Fake News: You Get What You Pay For

The problem in America is not fake news; it’s not journalists with an agenda, it’s not secret backroom meetings of newspaper editors crafting the most critical, or the most praiseworthy, headlines about the President.

OrwellWe have met the enemy, and it is ourselves.

The New York Times, Boston Globe, LA Times, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and all the other media outlets are for-profit businesses. If nobody buys a newspaper or places ads in the paper to reach those who still buy them, they close.

Same with electronic media. If nobody buys ads on Fox or CNN or MSNBC, they cannot survive. The press provides a product to consumers. Demand drives decisions on content. The old print adage of “if it bleeds, it leads” still applies.

Americans want a flashy headline with not too much reading or attention draining effort to think about things.

They want a simple statement of a “truth” and damn the corroboration or facts.

“The President’s economic policy is driving the best economy in decades.”

Excellent, just as I knew he would. Time to switch to ESPN for the critical stuff.

“The President’s economic policy is the worst in decades, driving the debt to record heights.”

Ah, a disaster. Just like I knew it would. Time to Instagram my neighbor’s cat licking wine from a discarded bottle. LOL, ROFL, IMHO

The dumbing down of much of America has been slowly eroding our society for years. Our idea of the perfect news story is one that holds our attention span for milliseconds, reinforces pre-conceived beliefs and then switches to the famous for being famous, or sports, or Antartica’s Got Talent.

Our society is slowly disappearing into a head down, cell-phone screen hypnotized, zombie-like shell of its former self; insulated and cut-off from any intellectually challenging effort to think.

The ideal news channel is a 24-hour drive-by of a car accident. I can get a quick view of things. I don’t want to see any blood or body parts (unless it is of an opposing opinion.) It doesn’t interfere with my commute or plans for the day.  Then lets me carry on with my life.

Much like the time President Bush, Jr. announced Americans should continue going to the malls while American soldiers fought and died in Afghanistan and Iraq.

There’s nothing to concern ourselves with here. We got this. Don’t worry about it.

The President doesn’t like criticism. Who does? But if he didn’t understand the Presidency is a lightning rod for criticism, he shouldn’t have sought the job.

And remember this, George Orwell may not have been good with dates about when we would reach this point. But, he was prescient in seeing the danger of the government deciding what is real and what is fake.

It’s not the omnipresent Big Brother we need fear, it is our own surrender to mediocrity in thinking about the realities of this country and our responsibility to stay informed by a broad spectrum of ideas and opinions.

Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.

                                                                                                            George Orwell

 

 

Where Have all the Real Reporters Gone?

There are no more Walter Cronkite’s

Cronkite

Walter Cronkite was the face of news reporting in America for many years. Others joined him, David Huntley and Chet Brinkley, Eric Sevareid, and more who reported the news without distortion or interpretation.

Oh, that we had such reporters today.

When Cronkite or the others interrupted a television show with the words “we interrupt this broadcast for breaking news,” it was for something that mattered. They told the story, relayed the information, and left the commentary or analysis for those who made their function clear.

Cronkite’s integrity and honesty were so highly respected that, when he went to Vietnam in 1968 shortly after the Tet Offensive and gave a brutally frank report on the conduct and state of the American involvement, his words turned the tide of American support for the war.

After Cronkite’s report, President Lyndon Johnson told his close personal advisers, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost the American people.” As history shows, Vietnam was a death knell for Johnson’s administration. Cronkite’s reporting, not criticism, not condemnation, not opinion, just his reporting of the facts on the ground in Vietnam was what made the difference and changed the course of a government.

President Trump’s approach to critical reporting is to attack the source. Such tactics will remain effective until news broadcasters develop a reputation for integrity that withstands such attacks, the absence of such reporters is sad and troubling.

Today’s 24/7 breaking news agenda driven media thinly disguised as reporting is a pox on America and the tradition and powerful voice of an independent and trustworthy free press.

News today is blood sports entertainment. Broadcast media, amplified by social media, has turned news into the Roman Circus. Truth becomes the moral equivalent of Christians fed to lions. The lions being the talking heads misdirecting facts to suit their particular bent and twisted into truth tearing carnivorous attacks.

The reason we ended up with such a divisive election is the result of the media widening the chasm between liberal and conservative philosophies. America’s strengths have always been its ability to embrace a centrist policy. Neither too left or right wing. Marginalizing the extremes on both sides and melding the best into a successful strategy.

Clinton made the error of trying to embrace Sanders more extreme foreign policy agenda and social programs, perhaps out of some sense of recompense for her gerrymandering the convention, and it hurt her in middle America.

Trump exploited this by firing up the extremes of the right, the xenophobic isolationists, and distorting the threat of illegal immigration. His embracing the “criminalization” of his opponent with the “lock her up” chant is a playbook out of many authoritarian governments throughout the world.

And it worked, Sanders supporters who couldn’t vote for Trump or Clinton voted for third parties or didn’t vote at all. Some Democrats crossed over to Trump because of a perception that he was the lesser of two evils.

All of this facilitated, compounded, and occluded by a profit-driven media seeking only to boost ratings.

The print media, a dying breed due to the changing nature of technology and the short attention spans and dirge of analytical thought among Americans, still has not found a way to preserve its place despite continued outstanding reporting by many of the established newspapers.

In the final analysis, until the news is no longer considered entertainment, we will continue down this dangerous road. Those of us who recall the Cronkite’s of the world, in whom you could place your trust in the truth of the reporting, long for a return. Those raised on the 24/7 media circus don’t understand what they’re missing, or the damage it does to the country.

Cronkite