon's boxer, so do we.
And that is another lesson to clearly keep in mind and remember.
3) They were EVIL
Okay, this third point is a judgment call -- but I stand behind it. Here's why:
Our nation has been sinking for some years. Like a mighty ship that has been taking on water.
That is not a point of view of just the left, or just the right, or just those caught somewhere in the middle. As recently as Nov. 6th -- just days before the critical election -- when the respected national poling organization Rasmussen Reports asked Americans of all stripes and persuasions whether the country was "heading in the right direction," just thirty percent of likely voters said they thought it was. Thus getting things right should have been seen by all as of prime importance. And in a republic with a democratically chosen leadership, the key to that has to be the spreading of accurate and all-encompassing knowledge. But that is not what we he people got.
Largely the straining of information was done to aid one side: The campaign of Hillary Clinton.
Note that this is not the same as saying that the editorial leanings of most of the above sources were in her direction. No, it is the fact that critical information about Hillary, as well as her opponent, Donald Trump, was hidden from listeners and readers. This included some extraordinary stories of corruption from the Clinton campaign's own emails that had been revealed by Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks organization.
"But Assange was taking sides!" some will say. "He was only revealing Clinton's "foibles."
Perhaps that is true. But it matters not. Such would be akin to him having an editorial stance -- something he was entitled to do. What matters is was what he was revealing true? -Was it significant? If so -- if it was information that would have helped a voter get a clearer understanding of a candidate -- either candidate -- than it needed to be 'out there.' Broadcast widely. And it wasn't.
If Assange had an editorial POV -- something, btw, that Assange denies -- well so did the outlets of the right. What is amazing this election is that largely their -- the right's -- editorial slant was in the same direction as the media on the left. They said and wrote only what would help Hillary, and damage Trump.
No, their reasons for doing so were not the same. -At least not all of them. But they did share the same selfish desire to protect their own little patch of turf. In other words the right-leaning media was as a rule just as dishonest as that of the left. And this about their own supposed candidate!
Any time a 'broad brush' is used some details will be covered over. Some reputations tarnished a bit unfairly. And certainly that is true here. For there were a few, on both the left and the right (and in that supposed "center") who tried to honestly find the pertinent facts and to share them, allowing their effects on the outcome of the election to fall where they may.
But that said, such were few. Sadly, few.
Now we are approaching a week after the election. The election that proved pretty much all of the media wrong, owned and yes, evil. Have they changed? Not at all. Are we as a nation suffering for it? Yes.
The "ship" that is America may yet be put right. Most of us hope so. (I, for one, believe it will.) But if it is little if any credit will belong to the media, be it the old, the new or that of the 'rarefied air' intellectuals.
What can we average citizens do about all the above? Actually a great deal -- if we are brave enough. If we are willing.
One is that we can stop listening to the media -- all of it -- in the way we used to. Yes, we can still listen to and read their words -- but not with trust. We can -- indeed we must -- force ourselves to leave our respective comfort zones and ease. We must see the media -- all of it -- for what it is: People with their own agenda. And that that agenda likely does not at all match what is good for your or my individual long-term welfare. No, nor for that of our nation.
No, be it the NY Times, NPR, National Review or one of the more "high brow" intellectual news and commentary sources, be they of the left or the right, we must see them for what they are. Opponents to our common good.
Two is we can vote with our wallets. Turn away from those who mislead us to the same extent that they did so. Hold them in derision. Laugh at them. And let their monetary supporters see and know that we are doing so. ("You advertised where? Hah! Some chance I'll be buying a widget from YOU!!!")
Doing the above can be -- yes! -- "fun and games." That of getting the better of our self-appointed Guardians and Masters. But like the best of all fun and games doing will require hard work and acquiring some learned skills. Firstly that of learning to think for ourselves. -To see things for what they really are. And then 'playing the game' accordingly. With enthusiasm. And to win.
So, yes, the media let us down. Badly.
The good news is that less were fooled during this election than were in the past -- and this despite them -- the combined media --playing their best possible game and playing it to win.
As they say in gameland -- "may the best man and the best team win." And may it always be We the People.