One of the causes of our nation's Great Polarization Age is the dismal and utter failure of corporate media. It's one of the reasons why bloggers came to be. If Time, Newsweek, the Washington Post, the New York Times, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, Fox, ABC.....you get the idea.....if those once-respected sources of information wouldn't or couldn't tell people the truth, someone had to.
For me, the last straw was the Iraq Lie. In late 2002, early 2003 I felt like I was in suspended animation as I daily watched and listened to the onslaught of rumors, gossip, deceptions and yes, lies...outright lies.....about how Iraq was an "imminent threat" to the U.S. with it's chemical, biological, and nuclear WMD's. Corporate media led the charge to invade Iraq. Corporate media convinced Americans that Saddam was a direct and immediate threat to not only the Middle East, but also the U.S.....and that Saddam, maybe, sorta, somehow bumped fists with them there terrorists.
It was all one big lie. All of it. But I digress...
One of the tactics used by failed Big Media is the "both sides are guilty", "both sides do it" schtick. This is called "balance." You know, "fair and balanced." The idea being that in a difficult digital age business environment, mainstream corporate news producers could not (or would not) afford to alienate conservative or liberal consumers of news. So, rather than risk losing subscribers and viewers, corporate media purposely took to the safe (and lazy) method of news delivery......the continual drumbeat of "Democrats and Republicans are equally bad, equally guilty....there's no difference....they both do it." Whatever the "it" might be.
Combine the "both sides are equally guilty" meme with the "Dems say-GOP'ers say" form of "reporting".....and it's no wonder why so many voters have no grasp of what's true and what isn't.
Locally, Mr. Jim Albright, who, from 9-12 every weekday morning hosts a local call-in show on 640AM, WHLO Fox radio in Akron, has a huge case of "both sides do it" going on. If a caller or a story reflects poorly on a Republican, then, Mr. Albright is quick to remind that "both sides are equally guilty, both sides do it." It's a comfortable place for a radio or teevee host to be. He/she and the audience members can soothe their self-inflated egos by criticizing "both sides" as equally wrong, corrupt, deceptive, etc....while the anchor and the audience are lulled into thinking that THEY alone stand above the fray holding the real "common sense" truth.
Here's Norman Ornstein of the conservative American Enterprise Institute reflecting on the dynamic I've just described and how it affected the presidential campaign coverage....
"I can't recall a campaign where I've seen more lying going on -- and it wasn't symmetric," said Ornstein, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute who's been tracking Congress with Mann since 1978. Democrats were hardly innocent, he said, "but it seemed pretty clear to me that the Republican campaign was just far more over the top."
Lies from Republicans generally and standardbearer Mitt Romney in particular weren't limited to the occasional TV ads, either; the party's most central campaign principles -- that federal spending doesn't create jobs, that reducing taxes on the rich could create jobs and lower the deficit -- willfully disregarded the truth.
"It's the great unreported big story of American politics," Ornstein said.
"If voters are going to be able to hold accountable political figures, they've got to know what's going on," Ornstein said. "And if the story that you're telling repeatedly is that they're all to blame -- they're all equally to blame -- then you're really doing a disservice to voters, and not doing what journalism is supposed to do."
Ornstein said the media's failure led him to conclude: "If you want to use a strategy of 'I'm just going to lie all the time', when you have the false equivalence meme adopted by a mainstream press and the other side lies a quarter of the time, you get away with it."
To many observers, what Ornstein wrote seems transparently obvious. The AEI conservative scholar makes the claim that Mitt Romney's campaign was riddled with lying. An historic amount of lying for a presidential campaign. Yet, that Romney lying during the campaign, Ornstein states, "is the great unreported big story of American politics." Corporate media can't report that story because....well....it wouldn't be balanced.
And it will remain unreported. Why? Corporate media can't and won't report that story because....well.....it wouldn't be balanced. You see, both sides do it, even when they don't. And if both sides don't do it.....it's not a story. By refusing to tell audiences the truth for the sake of "balance", corporate media only adds more confusion to the national discourse.
Many tell me that the internet will eventually replace conventional corporate media avenues as the primary source for news....but a great number of people are basically lazy and most would rather be "fed" the news rather than have to feed themselves. Teevee and radio news will play the primary roles in delivery of news for the forseeable future.....and that means that the Great Polarization Age will only intensify and deepen.
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