We live in an age when factual information has never been more available to all who seek it. Yet, we are mired in an age when fantasy is seen as some kind of legitimate “alternate reality,” as if reality is nothing more than whatever fanciful notion invades the minds of those willfully ignorant of relevant facts. The confusion that results is the source of much of the material that fuels daily news coverage, all manner of social media postings and an underground world of conspiracy-driven fear.
Reality is properly defined as something absolute, free of the tricks of the mind that permeate perception. Definitions of the word “reality” focus on the actual and the factual in our world. Despite common parlance, perception is not reality. Rather, perception routinely produces speculation and opinion that are then recycled as fact, a phenomenon reaching epidemic proportions in the mainstream media and among those seeking to revive an America that never existed.
A case in point is the endless “news” coverage and comment on the current Republican Party effort to find a presidential candidate who can string five meaningful sentences together to explain why anyone should entrust him or her with the presidency. The obsession with any and all things Trump only further pollutes the content and coverage.
An industry of nonsense
After every recent election, there has been a ritual handwringing among those who say they believe in responsible journalism. Each time, this occurs after the handwringers have once again turned political coverage into the equivalent of a horse race. There is always a collective agreement that “we” have to do better. Yet there we go again.
Listen to daily talk of the “lane” to success for Christy today, Ramaswamy tomorrow and who knows who the day after tomorrow. Polls have taken the place of racing forms, sizing up candidates the way we used to size up horses. They provide the almost daily numbers from which only those with deep insight can glean the kernels of “wisdom” that underlie the rank speculation to follow.
This continuous delusion of perception as fact becomes significant because it fuels the narrative of others in the same delusional loop. Until someone in that loop actually challenges others in the same loop, each new round of speculative blather will continue to build on previous speculative blather.
The alarming lack of self-awareness from people who claim to be better than this is allowed to continue unabated. They fill airtime that could be dedicated to presenting factual accounts of significant events in a far more complete and nuanced way. The cost to meaningful discourse is severe: the drumbeat of drivel drowns out substantive fact-based discussion about important matters that should be routinely considered if America’s “democracy” is going to have any chance of successfully confronting the real issues of the day.
Manufactured, self-referential “news”
As another illustration of the problem, think back to the ubiquitous breathless “special” coverage of Trump’s first federal indictment in June. The indictment was under seal, but reporters assured us that “sources” with knowledge of the matter had confirmed that a seven-count indictment of Trump had been handed down by a grand jury in Miami, going so far as to detail specific charges. Within less than twenty-four hours, the actual indictment was unsealed, and the previous breathless special coverage was only off by 30 counts against Trump.
Of course, as soon as that happened, yet more “special” coverage from the same people completely overlooked the gross reporting error of the previous day. In fact, there was never even a hint of just how inaccurate the reporting had been before the unsealing of the indictment. A new round of breathless speculation, opinion and anonymous sourcing overwhelmed what little verifiable factual reporting was in the mix.
It is just this type of speculative and hype-filled content that undermines the credibility of those who so desperately want to be believed. However, there is no sign of the introspection that would suggest that at least some news anchors and reporters are aware of what they are doing or of its impact on overall press credibility.
So, the next time you hear a reporter or news anchor start to begin sentences with “I think that…” you should grab the remote and change channels. For the most part, very few people care what reporters think about much of anything. If they want us to believe that their reporting is fact-based, what they think about the facts should be saved for family discussions around the dinner table or “panel” discussions clearly labeled for their perception, speculation and opinion content.
It’s the almighty dollar
The media in general is full of robust corporations battling in America’s supposedly free market free-for-all playground. The god of greed and profit rules. Therefore, no one has sought to exercise the authority to separate broadcast fact from fantasy, leaving outrageous speculation to garner viewership and advertising income. How else to explain the popularity of anything Fox News chooses to broadcast? Today, it has gotten so bad that the news networks themselves seem to be competing to be the news, and then report about themselves.
That beauty of a CNN “town hall” with Trump back in May was a new low. CNN spent more time pimping its own upcoming show as theater than it did covering it as the disaster that it was. Even the otherwise generally reliable Anderson Cooper was trotted out to add gravitas to the unseemly cleanup effort. This is of a kind with the overused promise of “exclusive” reporting and the on-air promotion of an intrepid reporter as news creator who often gets more airtime than the content itself.
These days, it seems that everyone on MSNBC or CNN is a “good friend” on the air of everybody else, acting as reciprocal pimps for the latest book, article, podcast or “reporting” by their “good friend.” There never seems to be enough of this, as if “good friend” is the ticket to credibility instead of the ticket to a paid gig. Meanwhile, the viewer is left to wait for one “good friend” to tell another “good friend” that he or she is full of shit. Rather the viewer is left to wallow in a sea of bonhomie with little to no factual presentation to show for it.
For those of you wondering where these observations are headed and have long ago given up hope for something better, the big news here is that this is about greed and profit. Obscene celebrity salaries for news anchors at the micro-level and equally obscene profits and salaries at the corporate level are driving this ship and slowly driving me and others like me away from the product.
The American public deserves something better than this. With almost all media platforms awash in unreal “reality” and unchecked false advertising claims, it is hard to see how a profit-driven journalism can be trusted to seek facts and present them truthfully to those who watch, listen to, download or ingest the content.
Maybe tomorrow, a reporter standing in front of the scene of the latest mass shooting will simply count the bodies and give us the number.
[Hard Left Turn first published this piece.]
[Anton Schauble edited this piece.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
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