Thursday, July 28, 2005

Draining Democracy's Lifeblood

The more I peruse the chatter on the net about the various issues, events and topics--from the Plame outing to the Gitmo and Abu Ghraib scandals, from the hunt for WMD in Iraq to the hunt for terrorists world-wide, from tort reform to Social Security reform, from bankrupt ethics among holders of power to passage of the bankruptcy bill, from CAFTA to SCOTUS--it is becoming more and more clear to me that the real story is being left untold. Because the real story is about the failure--the abysmal failure of the storytellers themselves. From Dan Rather to O'Rielly, Bob Novak to Judith Miller and even sad to say Bob Woodward himself the one time holy warrior for Truth (or was that a mistaken impression and it was really only ever about having access to power and snagging a headline even then?)--it has become clear that the state of journalism itself is the story. The story that encompasses all the rest. But who will tell the story of the storytellers co-opted by the corrupt, living in the illusion, drafted by the deceivers, and embedded in the heart of darkness?

I must confess here that I have almost completely stopped watching or reading any of the MSM sources. CNN lost me with their coverage of the election and post-election and the final straw was their obsessive to the point of monotonous coverage of the Tsunami for in comparing that to their parsimonious and biased coverage of the quite similar traumas--similar in quantity and quality--of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, I understood that it was more about the entertainment factor than it was about fact. NYT, Washington Post and L. A. Times lost me for good when they turned the story of Valerie Plame's outing into a story about protecting their own turfdom instead of about the abuse of power and the assault on truth which it really is.

So sometime in January or early February I stopped cold turkey with all of them. At least in their original format. I catch the excerpts quoted on the blogs and on some of the alterative media web sites. I read those sites that parse the MSM reporting, line by line and remind us of the context and of the history and of the agenda's of the various players. Sites like
CJR, TPM, FAIR, Media Matters, Project Censored, Take Back the Media, Public Eye, Mother Jonesand The Center for Public Integrity among others--many others so don't assume just because it isn't listed that I don't endorse it. Sorry bloggers for only included two blogs but there are just so many of you that are doing good work in this arena! And I do believe you are the hope of the nation, the battalions on the barricades against totalitarianism. But you too need to learn where the pitfalls are that your elder brothers in arms have fallen into. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Pardon the cliché but it fits like the glass slipper on Cinderella's foot.

I understand the special exigencies of the blogosphere--the off the cuff format favored by bloggers, the beat the clock urgency to get posted, and the often polemical partisan dueling by the various mouthpieces of ideology--all of which infuses the discussions with energy and a kind of car-wreck fascination and is garnering the very thing that is necessary to compete with the establishment media: the riveted attention of great numbers of citizens both here and abroad. But if you don't remember that your role is predicated on revealing truth to the voters, you too will have succumbed to the fate of the MSM. Substantiation of facts can be a difficult task but it is a duty for anyone publishing information in a democracy. For dependable information is a democracy’s lifeblood. Information is what informed voter’s depend on to make their choices. If the information is not dependable the voter’s choices are corrupted.

Today’s media is not fulfilling its duty. It is full of lazy research--‘facts’ supplied by partisan groups or individuals with unstated agendas, printed without vetting and the conclusions and opinions reported without commenting or analyzing the logical fallacies contained in them. Today’s ‘journalist’s’ are too dependent on being spoon fed by their sources. The White House. A lobby. A think tank. A Congress Person. The Pentagon. The State Department. A CEO. Investigative journalism is dying a slow death with its budgets being cut and its stories being pre-empted by salacious gossip, celebrity fawning and sensational coverage of missing blue-eyed blonds. And worst of all, the daily news presentation has lost its context entirely. All events are embedded in a history, whether that history began in the last minute or the last millennium and even reporting of facts can be misleading if they are not put in their proper context. Many of the MSM reporters and anchors think all they have to do is find someone who disagrees with someone else and pit their quotes against each other and that amounts to balanced reporting which has currently replaced unbiased, factual reporting as the epitome of journalistic rigor. Whatever happened to Truth being the gold standard?

There needs to be more open discussion of the role the media plays in the forming of public consensus, of the techniques of propaganda and how to test the sources of information for reliability. An awareness of these issues can serve as an inoculation against the insidious manipulative power of propaganda. It can give the public the wherewithal to hold accountable that institution which is charged with the serious task of keeping a large enough sector of society well and accurately informed about the issues that affect their lives and about the holders of power who regulate the minutia of their lives so that they can then hold the abusers of power accountable via the ballot box and the court of law. But when all the main sources of information become just another tool in the hands of arrogant authority, they have betrayed that sacred trust and endangered the very democracy which created and upheld them as essential to the preservation of our liberty. And in so doing they have forfeited our trust. Who will hold them accountable, if not the consumers of their fare? Thus it is incumbent on all consumers of information to become aware of the ways and means of the manipulation of information and thus less susceptible to the manipulation of their minds. For an awareness of the manipulation makes it less likely to be effective.

0 tell me a story:

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