For-Profit News and Information
In the daily ritual of checking Facebook and Twitter feeds, Google News, YouTube, blogs, the newspapers, cable networks and the nightly news, many people make a major false assumption: that the content producers have our best interests at heart. To put it another way, we assume that the writers and reporters are exercising their First Amendment rights to function as the fourth check and balance system of our Constitutional government. A very big mistake -- very, very big mistake indeed.
Long gone are the days of Thomas Payne's, Common Sense or Benjamin Franklin's, Poor Richard's Almanack, or the thousands of papers and pamphlets created over the centuries to inform the public on things that they otherwise would have no way of knowing. The early pioneers of publishing -- the media -- were educated individuals whose goal was to share their knowledge and insights with their fellow citizens.
That's not to say that early print publications, and eventually radio, didn't occasionally abuse their power of influence and/or sensationalize stories to increase their profits. One only has to look back a hundred years or so to William Randolph Hearst to see how media moguls manipulated the masses for their own political and financial gains.
The point here is that whether we are talking about print, radio, television or digital internet technologies, the history of the media is rife with abuse and mercenary motives; and that while there are individuals with integrity working within news organizations, the entities themselves are corrupt and beholden to their corporate shareholders' agendas -- mainly the profit motive.
Now, of course, there's nothing wrong with making a buck -- that's what free market capitalism is all about. But when in the course of making billions of dollars there is a total disregard of ethics and morals, I have a problem with that.
What we are currently seeing transpire in the U.S. media is a flagrant disregard for the facts for the sake of circulation/ratings/views and selling more ads and commercials. And, while that sort of sensationalized reporting is bad enough, there are clearly social and political agendas involved, which further warp what the First Amendment established into a circus of deception and deceit. In other words, it's like yelling "fire" in a crowded theater -- that's not freedom of speech, it's inciting panic and the potential for harm.
I know that seems like a strong statement, so lets quickly look at the First Amendment:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
For too long, private and public corporations have hidden under the First Amendment. They use it as their "firewall" to any criticism of their manipulation of politics. Furthermore, both radio and television stations use our public airwaves to make massive profits, and continue to use that power to influence lawmakers into making it next to impossible for anyone else to gain a broadcasting license or access to their audiences. In effect, they are restricting freedom of speech in the U.S., while operating unchecked and making billions of dollars while they're at it. And this applies to the major internet players as well; many of whom function as the portals for the news. They now make decisions on what they allow to be posted, the order/place in which certain items appear, and how something can be accessed through search.
Make no mistake about it, they are in it for the money. And while they clearly have political motives; at the end of the day, those political goals are to support the politicians who will allow them to maintain their power, influence and obscene profits.
So why does any of this matter? That's simple, when you control the "hearts and minds" of the population, you control the population.
Because we live in an age of 140 character Tweets, bold headlines atop a scandalous photo, soundbites, memes, animated gifs, Photoshopped pics and edited video clips; that's all that most people see. For them that is the news, that is the story. Countless polls and web statistics have shown that most people don't scroll down and read to the last paragraph of a story. When asked about something they heard on the news, most can't recall the names, places or key facts, they just parrot the headline, or what they heard or saw. Whether an item is true or false no longer matters, if it reaches enough people, it is believed by most.
There are so many examples of detrimental influence that the media has had over the last two decades that it would take far more space than I have here to detail. All of us can think of a few off the top of our heads (or should be able to). Things like "weapons of mass destruction" or more recently much of the stuff spouted off by pundits and protesters.
Like it or not, for or against it, this is the age we live in; and it's not going to change anytime soon. The only way to know the truth, is to find it yourself, outside of the media. And considering the stranglehold they have on information in this country, that's next to impossible.
For me the answer is to consume as little "news" as possible, and focus on my immediate surroundings and the people near and dear to me. If the story is big enough, it will eventually trickle down my way. And unless it's news about a storm, asteroid hitting the Earth, or something else of cataclysmic proportions, I really don't care. Because when you really think about it, the names of politicians change, but they all end up doing the same. The places in the news change, but it's the same old story in a different part of the country or the world.
Things have been getting progressively worse in this country whether there have been Democrats or Republicans in Congress and the White House. The only thing that hasn't changed is the media. And, as far as I'm concerned, they're responsible for far worse than any President, Senator, Congressman or Judge has ever done, or will ever do.
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