In the early 1900’s Edward Bernays, the ‘father of modern propaganda’ met with the defense department of the day and demonstrated a principle that has persisted throughout history. He picked up a copy of the New York Times and started pointing to articles on the front page. He said, “these articles are news, they are reporting facts and events, these articles,” at least a quarter of them, “are propaganda, they are intended to influence public opinion and future actions.”
You can do this with almost any newspaper anywhere (try it!), newspaper editors cannot help themselves. Newspapers have tendencies, and despite their pledge and conscious effort to remain neutral, they often stray into expressing their own opinions, succumbing to the lure of power over their audience (I wax poetic…).
But since Trump’s election, something has changed. In the mainstream media, it is no longer occasional strays into biases reporting, checked by a sympathetic editor. We now have major news outlets, CNN, MSNBC, Washington Post, New York Times and others, who are playing out a hateful, determined and purposeful propaganda campaign against a sitting president.
All objectivity is gone. Some of the most talented writers on the planet are now focused on taking every word, every movement, every nuance of a sitting president, and attributing the worst possible motive, the least favorable context.
This is not normal, not a natural evolution in journalism. This is a MASSIVE change to journalism in America, the worst possible change. Its gross, disgusting and dangerous.
Obviously, there is collaboration between politicians and the media, politicians have great imaginations when it comes to attacking opponents. In fact, they have some of the most talented “propagandists” working for them. (It would be glib for me to suggest Obama, the “Divider in Chief” is at fault, whose expertise as a “community organizer” pitted every possible liberal group against every possible conservative group. So I won’t do that…)
So we have entered the age of intentional, aggressive, motivated propaganda.
The conservative mainstream media (i.e. Fox, Newsmax and some others) also have engaged a bit, in defending conservative actions. They certainly do not need to descend to the level of hyperbole that the liberal media have, but they spend a huge amount of time countering liberal propaganda, and they often go overboard. This is indeed propaganda in itself. The conservative media clearly disliked Obama while he was in office, but their rhetoric did not rise to the level we see now. I’m not saying they can’t, I’m just saying they haven’t.
Perhaps partly to blame is the internet environment that has arisen, where “clickbait” headlines draw readers, the more sensational the higher the profit. Many of the largest of the newly minted “news” outlets design their headlines to get the most clicks, often changed so much that they no longer match the content they represent. Biased, emotion-based reporting is simply more profitable.
But the liberal media is not merely changing the headlines. They are changing the stories. It is easy enough to do. As I mentioned before, they take facts, sometimes in context, often out of context and they assign the most egregious motive they can think of. They can’t be accused of lying because you the fact is verifiable and the motive cannot be proven or disproven.
The current “scandal” is case, in point – Was Trump abusing his power to get dirt on Biden? Or was Trump using his legitimate presidential authority to attempt to get an ally to investigate a horrendous crime by a former Vice President?
The way this plays out is not a matter of court proceedings where one is innocent until proven guilty. This is a propaganda play designed to influence voters in the 2020 Presidential elections. This will get worse before it gets better.
The worst thing about propaganda is that is it effective. Whenever someone sees the same lie many times from many different sources, they cannot help but start to accept it. This works until the source of the information is so widely known to be corrupt that actually the opposite happens. This was the case with Pravda in the old Soviet Union, when Voice of America turned out to be the choice news source when its information proved out when it disagreed with the established Soviet news source.
So, accepting that we are in a new era and cannot return to objectivity in the news, here are the questions to ask?
1. Will Fox and other conservative media attack the next Democrat president with the same vehemence as the liberals are attacking Trump? They haven’t before, but it will certainly be a path open to them. And it might be the most profitable path…
2. Will it become the norm now that every President gets impeached when facing a House of Representatives dominated by the opposing party?
3. How would we demand a more honest media? Is there any possible way? We know that we enjoy the biased stuff a lot more. Will being entertained be more important than being informed?
3. Will some new outlet become the unbiased king of news, where we get facts with balanced commentary? Or will (as I believe) we will be forced to merge extreme views from each side to attempt to figure out what the real story is?
4. Jeffrey Epstein did not kill himself – Will there finally be an investigation?