How to Distrust the Media
By Andrew Isker
I often hear something like this said, “you have to assume the mass media are usually lying.” I don’t think this is true. Not because I think it is false, but because I think it is simplistic. The media obviously doesn’t create a totally false reality that the average person could readily recognize is just not so. The world they create in print, on the internet, and on TV is mostly true, just not entirely true. They introduce just barely enough falsehood that only those who are consciously discerning can recognize it. And usually any discernment practiced when watching and reading the news is only done through a left-right grid. If you are liberal, Fox News is obviously neoconservative propaganda and MSNBC is where you go to get he truth. If you are conservative, MSNBC puts a pinko-homosexual slant on everything whereas Fox News will straighten everything out. Rarely does anyone question whether their news channel or website is consistently not giving you the whole story.
Of course, anyone who urges someone to be more discerning with all corporate media will be treated as a paranoid conspiracy theorist. To be honest, many who are skeptical of all corporate media will treat cluttered websites with blogspot.com or .biz in the address as though they were gospel. This is clearly no better than believing all that flows from the lips of Sean Hannity or Bill O’Reilly is true truth. What I am urging you to do is treat the billion Dollar corporate media with as much skepticism as you would a website your tin-foil-hat-wearing cousin frantically sends you a link to at 3 am.
One of the major problems with corporate media is that they are quick to accept even the weakest explanations that the government gives for anything, yet are quick to condemn the most basic journalistic inquiry into the doings of the government as “conspiracy theory.” Why don’t they ever label press releases from the White House, Pentagon, or State Department as “conspiracy theory”? The more paranoid will begin to see conspiracies themselves, which is foolish. Corporate media sidle up to the government because access is the currency of the prominent 21st Century American journalist. A good example to corroborate this can be found in coverage of not politics but sports.
I have watched and read the sports page since I was a teenager. I listened to sports reporters on TV and the radio even before that. Everyone who pays close attention to sports which reporters will never say anything but nice things about the local teams even when the teams are abysmal. They will usually say nice things about players too. And these are usually the sports reporters and personalities that are older and have been around the teams for a long time. They have developed relationships with owners and executives and a result of these relationships is information. In Minnesota, you knew that a player was on his way out when the geriatric Star Tribune sports columnist, Sid Hartman (who never had anything not nice to say about the local teams and players) would start to criticize him. But these criticisms would never cut so deep as to make the team and it’s ownership look bad. It wasn’t that Sid was secretly on the payroll of the Twins or Vikings. It was because he had spent his entire career cultivating access with the important people that weren’t going anywhere. And without that access, Sid is a 93 year-old, high school dropout.
Political reporting is not that different from sports reporting. Establishment journalists seek access, and their acquisition and maintenance of that access will affect their reporting. This means that they will say what the important people in the government want them to say. Times have changed for both political and sports reporting. For instance, every Major League Baseball team has scores of sabrmetric blogs which analyze baseball (and more importantly, baseball decision-makers) using advance statistical methods. And traditional baseball reporters typically have much disdain for sabrmetric bloggers, and if they could make the label “conspiracy theory,” they would. This is not to say that establishment political reporters who are part of the corporate media do not provide a useful service, but that the service they provide is disseminating the ruling class’s side of the story. But we would be kidding ourselves to consider them investigative journalists. They are not. Real investigative journalism must necessarily be done by those who do not crave access. And they are almost entirely found not on the payroll of corporate media companies.