Tag Archives: media

Worldview: The word which has empowered propaganda machines of the left and right

Worldview (n.) – a comprehensive conception or apprehension of the world especially from a specific standpoint. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

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Nothing truer than this.

Worldview is everything in political belief, whether or not we wish to admit it. What dictates beliefs from an ideological standpoint varies widely from person to person. The extremes of both sides of the ideological aisles often fail to see, or choose to be blind to, this fact. What is more bothersome is that many of the things which we hold as truths, as Obi-Wan Kenobi once observed with such eloquence, depends entirely on our point of view or, to use a more modern vernacular, our worldview.

This definitely affects how news and information is approached and received. The notion of “fake news” is not a new concept; President Theodore Roosevelt spoke of reporters who infiltrated sweatshops in America’s Northeast and Midwest in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s as “muckrakers.” To him, many of these reporters were simply attempting to sensationalize the conditions, such as those described in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, in an attempt to advance an agenda. Granted, this was largely the case and did achieve historic changes which led to modern health and safety rules in the workplace, but Roosevelt and, more to the point, industrialists directly affected by the changes caused by said articles, regarded these journalists as self-serving do-gooders whose publishers where more concerned about selling newspapers than actually looking out for the national interest. It is very familiar song.

While the journalists of that time were unjustly regarded as parasites, today’s media has created much of its own perception issues, but those problems have also been exacerbated by the proliferation of the sources which cater to one particular worldview. Websites such as RedState, Huffington Post, NewsMax, and Mother Jones were all established with one purpose – activist journalism, which takes legitimate information and manipulates it to advance an agenda, be it conservative or liberal. These websites have become popular, and even trusted, because traditional legacy sources such as network news and periodicals such as Time, Newsweek and USA Today lost sight of their primary mission – to inform the public. Instead, traditional information sources have focused more on the viewpoints of individual writers and “anchors” to “sell the story,” rather than letting the story sell itself.

A great example would be to compare the Trump Administration to the Nixon Administration in terms of media coverage. Today’s media is focused on “pouncing;” attacking what the President does with Twitter, or what his underlings say in press conferences, and picking it apart. The media of the Nixon era was more concerned with receiving information as it was disseminated, analyzing it, and finding inconsistencies. While it was not entirely investigative journalism, the reporters of Nixon’s day focused more on the facts and allowed that administration to create its own worst nightmare; impeachable offenses revealed through a combination of individual hubris and collective administration incompetence. For the Nixon White House, the gaffes of ego committed by the cabal led by both Nixon himself and advisors, such G. Gordon Liddy, did more damage to that President than any newspaper editorial ever could. For Trump’s Administration, the media now appears to be willing patsies in a war of misinformation and blatant ego inflation. Rather than reporting on inconsistencies and obvious conflicts of interests, the media’s obsession with the President’s twitter feed and what his children do in their off hours appears to be stuff of political and editorial vendettas, as opposed to the work of truth-seeking reporters.

During operation Desert Storm in 1992, the late Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf pulled one of the great distraction moves in modern warfare. He sent coalition forces to the Kuwait border in such numbers to keep the late Saddam Hussein’s forces occupied and obsessed with stopping a direct invasion and then, in a bold move, launched a massive offensive to west of Kuwait, destroying the Iraqi Army’s rear lines. Much of Trump’s campaign and administration’s public relations moves appear to be the same; focus media and public attention away from the more pressing issues of the day by using marketing buzzwords and research to distract the public and media, then working to do things his way without public scrutiny. This sort of distraction is a classic tactic in business – use distraction in negotiations to focus attention on one hot-button issue in order to gain larger concessions on broader matters, and his most vocal, rabid supporters are defending him at every single turn, no matter how questionable his statements on these matters. A good question is why are these voters buying into it, but a better question is how is Trump pulling it off?

The answer is simple; Trump is playing to the fears of his base’s worldview.

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Former Fox host Glenn Beck, who became famous for his conspiracy chalkboards, started his conservative talk career at WFLA-AM in Tampa in 1998.

Many Trump voters share a similar, if not identical, worldview; a collective group of nations, largely Muslim, which seek to destroy the United States by any means necessary. While several of these nations exist, most lack the will or ability to strike even indirectly. In addition, they feel that corporate America is part of a globalist cabal which seeks to destroy the American-Western way of life. Some of these worldviews also put white Anglo-Saxon protestants (so called “WASPs”) at the top of the world pyramid of authority. Others espouse the worldview that Western culture is far superior to any others on Earth – former radio host and libertarian standard-bearer Neal Boortz once famously admitted he was not a racist but a “culturalist,” stating he did believe that Western civilization was superior to all others on Earth and must retain its eminence, and TheBlaze founder Glenn Beck was pulled from Fox News when even the heads of the largely conservative-oriented news network got the jitters over Beck’s increasingly conspiratorial claims on his own short-lived TV program.

While these worldviews are often based in personal experience, they can also be based in a facade of nationalism designed to profit from the fears and emotions of those who seek validation of their beliefs and views. It is these individuals, such as conspiracy theorist and radio host Alex Jones and Breitbart head/Trump advisor Scott Bannon, who are the greatest purveyors of convincing misinformation. In Bannon’s case, a reasonable individual can deduce one reason for his practices – packaging propaganda in a veneer of factual data to present in such a way that it’s accepted because it matches the accepted views of those who voted for Trump in the first place and, therefore, emboldens the President to behave in a manner which is to the advantage of both Bannon and those of his ilk.

To many, the media is not reliable because it was the media itself who bought into the notion of not only informing the public, but influencing it to act in accordance with a narrative. Individuals such as CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Nancy Grace, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews, and even Fox News’ newest crop of hosts are not journalists in the true sense of the world, but commentators using the facts given by genuine reporters to advance an agenda. This is reminiscent of another individual who has used legitimate reporting as a means to advance an agenda – The 700 Club’s Pat Robertson. The controversial conservative minister’s Christian Broadcasting Network, though a reasonably ethical operation on its own, allows its facts to be manipulated for Robertson’s own purposes, mainly fundraising. For this reason, CBN suffers from a heavy dose of “guilt by association,” and is regarded as a less-than-credible outlet for information.

Another example of worldview issues could be found on the other end of the spectrum, BBC News. For years, Britain’s government-owned network was regarded as a go-to source for information from around the world, with strong ethics and a high standard of quality and accuracy. As time went on, BBC’s own anchors became more and more focused on news which portrayed the United States in a less-than-flattering way and, for that reason, aided far-right media types in a campaign to paint the mainstream media as liberal elitists. Unfortunately, this image was only entrenched further when a scandal broke within the BBC’s ranks exposing editorial bias being encouraged and dissent being quashed by network bosses. Those with a worldview of journalists being nosy crusaders only concerned with their career found their views confirmed, and this only served to undermine the media and enhance the position of ideologically-oriented websites which take legitimate information and spin it to suit their needs.

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MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, known for her fiery ultra-left views, is considered part of why the network’s ratings continue to languish far behind CNN and Fox News.

So how can we separate the good from the bad, the reliable from the speculative. Critical thinking comes into play here. If something doesn’t an instinctual “smell test,” chances are it is either false or manipulated. Stories about Trump which seem too crazy to be truth tend to be so, just as stories about former President Obama also lean that way. Both sides have websites which focus on fomenting resistance though inflammatory news articles, and both are extremely adept at pointing fingers at the other side while denying stories which they themselves plant. One way to determine the veracity of story is to know the backgrounds of the writers. When one sees the words “activists,” or “political expert” or “left” or “right” in their bio, it is a fairly safe bet that writer has the interests of their cause, not the reader, at heart.

While some ideologically oriented websites have quality informational articles, double checking the information though other mainstream sources is always advised. If even a sliver of the information is accurate, it could point to a much greater situation. Nevertheless, worldview contributes to how we view news, whether we want to admit it or not.

Winter Storm Helena: Semi-Serious, Hour-by-Hour sarcasm

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Shown:  Downtown Birmingham after Winter Storm Helena hits it.  Now Shown:  Alabama fans doing donuts in the snow.

Winter Storm and Warrior Princess Helena is nearing the end of her life, and has taken many a casualty.  According to the National Weather Service and Liberal Extremist Propaganda Arm (now under New Management of Trump Political Enterprises), this particular weather system wreaked havoc on several states as well as the Federated Football Republic of Alabama.  Of course, America’s southeastern news outlets kicked into hyperdrive and began their usual “Breaking News Round the Clock First Coverage You Can Count On” routine.

FRIDAY

8:35 AM:  National Weather Service officials, in conjunction with the Russian News Agency TASS, begins issuing “facty” weather alerts about reports of blizzards hitting areas of Mexico, Idaho and the Andromeda Galaxy.

9:45 AM:  Alabama Governor Bob “Northwood” Bentley, in a move of complete foresight and genuine political vision, opts to receive instead of kickoff the storm.

10:22 AM:  Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, upon hearing the choice of his Alabama counterpart, immediately sends Winter Storm Helena to the National Weather Service for booth review, and also alerts the NCAA for possible recruiting violations.

11:11 AM:  Outgoing Alabama offensive coordinator and soon-to-be Florida Atlanta coaching guru extraordinaire Lane Kiffin announces that Winter Storm Helena has delayed his time table for learning organization by “several years.”

11:49 AM:  Georgia DOT officials immediately begin brining all roads and bridges in the Atlanta area.  Alabama DOT officials also begin brining their highways until it’s pointed that pickle juice doesn’t work.

12:45 PM:   Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, exercising extreme intelligence, announces that he will, in fact, be driven home by police escort in his black SUV with blue lights going.  When asked why this was necessary, he refuses comment, but his staff issues a 1,000 word press release about the merits of the Atlanta streetcar’s ice-resistant wheels.

1:18 PM:  Walker County, Georgia officials issue a statement describing the situation in Lafayette as “dire” and “untenable,” until it’s revealed that Bebe Heiskell didn’t actually issue the release, so it’s taken seriously for once.

2:45 PM:  Macon-Bibb County officials, in preparation for the oncoming storm, suddenly remember that I-475 actually runs through their county and maybe, just maybe, it would be a good idea to treat the road.

3:18 PM:  Cobb County DOT deploys thousands of gallons of brine solution onto local roads and interstates, but the plan is thrown into disarray when the County Commission is sued for a lack of public hearing in the decision.

4:22 PM:  To the south, in Florida, 19 million residents laugh derisively at the rest of the southeast, then light their grills start the ritual winter cookout season.

5:30 PM:  Birmingham is paralyzed when the Heat Miser vanishes and Jack Frost is found in a drunken state on the campus of the University of Alabama.  Lane Kiffin is blamed for the incident.

6:19 PM:  Every single news outlet east of Tupelo, Mississippi goes into all-out DEFCON 1 alert status.  In Atlanta, five stations interrupt popular programming to issue extremely scary, confusing and “facty” weather bulletins.

7:29 PM:  Fearing a shortage of French Toast as a result of the oncoming storm, Atlanta residents buy up almost 9000% percent of all available bread and eggs.  IHOP futures spike in after-hours syrup pouring.

9:45 PM:  An entire hour of news coverage is lost when Winter Storm Helena stops for a moment, looks at Atlanta, scratches head and asks “which way do I really wanna fuck this city up?”

10:18 PM:  News outlets across Atlanta declare an state of intergalactic emergency and call on the United Federation of Planets to fire photon torpedoes at the to intensify it.

12:00 AM til…

SATURDAY

6 AM:  Something happened overnight resulting in a lot of snow and ice in some areas, and nothing but slush in others.  The Russians are believed to have been behind it all.

8:10 AM:  Donald Trump issues a statement saying that Winter Storm Helena did not actually affect Atlanta and promised to “Make I-285 Great Again.”

9:30 AM:  The Atlanta Falcons announce they are going to actually win their playoff game next week in a news release written by former Men’s Wearhouse CEO George Zimmer saying “you’re gonna like the way we play…we guarantee it!”

10:34 AM:  Everyone goes back to sleep

12:19 PM:  Birmingham officials announce they are shutting down the city and that people need to stay off the roadways – Atlanta drivers immediately flood to the city and jam up interstate highways.

3:02 PM:  Winter Storm Helena sends a text message politicians across the southeast which translated roughly into “you my bitches!”

4:19 PM:  We decide it’s too damned cold out, and we’re fresh outta beer!

5:01 PM:  Levi’s takes over the show.

6:11 PM:  Everyone dials directory assistance asking for the number to their governors to complain.

9:00 PM:  NOBODY knows where their Winter Storm is.

10:52 PM:  Time for a nap and just walked outside and shouted at Mother Nature to take her freaking Xanax!

Hindsight – journalists, Ferguson, and what Americans should know about media

The events in Ferguson, Missouri have drawn attention to our nation’s long-festering racial wounds.  They also have fanned the flames of intolerance on both sides of the aisle, and exposed many for the sort of political attention hogs they really are.  One profession, however, managed to, yet again, besmirch its name, its honor, and the public trust it has been granted.  No, this is about the police.  While they botched their own response, it was actually those who consider themselves the watchdogs for the public. 

The news media, to quote the Big Bang Theory, managed to “screw up the screw up.”

Thanks to Ferguson, Americans distrust journalists as never before.  What’s more, the media managed to actually alienate themselves from not just whites, but also minorities with their behaviors.  At first, residents of Ferguson welcomed the notion of reporters and cameras in their city to document the perceived injustices.  Unfortunately, the media committed a fatal error, and it some outlets may have damaged their credibility beyond repair.

The media bought into its own hype and violated a fundamental tenet of journalism – they actually sought to make themselves the story.

To contrast, the murder of journalist James Foley was an abhorrent act of violence, but one which was covered in accordance with journalism standards.  That can’t be said of the instance of two journalists who were detained by Ferguson police officers.  These journalists chose, rather than focus on the story they were covering, to make the story about their own experiences. A great opportunity was presented to display daily life in the Ferguson jail, document the police officers’ points of view, or even interview those being detained.  Instead, the journalists botched their charge in favor of their ego, tweeting their own experiences.  Credibility would have been earned by tweeting inmate statements instead.  It smacked of the classic opportunistic writer whose only worry was advancing their career.

This segues to five things Americans should understand about journalism as a profession.

  1. Not all writers and journalists, and not all journalists are writers!  It takes a special personality type to be a true journalist, a true reporter, or a true news writer.  The desire to serve the public, rather than be served and adored, is essential for a journalist to excel.  Without that quality, a so-called journalist will eventually turn into an attention hog.
  2. No journalist is 100% objective! Sure, Fox News calls itself “Fair and Balanced,” but note that they don’t advertise themselves as “objective.”  MSNBC never even attempts to promote their network as “objective.”  That is fundamentally impossible.  As journalists are human, their own worldview often influences their writing, their coverage, and how they present the story to readers.  A journalist who grew up in poverty is far more likely to focus on the impoverished that a journalist who grew up in an affluent family.  A sports reporter who played quarterback in high school is more likely to consider baseball boring than a writer whose father coached Little League.  Background and personal experiences influence how journalists do their work.  It’s just that simple.
  3. Media honchos choose the most marketable face, not the best! Would it surprise anyone to know that Fox’s Gretchen Carlson was a former Miss America (1989)?  Would it really stun the world to learn that Anderson Cooper is a Vanderbilt family legacy?  Of course not – because the American media, like it or not, is a business and, as such, it must market itself.  How does it do that?  Look at the faces and voices of your media outlets.  Radio wants smooth and authoritative voices listeners can trust (Atlanta’s Scott Slade of WSB, Tampa Bay’s Jack Harris of WFLA, Vin Scully of the Los Angeles Dodgers).  If they read a script into a microphone, they get the job!  Notwithstanding the actual ability of the aforementioned three, most radio anchors have little to no field experience.  Ditto for news anchors and top field reporters.  While some anchors and hosts get their jobs through honest, hard work and dedication, the vast majority as identified by talent scouts – headhunters whose job is to present potential talent to focus groups for surveys.  Anyone who thinks that MSNBC, CNN and Fox aren’t using some sort of statistical sampling to decide who the stand-ins for Chris Matthews, Gretchen Carlson, and Anderson Cooper will be is smoking a cohiba loaded with enough good stuff to bring down Mr. Ed.  As great and talented as Walter Kronkite and Bob Hite, Sr. were, they represent broadcast journalism’s first generation, before marketers got involved.  Thanks to the latter, we get the Happy Face Barbie and Ken Doll Parade, instead of (mostly) capable reporters.
  4. Some of the most well-known journalists (one way or another) didn’t get a journalism degree! As stunning as it may be to consider, Walter Cronkite never graduated from college, but went on to an illustrious career as America’s most celebrated journalist.  Fox’s Bill O’Reilly’s Bachelors Degree is actually in History (though he did later receive a Masters in Journalism).  Barbara Walters, widely respected as one of America’s pre-eminent female journalists, received a Bachelors in English, while Katie Couric, largely regarded as the modern face of female American journalists, actually received a Bachelors in American Studies.   Oddly enough, these individuals have enjoyed much greater success in their respective media careers than those with Journalism Degrees.
  5. The decision makers of American media don’t give a hoot what you think! The reality is that American media heads are mostly of the opinion that they shape the public opinion to match their content and ideology, not the other way around.  William Randolph Hearst is widely attributed to saying “You provide the pictures, I’ll provide the war,” and that attitude has been carried by most News Directors, Editors, Publishers, and network executives.  The New York Times, News Corp, NBC/Comcast and CNN all work hard every day to shape opinions, rather than respond to the opinions of those who consume their product.  Americans, for the most part, are regarded as lemmings who follow what talking heads on both sides of the ideological aisle dictate, and the media plays to that for one reason – it makes the most money.

It’s an ugly truth to consider, but most journalists are looking for that big, cushy newspaper or network job when incidents such as Ferguson erupt, and that’s because the current generation of big-namers and execs got to where they are mostly by connections or gross self-promotion.  Good, solid, ethical journalists (who are mostly overlooked for one reason or another)  will focus on the story and report – the true foot soldiers who should be protected, but not given extra protection simply because they are the media.  Journalists know the risks of becoming part of the story, rather than simply stand on the sidelines and report the story.  It is the former which has truly put this noble profession at risk of becoming more than reviled – it is now in danger of becoming irrelevant, and that would spell the beginning of end of our great republic.

We as Americans deserve better, and those who style themselves as journalists should behave better. Our nation deserves people who will report the facts, display things as they actually happen, and avoid (to the degree able) injecting their own opinion into any story.  Leave the opining for the real attention hogs – commentators, bloggers (self-deprecating humor there), and politicians.

Our own attack on journalism is really an attack on freedom itself

America has been on a bit of a collective crusade over the past three decades, attempting to portray journalists as whiny, nosey do-gooder liberals.  Of course, the notion of humans being almost lemming-like in our quest to fit in, nobody dare to disagree with the Alphas of punditry.  Just as conservatives railed against intellectuals of the 1950s as being “eggheads,” so the vocal reactionary minority has been towards the media.

Granted, many in mainstream media have done this thankless noble profession no favors with their own foolishness (Chris Matthews continues to excel as a quasi-journalistic buffoon), but the crusading nature of journalists can be directly attributed to this virulent strain of Social Darwinism being such that ideologues on the far right put forward the impression that only the eradication of traditional journalism will ensure their goals are achieved.  We, the people, do not wish to be bothered with the notion that those in positions of authority on the far right are hard at work looking to “turn back the clock” and return the world to a yesteryear by way of Big Brother.  A techno-feudalism of sorts.

Journalists stand in the way of this, and real journalists stand in way of it on both sides of the ideological aisle.  Sadly, we tend to associate journalists in the same category of other artists; failing to enrich through practical application.  They produce nothing tangible…they only create problems through wasteful platitudes of utopian idealism.

This is why journalists are needed now, more that ever.  Such idealism required a strain or bravery and selflessness not seen in ordinary society.  The altruistic bent some of the greatest writers in our society possess is being decimated by the powers of greed and avarice.  It is these sins which journalists must remain the last line of defense against.  Where our bravest soldiers in the military fight with weapons of physical war, it is these intellectual soldiers, possessing the courage to use weapons of political and mental warfare, who must be, like the Tribunes of ancient Rome, held sacrosanct.

We owe our nation, and our posterity, nothing less than the ensuring that might does not make right.  Journalists are the last line of defense against this.  Sadly, we are destroying our own defense in name of tradition and so called values, the very core of which runs counter to our Framers intentions.

We owe ourselves, our nation, and our future, far better.