Is a free press free to use public forums to promote their own adversary, political agendas? Are public figures free to eschew blatant attacks, avoiding angry public exchanges by picking and choosing news sources and using more moderate press pools to communicate?
Managing news coverage has been an important strategy for recent presidents. The news media has paid a great deal of attention to President Trump’s conflicts with them. However, the press has a short and selective memory when it comes to which presidents used such strategies. President Trump is far from the first to employ the tools about which they complain. Here is what the Atlantic said in an August, 2014 article about Richard Nixon’s, George W. Bush’s, and Barak Obama’s relationships with the “media.”
“… the Obama White House has used new media to take image control to new levels. It sends a stream of tweets, Facebook posts, and YouTube videos directly to the public while bypassing journalists. Last year, (July 8, 2014) in a separate letter*, 38 news organizations complained to Obama’s press secretary that photojournalists are often barred from public events. They said the White House prevented photographers from covering presidential meetings with congressmen and Middle East peace negotiators but then released its own photos of these events using social media.
Obama also avoids interviews with White House reporters, preferring appearances on The View and late-night talk shows where easier questions are asked.”
The proliferation of “news” media has been exponential since 24/7 CNN. The internet has allowed anyone to pose as a journalist. At the same time, the public has become enervated to violence, scandal, and weirdness. The competition for “eyes” has fomented “Jerry Springer” news. Now the media is dominated by “breaking news,” and blatant, personality-driven opinion/commentary/spin/attack entities (e.g. Fox, CNN, MSNBC, Washington Post, New York Times), versus the few remaining sources offering dull, objective reporting of events from balanced, professional, factual reporting (e.g. BBC).
This evolution has turned “news” into espionage, and propaganda. That means idea wars; that means information combat. No intelligent person would stand still for their enemies to strike them. Hence, defense and offense to offset the attacking forces. Now we watch and listen to accusations, threats, partisan presentations, and ad hominem attacks.
Through such perspectives, we no longer have well-meaning people making bad choices, we have evil people making sinister choices. We have rampant, belief “racism.” We have created unthinking, philosophical camps with labels for “us,” and “others.”
Why do we decry racism, ethnic hatred, and other generalized biases? Because it keeps us from knowing each other as people; it causes us to treat other people with contempt without knowing anything else about them.
How do we create these idea-based “races?” We assert that all liberals believe “X”, all conservatives believe “Y”, all evangelicals believe “Z”, all millennials believe nothing, etc. With this context, we form “righteous” cohorts of like-minded people to oppose other “inferior” or “evil” cohorts.
This intellectually lazy “groupthink” replaces critical thinking; this dissuades individuals from developing personal, unique, diverse combinations of beliefs, which they form over time, from life experiences, education, discussion, and research. It also inhibits real exchanges of ideas. Conversations, and discussions become unchanging, competing monologues.
The press is free to publish and broadcast what they will, but pernicious ideologues need not be ushered through the gates of those they despise.