I’m a news junkie, read at least a little bit of it every day. That’s right – I read my news. I learned a long time ago that if you want to truly be informed, turn off the network news on tv (doesn’t matter if it’s one of the big three or something on cable) and go read. Think about it. How much information can you really pack into a twenty or thirty second clip? Not too much. No, I much prefer to read when it comes to my news.
Growing up we subscribed to our local newspaper, and from the age of probably 12 or 13, I read it. Back then I had no political or social opinions to speak of, and most of my attention wound up focused on the sports section, the comics, or Dear Abby. But once in a while an article would grab my attention about something that happened in the world or in my state or city, and I’d read it. Analyzing the writing of others was not something I was particularly adept at back then, and it wasn’t until later in adulthood, primarily after I went to my first college, that I began to notice how the news could be framed to promote or denigrate something. I don’t remember, nor do I want to revisit, any of those articles I read as a kid to try and determine if the media was as biased then as it is now. It probably was, in general, but just wasn’t as blatantly open about it. Or maybe they were. Regardless of one’s opinions on society, current events and politics, there is a media platform catering to you and your beliefs. That didn’t exist when I was a kid. There were newspapers, and the three big tv networks: ABC, NBC, and CBS. And you had to get up from the couch, walk to the tv, and turn a knob to change the station. After doing that you might even have to adjust the rabbit ears or the antenna in order to get the static off the screen. How inconvenient! It was the dark ages, the 1970’s and early 80’s. Disco alone should prove that point.
So what the hell am I getting at with all this? Today’s news, that’s what I’m really writing about, and more specifically, what can we believe? Allow me to explain.
This morning, as is my wont, I got up, took my multivitamins and made a pot of French Press. Then I sat down at my desk and opened my Kindle Fire, which is what I use to read the news while I drink my coffee and wake up. There are a few websites I visit each day for local, national and international news, and today was no different. I usually check them in a specific order, and when I got to the last one, an aggregator, I ran across an article about the French presidential elections. There were several bullet points in the article, and one of them was in regard to a tweet supposedly sent out by the BBC, which claimed to quote the current president, Emmanuel Macron on the issue of immigration. Except that the BBC denied creating the tweet, and the Macron people claim he never said the words that the tweet attributed to him. Further, in a sidebar on that website was a headline and a link to an article about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The ad showed a young girl’s face in close up, and she exhibited obvious injuries in the form of some swelling and numerous superficial cuts. The headline said, and this is an actual quote: “The bombing survivor accused of being fake”.
I didn’t read that article, I have no idea what the truth is on either matter, and that’s my larger point. What the hell is the truth, is real anymore? What happened to, in the words of Dragnet, “just the facts ma’am”? Most media outlets claim to present only facts but read closely – you’ll often find language intended to persuade the reader to adopt a particular position on a given issue. And its everywhere. No matter what side of the political spectrum you’ve built your house on, it’s there. Sometimes it’s so overt as to be nearly nauseating, other times it’s so subtle only someone who is really looking for it will find it. But it's easy to spot once you know what to look for.
Despite all of this, I still read the news, except now I question everything. The media, instead of persuading me, has turned me into a skeptic. We can’t believe our own eyes anymore. Even images or video we once deemed unimpeachable can be manipulated or outright created with today’s technology in the form of deep fakes.
When I was in college at the University of Alaska, Southeast, one of my profs in a historiography class I took assigned us an essay to read. It’s by a man named Theodore Clarke Smith and is titled That Noble Dream. The argument Smith made in the essay is essentially that every historian should be as near to completely objective in their writing as possible. In other words abandon your prejudices and predilections, and go where the evidence of your research takes you, regardless of the outcome or how it upsets your ideology's apple cart. That’s a lesson today’s media could well stand to internalize. As for me, I’m going to go read the sports page.
April 24, 2022