Many developments in society is often blamed for “dumbing down society”. We know that it is a combination of habits introduced to us in seemingly harmless manner. Then it is at some point we begin to realize the negative effect a certain practice may have on us.
The current contest between the Republican candidates has brought something to my attention regarding the media. Specifically Television Media.
It first caught my attention when the Arizona Governor was shone wagging her finger at President Obama. Right after this picture appeared, and the commentary was starting to heat up, I saw Governor Brewer being interviewed, and the reporter asked her if she was being disrespectful to the president. Her answer seemed very sincere when she explained that she would never be disrespectful to the president. She explained that she is very animated when she talks and uses her hands in the act of expressing herself. She said at the time shown in the picture, she was explaining the critical conditions on the border between Arizona and Mexico and thought it important he go there and see it for himself.
I thought the explanation was reasonable and believable. I was surprised when all the media picked up on the picture and ran with the story of a governor scolding the president. I kept thinking somebody would resurrect the explanation and balance the story so that “we consumers” of the news could choose which version we believed. But, alas, the balance was not to be had. Not even on Fox News Channel, which usually is pretty balanced.
Careful analysis led me to research how photographers gather pictures at any photo-op of a governor and the president. Click, click, click, click, as fast as the camera can run. The picture we saw, was one of dozens taken in a time frame of one or two seconds. Then the photographer and/or editor selects the one that best tells the story the want to tell. Today the compelling story is the one that will sell the most 15, 30, or 60 second slots of commercials for the longest period of time or the number of papers. (For the technically challenged)
Then a week ago, Romney was shown saying he didn’t care about poor people. Without seeing the entire statement, sounds pretty bad, right! Even the entire statement could have been expressed more diplomatically but for the most part we only saw the six word cut that said he wasn’t concerned about poor people. Did we ever see him express his concern for “the middle class?”
These are just two examples of how the media feed us information to accomplish their own agenda and the ever skillful art of editing pictures to convey a specific message or part of a quote to represent a message. I’m all for businesses to make as much profit as is legally available, however the phenomenon of the news media being a “business” has evolved in my lifetime and the implications of this status has profound implications for the “consumers of the news”. If we depend on the journalistic integrity of our news sources to fully inform us of the truth, so we can make informed decisions on the issues of our day, the media must find it’s way back to objectively informing us of the facts. This change of course for commercial journalism must include a re-separation of reporting the news from the editorial opinion of what the news means and the discipline must be re-taught at J-school. The correction is vital to prevent all of us from becoming robots, programmed to react in predictable ways to the snippets of concocted information fed to us in small doses to minimize the amount of thought to reach an opinion.
We know that any organ of our bodies that is not used will atrophy and become useless. The brain is no exception. Only two examples are used here, but there are numerous examples occurring daily. Find and make your own list of examples. Share them with people you regularly engage with in “idea exchanges”, and with me. There is no legitimate ideological aspect to this exercise. Only the quest for the truth and the individual liberty to seek it. Good hunting!