Mainstream Media Denial
Here’s what’s wrong with your anti mainstream media views.
First, the mainstream media is not one thing. It’s not a monolith that’s owned by one group or one dude. There are multiple companies all competing for your attention. They all have certain things in common and they all have flaws but they are not part of some liberal plot to make you ignore all the hidden plots or to make you miss what’s really happening.
They want your attention and they will do what they have to in order to keep you watching. That’s why more mainstream news doesn’t do as well as Fox. They do tend to have more journalistic standards, they don’t always tell people what they want to hear, they try (and sometimes fail) to present events and the facts surrounding them in the most verifiable and neutral way possible.
I’m not talking about editorials or opinion stories. I’m talking about the news, presented as it is, with verified facts, as neutrally as possible. This is another spot where the mainstream media fails to grab your attention the way that Fox grabs the attention of their viewers. They don’t editorialize in as blatant of a way. They are in the words of Donald Trump, the failing news, because young people and more left leaning people don’t get their news from television.
The news reflects the opinions of society in a lot of ways. They call black protestors thugs and they call white terrorists mentally ill lone gunmen, but they also have a set of journalistic standards that they follow and usually it ends up giving them the best set of facts available at the time that they report on something. If there’s a shooting then you can be pretty sure that CNN, MSNBC, or CBS will report what they know and they’ll wait until they know more before saying more. Fox, Rebel, and a whole host of online news sites spanning the field from left to right will often say much more and often they will find themselves wrong once the facts come out.
In one recent shooting among many, it was widely shared that members of Rebel Media made the claim that the assailant was a Muslim when in fact it turned out that it was another white guy. This isn’t by accident, they just don’t care the way that organizations that follow a standard of journalism do.
I’m not trying to say that they’re perfect. They make mistakes, they frame things badly, they’re very American centric and they are deeply rooted in the neoliberalism and capitalism that funds them, but they aren’t making shit up or engaging in coverups the way that some members of society seem to think.
I think that it’s actually a bit of a marketing ploy by news outlets and online personalities to make people doubt the quality of journalism that comes from some of these organizations. It makes some people seem more reliable if they can cast doubt on the media that makes them look like crazed conspiracy nuts. If Fox says there’s a caravan of immigrants invading America and CNN says that it’s a small caravan thousands of miles from the border, then Fox needs you to think that CNN is lying. They need you to be afraid and they need you tuning in. It feeds their ratings, it feeds their advertising, and it feeds the political ideology that they’re paid to push.
When someone online claims that the mainstream media isn’t telling people the whole truth, it’s because they’ve heard it from some other source that they trust more. They’re not thinking critically and though they imagine themselves to be the few who can tell the difference and who see what’s really going on they’re buying exactly what they’ve been told to buy.
We say in our intro music that a lie can travel a thousand miles while the truth is still putting on its shoes and that doesn’t play out anywhere as well as it does in the battle between right wing punditry and the “mainstream media”. For every hour that Fox and the supposed alternative media outlets are on the air they can infest the world with dozens and dozens of little lies that work to turn regular people into angry, hateful, frightened zealots.
As with most things I don’t have a solution but I do think it’s important to remember that while the mainstream media isn’t perfect they are one of the barriers between us and a descent into authoritarianism.