At one time this statement might have been true, but the fact of the matter is we’re being inundated with falsified information in our news broadcasts these days. As terrible as it is to think of our historically venerated news reporters as dishonest, the days of Walter Cronkite and Peter Jennings are long behind us. The news has always been a business, but it was generally in the business of truth. Today’s news is a far cry from that much-vaunted past.
Most people in the United States are blissfully unaware that it is perfectly legal not only to lie about a story on the news, but also to make one up. Falsification of the news was ruled to be constitutionally acceptable. Part of that boils down to the ridiculousness of corporate personhood. Corporations are being given the same legal rights as human beings, and in most cases have a great deal more protection than people do, along with the funds to ensure they obtain good legal counsel for additional protection.
For example, courts are not allowed to reveal the names of minor victims to the public, but news media is only encouraged to redact the names of minors. In the Steubenville rape case, CNN, CBS, Fox and MSNBC released the name of ‘Jane Doe’ to their viewers. They ‘forgot’ to redact her name, and by then the damage was done. (There was no ‘forgetting’ here, when all the networks were guilty of doing it.) An apology is no longer sufficient, and all the money in the world (assuming they were to be sued) will not change the fact that she was placed in additional physical danger by having her name released. Sadly there are no repercussions for their thoughtless and harmful actions. In that case, however, they weren’t falsifying their information; they simply chose to go ahead with something heinously irresponsible.
During the Boston Marathon bombing incident, CNN was apparently caught faking their news reports. They were also allegedly caught red-handed staging the news (with paid actors, no less) in Syria. They supposedly ‘confused’ the AR-15 with the AK-47 in the Navy Yard Shootings. There are also some serious doubts about their interview with Ron Paul, based on their creative editing.
Not to be outdone, Fox certainly has a reputation for its own fabrications. Just ask John Stewart about his long list, verbalized in a rant in June of 2011. He was apologizing for making his own misstatement, after having been caught out by PolitiFact.com, and then proceeded to ‘wonder’ if Fox News had ever been judged for their statements. One example stands out dramatically.
“Healthcare reform is a government takeover of healthcare.”
Not only was this determined to be false, it was actually awarded the 2010 “Lie of the Year” by PolitiFact.com. Fox has apparently reported that the Texas Board of Education may eliminate references to Christmas and the Constitution from its textbooks. Current estimates are that they are lying about global warming approximately 93% of the time. The list goes on.
Don’t forget MSNBC. The vast majority of what they broadcast is based on opinion rather than fact, so there is very little actual news coming out of their studios. Pew Research Center’s annual State of the News Media report found that 85% of their so-called news is opinion-based. Fox and CNN were found to be closer to the 50/50 mark, with Fox skewing a fair bit more toward opinion than CNN. CNN’s reporting was 46% opinion, while Fox News reported 55% opinion.
So, stop and think about it. Just for a minute. Consider what this means when it comes to news consumption by the masses. Much of what is being absorbed, as news, by the public in the United Stated, is nothing more than someone else’s opinion. You might as well be getting your so-called facts straight from your next-door neighbour…whose cousin’s girlfriend’s brother worked in the mail room of a health insurance company and overheard the executives talking in the hallway about the Affordable Care Act.
Televised news is nothing more than entertainment for the masses, much like the euphemistically-termed reality TV. The problem, of course, is that most people are utterly convinced that what they’re hearing is straight talk. They think they’re getting real information.
Print media isn’t doing so well, either. During the political campaigns of Obama and Romney, neither candidate was reported positively in the media. However, the real story was that the media wasn’t really connecting with the public when it came to the candidates. Most of the public was hearing about the candidates through Obama and Romney’s campaign advertising, rather than through any kind of real journalism. This isn’t how journalism is supposed to work, and there are some real journalists who are getting fed up about the whole thing.
Seymour Hersh talked about it last year in an interview published in The Guardian. You might know him from his exposure of the shameful incidents at Abu Ghraib, but in 1969 he originally came to public recognition with his exposure of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam and its subsequent cover-up. Widely known as the journalist who is the nemesis of any president, he’s more than a little concerned that investigative journalists are no longer doing any actual investigation, and they’ve completely backed off on President Obama. This is coming from a left-leaning liberal, mind you, and even he’s mad about the complete lack of criticism toward Obama in the media.
Thus is the state of mainstream media. Our only other option is alternative media sources whose sources are highly questionable, unless every single member of the public wishes to do their own digging into what’s really going on in the world. Quite frankly, people are generally too apathetic to bother. Some don’t care what’s going on, and many are simply too embedded in the current media culture to think there’s anything wrong with what they’re hearing and reading.
The real problem faced by a society that is led around by the nose with false or misleading news reports, is that the connection to historical documentation is not being made. Much of what is (or will be) printed in textbooks and online in places such as Wikipedia, is coming from news reports. Articles that were written for ‘respected’ newspapers and magazines, and verbal reports given over the air, are used as sources for recording the history of a nation. There are no victors here. History itself is being re-written, and will be studied as fact by the students in American schools.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” ~ George Santayana
If we are condemned to repeat a past because we don’t remember it, it’s very difficult to say what will happen to Americans if the past isn’t even recorded correctly.
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