Monday, September 12, 2016

What is the Role of the Press?

I read much about how bias the press is against Mr. Trump, or in favor of Ms. Clinton.  The principle critics are, of course, the conservative media, who have their own bias.  It doesn’t take too critical an eye to see that what we view as the mainstream broadcast media, ABCNNBCBS, their subordinate networks, and affiliated stations all seem to have the same agenda in their selection of what news to feed us, and how to shape public opinion in support of their group's goals. 

It has recently become obvious that on-line search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing as well as social media giants Facebook and Twitter all do the same thing.  The anonymous editors, sitting behind their screens have been shown to fashion the trending stories to ensure their agendas rise to the forefront of any story line, or derogatory articles are buried deep in the search results.

Perhaps it has always been this way, but it is just more obvious now than at any time in my past because of the way we absorb the information that inundates us.  For example, look at how the press covered Franklin Roosevelt for the entirety of his Presidency.  From what I’ve read Americans knew he had polio, but never were shown the extent of his infirmity.  The White House and the press colluded to only release information that showed the President in normal views, sitting in a car, sitting on the porch, or standing to give the state of the union address to Congress.  They were led to believe he was a bit slow to walk because of the braces, but did not appreciate he was wheelchair bound or the full extent of his paralysis.  Was this wrong?  Did the public have a right to know?  Should his opponents have made a big deal over this as they would now in this age of ad hominem political attack?

In the later part of the 19th century, writing in the Fortnightly Review, Oscar Wilde said of the press.

“In old days men had the rack.  Now they have the press.  That is an improvement certainly.  But still it is very bad, and wrong, and demoralising.  Somebody — was it Burke? — called journalism the fourth estate.  That was true at the time, no doubt.  But at the present moment it really is the only estate.  It has eaten up the other three.  The Lords Temporal say nothing, the Lords Spiritual have nothing to say, and the House of Commons has nothing to say and says it.  We are dominated by Journalism.”[i] 

 How true that appears today, where opinion far outweighs fact.  A time when journalists and other opinion holders (who fancy themselves journalists) abound, and platforms like Facebook and Twitter are based almost exclusively on shouting out opinions either for or against some social issue.

You can observe these bias agendas in action as the latest Clinton or Trump controversy plays out.  Today, more than ever before, we are left to our own intelligence to determine what is real and what isn't.


Jeannette said...

That is an interesting Oscar Wilde quote...and here is an even older thought that often applies:

"Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions." Proverbs 18:2

John said...

I find the various translations interesting.

A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart my discover itself. (KJV)
A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart (NKJV)
The fool takes no delight in understanding, but rather in displaying what he thinks. (New American Bible (Catholic))
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding but only in disclosing what is on his mind. (NET)
A rebel doesn't care about the facts. All he wants to do is yell. (TLB)

Each comes with a slight variation in interpretation of the original authors intent.

W.B. Picklesworth said...

Of all institutions in our society I think it is the Press which is the least deserving of respect. They actively seek to distort and manipulate all others. And they happily attack and destroy the lives of those who stand against their agenda. They are little different than a drug cartel.

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