Friday, May 30, 2008

Talking Heads and Food Fights

Michael Cricthton came up with an apt description of the electronic news media:

Cable TV news is mostly "talking heads and food fights" and newspaper reporting mostly "rewritten press releases"
Having worked in a couple of radio news-rooms in college, I can say that the "rewritten press releases" part is both accurate and generous. I mean with the word "rewritten".

This underscores one of the main reasons the media is so easily manipulated -- the press-release bit. We're lazy by nature. Someone else has done my work for me and delivered it to my desk. Sounds good. Let's run with it. So a PeTA front group (such as Physicians Comittee for Responsible Medicine, among others) sends out a press release (propaganda) and it passes practically unfiltered into your daily news report as "news". This happens every day from deceptively named front groups for various causes all over the world.

Government press releases, I can easily imagine, are typically scrutinized only if the release conflicts with the press agents' world views.

Then he gets even more insightful:
"Look at how many stories are unsourced or have unnamed sources. Look at how many stories are about what 'may' or 'might' or 'could' happen," he says. "Might and could means the story is speculation. Framing as I described means the story is opinion. And opinion is not factual content."

"The biggest change is that contemporary media has shifted from fact to opinion and speculation. You can watch cable news all day and never hear anything except questions like, 'How much will the Rev. Wright hurt Obama's chances?' 'Is Hillary now looking toward 2012?' 'How will McCain overcome the age argument?' These are questions for which there are endless answers. Contentious hosts on cable shows keep the arguments rolling."
I noticed this years ago and it's why I don't watch cable news, or any news at all outside of sports and weather very often.

This is how they shape public discourse. And I suspect that most of them are at least peripherally aware that they are doing it since most people who go in to journalism say they do it to make a difference. Oh, and 85% of them profess themselves to be liberal. So guess which way the discourse gets shaped?

They manufacture issues to underscore their own biases, for example this latest flap with Hillary using the word "assasination" being a subtle threat to Obama. What the hell? Like Bush talking about Chamberlain and Hitler somehow being "unfair" to Obama (funny how quickly they realized who fell into the Chamberlain category, though, eh?). Like "Hillary's not winning because she's a woman." Based on what facts? That she's not winning. And she's a woman. Same goes for Obama not winning absolutely everbody over because he's black. (Well hey, he's half white, too ... but I digress.) Not winning everbody over. Black. QED.

This is why most journalists didn't go in to science. They can't be bothered with logic.

And, of course, there's AGW. The theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming. The stories, and indeed unfortunatley most of the "scientific" articles out there are long on speculation (might, may, could, possible) and short on fact (is, will, can be shown to be, and here's how).

It's the perfect liberal cause. It's anti-capitalistic, it's "environmental", it's anti-American. It's anti-human. If you want to replace liberty and capitalism with totalitarianism and socialism (which ALWAYS go hand in hand) -- the first thing you have to do is turn the people against liberty and capitalism. That's proven to be no small task, but neither was the carving of the Grand Canyon. Erosion, given enough time, can overcome seemingly enduring objects.

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