Free Press – Free to What?

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.”

 https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/08/nixons-revenge-his-media-strategy-triumphs-40-years-after-resignation/375274/

*http://www.spj.org/news.asp?ref=1253

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.

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The Fight for Eyes

Political parties beware: the 2016 presidential election could stimulate American fact-checking and critical thinking – or not.  Why?  Could It be, we are awake and paying attention?  Could it be, we just want to be “right?”  Could it be, “We’re as mad as hell, and we’re not going to take this anymore.”?

In 2016, American information media reflect our mindsets.

  • We have boundless channels of 24/7 content battling for “eyes,” and “market share.”
  • We are so numb, it takes lurid, “mind bites” of “shocking facts” to get our attention.
  • Our jaded, fickle brains are addicted to “breaking news and “editorial reporting.”

Then comes the election.  How do we decide?  The battle lines are drawn.  The news media have abandoned objective balance in the fray.

It is natural for people with strong political bias to seek news sources that support their current views, and to ignore, avoid, or distain sources that reflect contrary, or impartial thinking.

Lord knows, we have enough choices (e.g. newspapers, magazines, radio, television, internet, social media).  Which do we choose: “bread and circuses,” or brains?  Do we swallow our favorite- flavored propaganda, or chew on the tough, tasteless truth?

Seven questions we can ask about what we call “news:”

  • Which sources provide complete, unbiased information and analysis?
  • Which sources provide incomplete, biased information and editorials?
  • Can we discern where information stops and persuasion starts?
  • Did we get all the information we need to understand?
  • Do we know enough to understand the context and importance of the information?
  • Do we have enough sources to verify or complete the information?
  • Do we care?

Few of the major news organizations remain credibly neutral or balanced.  Here are 10 news sources accepted as trustworthy by people across the political spectrum.

  1. The Wall Street Journal
  2. The Economist
  3. BBC
  4. Google News
  5. The Guardian
  6. Associated Press
  7. Reuters
  8. C-SPAN
  9. ABC
  10. USA Today

Here is an informative graphic from    showing the political positions of the various major news outlets.

news politics

Good thinking everyone.

Royalty Revealed – Hardened Arteries of the Powerful Establishment’s Heart

 

The 2016 presidential campaign harkens back to the earliest years of our nation.  Democracy, Republic, Three Branches of Government, Bicameral Legislature, By The People, Checks and Balances were new ideas.  Did everyone agree?  Not in the slightest.  And they had not invented political correctness in the middle of the 18th century.

No; instead, anonymous, pamphlets of slanderous accusations and invectives, swirled like blizzards across the newly formed Unites States of America.  The reins of power were not certain or predictable. Contenders for office came from all walks of life with no “party” to promote them.

The evolution of America’s two major political parties took some time, but those in power were hardly poor or neutral; power is the ultimate opioid.  Despite conflicts, Democrats and Republicans play the same games; they expect to win and lose from time to time, but both sides know the rules of placating the masses by making them think they have a voice in what goes on.

Until recently, the pretense of two radically separate political bodies survived, and thrived.  Now, two is not enough, talk is not enough, rhetoric is not enough.  Americans are tired of the same old crap: “They” are bad, “We” are good.  We will fix (what they broke, again).  They found out that there is just one old machine with two faces; they do not want it anymore.

The 9/11 attacks, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the mortgage fiascos, the collapse of investment banks, the explosion of college costs and debts, the Great Recession, the expansion of global terrorism, have shaken our confidence in America, in ourselves, and in our institutions.

We have lost the super in superpower.  Our military is so weak, we have to send the same soldiers back into combat again and again until they break; we spend millions of dollars on a drone strike to kill a dozen enemy soldiers so we can avoid American casualties.  The all-professional military means that average citizens are not involved; we do not feel like we are really at war.  What would make us think that?

The same old promises will not work on brand new problems any better than they did on the old problems.  Conspiracies seem to explain current events better than the lame “official” excuses and falsehoods WikiLeaks keeps uncovering.  And just maybe the truth is not that far off.

We have lost the attention span to take politicians seriously.  Incumbents no longer offer us advantages. Hence the wave of populism, barely dodged by the Democrats secret machine, and now staring the Republicans in the face.  The political czars are going to any length, including crossing over to the other side to avoid losing control of the constituencies they have cultivated.

The trouble is, the new constituencies are awakened, vocal, mobilized, and revolting against Big Brother.  They want purpose, they want independence, they want liberty, and at least a passing chance in their pursuit of happiness.

It looks like the machine, with all its money, influence, propaganda, connections, and experience may win again this time.  I am unhappy that my country, with all its advantages, cannot cultivate enough honorable leaders to field worthy candidates for president, and remain loyal when the voters speak.

Public Broadcasting Unable to Balance Reporting on Campaign 2016

I am sad and embarrassed that I have defended PBS ala KERA for years against politically conservative and independent friends’ accusations of blatant bias to the left.  I tried to support the balance of individual programs, like Diane Rehm, and the “broadening” value of clearly unbalanced programs like Texas Standard, The Takeaway, and Latino USA.  But I have been undermined by the clear favoritism displayed for Hillary Clinton.

If I had not watched start-to-finish PBS coverage of both national conventions, and listened to subsequent commentary on TV and radio, I might have continued this defense.  Alas, after this experience, I surrender to the right-wing and independent critics.

Did anyone else notice the obviously terrible sound engineering during the Republican National Convention?  Constant drowning out of the commentators by the convention floor noise was, if not intentional, amateurish.  Again and again, the words of the cast were obliterated by background sounds.

Not so during the refined, carefully orchestrated coverage of the Democratic National Convention.  In fact, a transparent barrier appeared behind the broadcasting commentating crew, which, seemed to dampen the convention floor noise and allowed viewers to clearly hear every favorable word spoken.

This morning, I heard Cokie Roberts suggest the best strategy Hillary Clinton should use to counter Donald Trump, i.e. (as closely as I can remember,) “she should not waste her money on TV ads, that seem not to have any effect, but on get-out-the-vote efforts.”

It is no secret that Cokie Roberts is not acting as a neutral journalist, but as an undisguised supporter of Hillary Clinton.  I did not hear that clarification before, during, or after the segment described as the news.

I feel betrayed.  I have my own political ideas, and try mightily to encourage balance and civility in the discourse between partisans’ increasingly divisive rants.  I discourage both ends of the political spectrum from ad hominem attacks and political “racism” (e.g. “conservatives are all idiots.”)  Yet, here I am, overwhelmed by the evidence of bias.

I can no longer underline the “public” in Public Broadcasting System.