Journalism and Snake Oil

I confess a morbid curiosity about ongoing maliciousness toward political figures associated with the Republican Party, in the “old” media, newspapers, television, and radio. But there is even more global and instantaneous access via the “new”, in blogs, websites, video such as YouTube, and social network sites.

I was raised to respect hard work, individual achievement, a Supreme God, and a can-do spirit, in spite of what life’s opportunities or obstacles might come. Nothing ever came easy, with the exception of acquiring foreign languages. Living in our own home, or in a rooming house, a small unfurnished apartment, a large home, but wirh boarders, or in a cramped berthing compartment on a navy ship, gave me plenty of opportunity to be bitter about “fairness”.

The opposite tendency has been a hallmark of my life. Where I am fascinated, and in particular, confirmed first by my college studies in Political Science, is academia’s Svengali -like conditioning of thousands of young minds to believe in the evils of the United States. I remember a campus journalism student, so bitter about his craft, he became a fiction writer. Investigative journalism, long after revealing that corporate executives for tobacco companies were spiking their product, or chemical companies dumping waste in landfills, found audiences were fickle and business dropped when too much “hard news” dulled the senses.

After the advent of 24 hour media, the Internet and now instant access on cell phones, news found survival in the most basic, purient, often outright fiction about all kinds of public figures. When CNN found an audience in the early 1990s, in its year-long pre-Gulf War and then afer hostilities commenced, it capitalized on the audience. Once the audience began to wane and competition increased, more splashy coverage of sexual deviancy, financial scandals, and such would supplant each other – news was only interesting for two or three days.

The Republican Party, the party of Ronald Reagan, held political dominance for a number of years up to the early 1990s – in part because they were perceived to be fiscally responsible and more socially conservative, qualities which seemed to produce the end of the Cold War. Everybody loves to celebrate good news, but good news doesn’t sell newspapers, the adage says.
Since politicians of one political stripe or another are subject to the same weaknesses in character, it is not long before one or the other is discovered to be indiscreet or downright criminal. But the last forty years has changed journalism completely from hard news to entertainment – but always holds currency as it’s focus. A quick study of journalism of the 19th Century, finds a distiguished outlet for intelligent writers and authors*, gives up ground to the determinedly low-brow approach of many, who serve up a popular and profitable pandering of purient curiousity.

This is not much different than today. Where there is weakness, poor decisions, greed, and hubris across the political spectrum at times, the collective media has become an appendage of the Democratic Party, cheering on like schoolgirls — with shivs and brass knuckles – their favorites and excoriating any Social or Economic Conservatives’ dissent. A visitor from another world, who benefitting from a long study of history, might note that this devotion to one political party and policies – is known as propaganda. Truth as the government sees it, or their agents, the so-called Free Press, was doled out in Soviet newpapers. Izvestia and Pravda were often desired for the people lacking toilet paper more than the news content. But in the 1930s until the bombs began falling on Germany, the Nazis raised propaganda to a high art; how else could a people be so enthralled – when they were conquering the world – while 12 Million people were rounded up, starved, murdered and reduced to products. Today, in places such as China, North Korea, the Arab states, Iran and Russia, propaganda substitutes for news.

It is my hope that there are sufficient numbers of thinking, curious minds who will not capitulate to the dumbing down of society. When American society fell farther behind in education, particularly in sciences, and we became ever more a consumer rather than a producer, journalists pandered to the customer with chatter about movie and music stars, cribs, and rehab centers. The economic underclass is fed a diet of sin in the name of entertainment. Journalists paint a picture that economic hardship is not the result of a lifetime of poor choices and easy credit, but are instead creative in providing these people an object to despise – the hard-working business owner or social conservative.

With an American government that promises things it cannot possibly deliver, the entire economic and social mobility of the nation is on the brink of collapse. Journalists, who never question, object or opine on the validity of the government’s assertions, but join the sales pitch on global warming, carbon footprints, pandemics, imperialist policies, and nationalist intentions of foreign states, do a disservice to all.

These modern-day PT Barnums sell “whatever sells”, no matter who is harmed. The same folks shamelessly take umbrage at anyone who might object to the verbal assassination.
Politics, science, and journalism in pure form has elevated mankind. But I for one, refuse to succumb to the snake oil being peddled by the incumbent political party and its minions.

*A Hundred Years of Higher Journalism, Denys Thompson, 1935, http://www.thefossils.org/horvat/higher/higher.htm

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