What Would America Be like If the Media Told the Truth?

[Personal note: There was no post on Monday because my hard drive went bad, so I had to buy and install a new one. Since I did not want to drag in all of the problems from the old hard drive, I had to reinstall all of the programs and files. I finally finished at 4:30 on Tuesday morning. Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.]

Today’s post is an introduction to a series that I plan to do, not necessarily sequentially, on how different America would be in various areas if the media would tell the truth regarding those aspects of our society. For example, for the first one I plan to discuss how different America would be if the media told the truth about abortion. Today this would be a vastly different nation had our news media, and also other forms of media, addressed that issue factually and sufficiently so that Americans were aware of the salient related issues.

We are all too aware of the power of the media when it wants to make an issue of an event or cause. The most recent example was the shooting of Michael Brown by a policeman in Ferguson, Missouri. As it turns out there was no factual case supporting all of the media attention. Not to worry. The media do not need facts to make a case. They can use innuendos, lies, misrepresentations, and a host of other tools in their kit to accomplish their purposes, even when reality is not on their side.

And there can be no doubt that they are good at what they do. They have the capacity to shape the American mindset regardless of what the realities might be. Perhaps the most graphic display of this power was revealed in a recent Gallup poll which made the following discovery regarding the estimates by Americans on the segment of our population that is homosexual:

U.S. adults, on average, estimate that 25% of Americans are gay or lesbian. More specifically, over half of Americans (52%) estimate that at least one in five Americans are gay or lesbian, including 35% who estimate that more than one in four are. Thirty percent put the figure at less than 15%.

These estimates differ drastically from the reality that about 2.9% of Americans are homosexual. There can be little doubt that this error approaching 1000% has been created by the media.

It is unfortunate but true that the typical American believes that reality is what the media say is reality. For example, I heard a news commentator several weeks ago when the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack took place in which 12 people were killed announce that this was the worst terrorist event in recent times. In reality, the same week, and prior to this media pronouncement, the Boko Haram Muslim terrorist group in Nigeria murdered 2000 people in one incident. This type of reporting no doubt leaves many Americans with a skewed perspective of the atrocities being committed by Muslim terrorists.

The media employ any number of tactics to get Americans to accept whatever cause they happen to be pushing. For example, a commonly used strategy is reporting the position they favor last. “A Tea Party person reported that the Obama administration is trampling the rights of Christians by including abortion in ObamaCare. However, sources from the administration make the case that their decisions are totally driven by concern for the health of women.” This presentation placing the position of the Obama administration last favors that perspective, whereas reversing the order would favor the Tea Party. One such technique would skew the opinions of people somewhat, but the employment of a wide variety of such techniques on an ongoing basis possesses the potential to make people believe almost anything.

This type of incident, and there are many of them, reveals that the media shape the American worldview not only by twisting reality but by omitting it. Americans conclude that if the media do not mention it, it is not a problem. If the media wanted to highlight our out-of-control national spending it would become a problem. But their decision not to give this issue attention results in most Americans assuming that everything is okay.

In other words, the media shape American perception of reality not only by twisting the truth but also by hiding. One approach they employee to hiding the truth is making some inconsequential storyline a big deal for days on end, distracting Americans from the serious issues of the day. Apparently the ISIS terrorists are not committing atrocities these days because our real concerned, the big story, is whether the New England Patriots underinflated footballs by a couple of pounds. If only we can get to the bottom of that one, which will take at least several weeks, there is nothing else to worry about.

Since American beliefs are shaped by the media, so are their values, attitudes, and behaviors. Consequently, America is substantially different today than it would have been if the media had been telling the truth on key issues. We plan to explore some of those issues in the posts ahead.

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