Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Media Coverage - We Lose Again
OK it's over. As you could guess, I would have been just as unsatisfied if the Republican had won instead of the Democrat. Both are merely emblematic of a system that is rotten, corrupted beyond repair. What I want to point out today is the enormous role of the major media in and the role they play in degrading the average person's understanding of current events, and thus contributing to the abhorrent state of affairs we find ourselves in.
I did not watch any of the campaign/election coverage on any of the major networks or news channels. I do not read the daily papers or national magazines on any regular basis. I do not follow any popular bloggers or Twitterers. Nevertheless I can tell you what the vast majority of the coverage was like:
1. The candidates were presented as personalities, celebrities, two-dimensional figures. The focus was not on their genuine character, but on how well they did at concocting an image/"brand" for themselves and selling it to the public.
2. Their activities were covered like a reality TV show or a sporting event. Emphasis on drama, winning/losing, crisis, scandal.
3. Genuine context and background exposition was absent from most analysis. Even if they wanted to, how could they when most of the time, coverage of any particular item only lasts one to two minutes?
4. The various media outlets and their star "journalists" knocked themselves out claiming that each was the most honest, independent, fair, balanced and tough in their reporting, while what you actually saw were egotistical media celebrities whose main talents are looking good, and a willingness to say and do just about anything to boost their ratings.
The net result is that the picture of reality presented by the mainstream media is, overall, an incredibly superficial one, in which the complex problems of the world are reduced to sketchy dramatic episodes, absent any sense of larger context, background or history. The thoughts of our leaders are reduced to sound bites. Media coverage, especially TV, degrades reality down to the TV paradigm - everything is reduced to short, commercialized bursts of entertainment that are expected to be quickly forgotten.
One might think that political figures would be unhappy with this state of affairs. But in fact for those at the top of the political milieu, this is just what they're looking for. It is useful for them to have the public accustomed to learning about the world in the most shallow, superficial, fragmented way, because by keeping the public awareness at that level, our political leaders can then come forward with bogus solutions to those problems, that in reality only support the agendas of themselves and their wealthy patrons.
People like to say the media is biased in either a "liberal" or "conservative" direction. While this may be superficially true, both are smokescreens for the larger bias - towards those with money and power. Especially as regards news and political coverage, those with the money and political clout get covered, period. This guarantees a very narrow range of views is ever presented, thus effectively marginalizing alternate perspectives, which in the real world are quite abundant.
The media are complicit in making us think it's only Coke or Pepsi. Red or blue. Us vs them. Freedom vs evil. This false reduction of reality down to a fake paradigm of only two choices is the big lie.
What do you think the consolidation of so much of the multimedia landscape down to just a handful of mega-corporations has to do with this? Hmm, another blog post...
This is not to say that there is no good information out there, or no good journalism going on. There most certainly is. But in today's world, we must go after it, seek it out, and find it for ourselves. It usually is just laying on the ground, un-noticed, waiting to be picked up, or it has fallen down the memory hole, and must be dug out. And even then, we must frequently do our own work to learn the actual context, history and background of the story for ourselves. It is always there, but almost no one in the mainstream media bothers to connect the dots. We have to do it for ourselves, and you know what? We're actually better off if we do.
There are some people whose work has been incredibly helpful to me, and has inspired me to work much harder at learning for myself, researching and thinking critically about what I see and hear. I will be highlighting their work in future blog posts, in hopes they might give someone else the kick start they gave me.
For this post I have leaned heavily on two brilliant books which I highly recommend:
News: The Politics of Illusion (9th Edition, by W. Lance Bennett
Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman