Saturday, October 24, 2020

A Free Press Has A Responsibility To Be Fair

The So-called Free Press Includes Many Parts

Surging Media Bias has blown away the notion the free press will be fair and this year it seems these players that shape our opinions are  doubling down. This was demonstrated when allegations regarding Hunter Biden and a laptop with damning E-mails surfaced. Rather than letting people see and decide what to think about this information the response of Twitter and Facebook, was to shut it down and block it from getting out. This is where the power of tech companies flexing their muscles allows us to see they have become a major force in the media. Other news outlets also imposed a virtual blackout on the allegations. It didn’t matter that thousands of emails were available for review or that the Bidens did not directly address the material. It was all declared to be fake news.  

The idea of having a press that is free to cover the news is generally linked to the idea they will be fair because the freedom of free speech generally comes with a degree of responsibility and the obligation to seek the truth. A common example is how freedom of speech should give someone the right to speak their mind but not scream fire in a crowded theater. This is where discussions concerning the press and President Trump get sticky. Somewhere in what often slips into an argument is the role of the media in presenting an unbiased view of events. This is complicated by the fact many news outlets have moved more towards an entertainment format. Rather than presenting the cold hard facts, they have found it is sensationalism that draws viewers.

Stahl Told The President He Is Lying

The White House, in an unprecedented decision to disregard their agreement with CBS News, recently released their footage of an interview between President Trump and Leslie Stahl of 60 Minutes. The President claimed in a Facebook post that a full video revealed "bias, hatred and rudeness" on Stahl's part. Interestingly, no matter how rude or contentious Stahl became an overwhelming majority of those in the media say the footage revealed no such thing. CBS said it only shows Stahl asking firm questions about the coronavirus and other topics.

It is during such interviews that we get an opportunity to witness examples of just how badly you can treat a guest invited to answer questions. This includes over the top efforts to put words in someone's mouth and take statements out of context. When the guest represents views differing from the interviewer or media outlet doing the interview what we often see is an ambush. If a guest is favored or their views are endorsed it is often as though they had written the softball questions asked of them or as if he/she had seen the questions in advance or controlled the interview. This can be backed up by a series of scripted statements that all loop back around to support a hard or subliminal message. With such coverage being very common it is little wonder that Americans question the honesty of the media whose ranks appear to have become filled with opportunists and bums dressed as journalists.

Today many people get the majority of their news over the internet. This has made a huge difference in how news is distributed allowing people more choice in how they receive their news, however, much of the content remains controlled by some rather strong players that often are driven by an agenda of self-interest. This proved to be very apparent during the presidential election where many in the media put their strong bias towards candidates front and center. It became clear to many of us that a greater force was comprised of those insiders currently in control and yearning to extend their power. Another name for this group is the establishment which now includes the high-tech social media and those collecting data on all of us.   

It is clear that over the years how we get our news has changed but it seems this is not the chief reason the public’s trust in the media had fallen. Most of the problem is people no longer view many of these outlets as fair and balanced. Gallup began asking respondents about their trust in the media back in 1972. Only forty-one percent of the respondents in Gallup’s recent national poll said that they have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in the mass media. Surprisingly this is well above the record low of 32% in 2016. Since then, the trust of Republicans has dropped the most. Republicans' trust sits at a very low level. Of Democrats, 69% say they have trust and confidence in the media, while 15% of Republicans and 36% of independents agree. While some 84% of those polled say news media is "critical" or "very important" to democracy, 86% think there is at least a fair amount of political bias in news coverage.

A Classic Example Of Subtle Bias

In many ways, the media has become viewed more as a tool of the establishment than the protector of the people and defender of our rights. This could explain why the press is often held in such low esteem by the very public that relies on them for information. Coverage filled with subtle digs or comments and even subliminal messages taint the premise media is fair.  In reaction to Trump dressing down certain news agencies or groups for bias coverage, we immediately see the fear card thrown down on the table and warnings about how dictatorships are formed. I'm a bit tired already of this charade rolled out by the press, however, a bigger concern is the cultural damage this is causing by widening the social divide in our heavily polarized country.

A fair amount of attention has been spent on "fake news" but just as important is the amount of media coverage that falls into the category of hype. Highlighted by a banner proclaiming "Breaking News" that stays on the screen for hours as we watch the same news clips and footage we have already seen several times. This is generally accompanied by rampant speculation geared to tantalize the viewer. The Sunday morning talk shows that claim to focus on the nation and the news that affects all of us have also suffered. Rather than addressing important issues, they continue dishing out a heavy dose of Trump-bashing. Taking comments out of context, straight-out misstating a person's positions, or putting them in an unpleasant light are all tricks used by a bias media. The blatantly bias coverage we are seeing is enough to force the question, is the so-called "free press" working for us or under the directive of greater forces seeking to control events?

The bottom-line is that we out here beyond the beltway in the backwaters and wilds of America should remember the media has a casual relationship with the truth. Just because the media or a politician says something does not make it true. It is interesting to note that many of the major media websites do not offer a comment area, or if they do they are restrictive in the comments they accept. This could be considered a form of censorship because it appears they would rather not show the views of those who disagree. It is becoming more obvious each day that the mainstream media controlled by those with an agenda have taken upon themselves the job of controlling our discourse and shaping public opinion. Another name for what they are dishing out as news is propaganda. This does little to inform us, bring us together, or create calm between Nations. With such coverage, the media risk a growing backlash and losing the little credibility they have. 

Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed towards influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position by presenting only one side of an argument. Propaganda is usually repeated and dispersed over a wide variety of media in order to create the chosen result in audience attitudes. In April of 2013, I wrote a piece that explored how the White House during Obama's time in office was taking to a whole new level the ability the President had to create a message by spinning, scrubbing, molding, and shaping it before sending it out to the public. While most Americans associate propaganda and the idea of news being censored with countries like China, sadly it is also happening here.

1 comment:

  1. Good article, although a "free press" is a phantom concept. Nothing is free. Came across this quote (not sure who it is):

    "A fair and objective Press is a modern chimera. If you want a Free Press it can not be fair or objective. If you want a fair and objective Press, it won't be free. If you want freedom, you can not have fair/equal results."