When the new media goes awry, we all lose
We have an idealized view of the American news media. According to their own self-descriptions, that they are a bulwark of freedom – one of the essential and existential services of a free society. As journalists, they are the common ground of events and opinions. They are the honest brokers in charge of airing all sides of public debate and controversy.
It is a nice theory, but the truth be known – the American media is too often the communicators of partisan narratives, the creators of mendacious interpretations and the purveyors of propaganda. In authoritarian nations, the news media is nothing more than the singular voice of the autocrats.
In America, we are blessed with a diversity of news that prevents any one political faction from gaining total dominance. BUT … the news media itself can become the captive instrument of one faction, one ideology – or one political party.
In the days before radio and television – and the much-ignored cannons of journalistic ethics – pamphlets and news “papers” were shamelessly partisan. They were expected to reflect the culture as determined by the owner/editor. In an early example of truth in advertising, newspapers promoted their biases on the front page, with mastheads of “Democrat,” “Republican,” “Abolitionist” and “Negro World.”
But as media empires expanded – and the powerful radio/television networks developed – the control of the message fell into fewer and fewer hands. The media did not chronicle events with an even hand but became the prime mover of policy by controlling the message.
In 1898, newspaperman William Randolph Hearst – and his fellow media mogul, Joseph Pulitzer – sent America spinning off into the Spanish American War by arousing public sentiment against Spain for the sinking of the battleship U.S.S. Maine – which was in Cuban waters in a show of support for the people’s revolt against Spain.
According to History Today magazine:
“The yellow press, led by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, proprietors of the New York Journal and the New York World, took every opportunity to inflame the situation with the exhortation to ‘Remember the Maine’, publicize the alleged cruelties of Spanish repression and encourage a belligerent hunger for action.”
They created a widely held belief that the Maine had been bombed or hit a mine. In fact, many historians today seem to believe that the blast was an accidental boiler explosion.
And how ironic that the man memorialized in journalisms highest reward – the Pulitzer Prize – was nothing more than a New York City news propagandist. In a perverse way, it seems rather fitting.
Once again today, we have a conglomerate of news media, centered primarily in New York City functioning like Hearst and Pulitzer. Though ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, CNN, The New York Times, New Yorker Magazine and a rash of other media platforms are not led by folks as public or fiery as Hearst and Pulitzer, the narrow views of the top echelon of those news services have stacked the deck in their news and editorial departments with birds of a feather – specifically far left-wing Democrats (or socialists). They are a bubble-encased cabal of like-minded folks who see their job as forcing public opinion to bend to their narrow ideology. They are a class of isolated and insulated multi-millionaires who have little in common – and even less understanding – of the average American or historic American values.
Like their professional forefathers – Hearst and Pulitzer – they use their platforms to “inflame the situation” against all things incompatible with their left-wing authoritarian ideology – specifically, President Trump, the Republican Party and the conservative movement — and they encourage “a belligerent hunger for action” against millions of Americans who do not submit to their dogma – their raison d’être.
The elitist major media is obsessed with influencing the outcome of the 2020 Presidential Election. Their goal is to defeat Trump and the GOP, and they exercise no professional restraints in pursuing that goal. It goes beyond a bias in reporting to wholesale disinformation, deceit and lies.
While the left-wing news media is not literally owned or controlled by a despot or dictator – nor are they under the control of government – but they are no less aligned to a narrow political ideology and in support of a specific political structure – the Democratic Party. Surveys and polls have revealed the pervasive partisan loyalty of the news media practitioners. The conclusive evidence is the daily output of their columns and broadcasts.
Just as an honest and fair news media is critical to the well-being of the Republic, a corrupt one is that much more a danger. In his 1858 debate with Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln wisely stated that, “Public sentiment is everything. Whoever can change public opinion can change the government.”
If we allow the opinions of a few millionaire newsies in New York City to displace the common sense and collective wisdom of the American people – or if the press continues to skew the opinions of the people with misinformation, disinformation and propaganda – we will have lost the Republic to a home-grown class of authoritarians.
So, there ‘tis.