Are We Finally Turning a Corner In Our Toleration of Media Fabrications and Distortions?

February 22nd, 2015 by Andy in Media and Democracy

With all the hoopla swirling regarding the “controversy” over Brian Williams fabricating war stories, and now one of his biggest critics, uber-bloviator Bill O’Reilly caught in his own web of absurd storytelling, it’s as if our media has become like some kind of dark fun house of mirrors, each one increasingly distorting the distortion reflected by the other. This is by no means a recent phenomenon, of course.

But I’m wondering if its coming to a head, if the gradual degradation of its ability to report and inform, thanks in large part to the rise of various neoliberal policies which have resulted in in the dismantling of so many barriers between journalistic processes and the desire for ever-increasing corporate profits at any cost, is reaching a turning point. Have people’s desire for actual, rational, empirically-based discourse finally been stretched to the breaking point, where they just won’t accept the mental flotsam of infotainment and shock value headlines, that might get immediate ratings but have no intellectual caloric value? Is this wishful thinking on my part, or are enough people actually hungry enough to really stop buying into the bulls**t, and like one’s physical immune system, becoming more inherently resilient to the obvious pablum of lies and nonsense that has been peddled so shamelessly, and increasingly so, by the power elites in this country?

I know H.L. Mencken famously stated how no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public, and unfortunately he was onto something there. But there are number of counter examples as well, of people eventually coming around to figuring some things out, and acting in a way that led to some profound changes in the structure of our society and in the course of our collective history (abolitionism, worker’s protections, women’s rights, etc.). Things that were considered simply unchangeable have on occasion, within a generation, been completely transformed. Perhaps we could do the same with how our information and communication systems are structured - who and how control over how journalism works; how our communication systems are owned and managed; how we provide access to people to utilize them, particularly for purposes other than those aimed at monetizing all communication; how surveillance over these networks functions; how people can be better educated in media literacy skills, not only in how to effectively use these mediums, but how to be more resilient to the negative effects of the disinformation and propaganda that pollutes them, etc.

Maybe it’s idealistic to consider these things (but then every single example of personal and social human progress was at its inception). But the alternative seems not only unpalatable to me, but thoroughly untenable. At least that is if we are to have any notion of living in a society that has any real value and merit when it comes to being a place worth not just existing in, but fully living in.

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