Is There a Problem with the Media?
Marshall McLuhan in the 1960s was famous for saying, “The medium is the message.” The means by which we communicate is as significant as the content of our speech. What does communication by Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, TikTok, and 24/7 news channels say about us? Do we have short attention spans and an addiction to cool visuals? Is the media the problem or are we, its consumers, the problem?
Once people heard newscasters sign off on nightly news seen only a half hour an evening with “And that’s the way it is,” and we believed them. The New York Times’ motto was “All the News that’s Fit to Print” and this seemed reasonable. Is this the model of objective journalism or a mythical past? Do we still trust white-haired white guys to bring us the truth? Who do we believe now? Oprah? Fox News? CNN? MSNBC? QAnon? What do expect responsible journalism to be like? Should it reinforce our pre-conceived notions or force us to challenge them? Can we stand to hear the truth?
At one time newspapers were financed by and supported political parties. There were Federalist, Democratic, Jacksonian, Whig, and Republican papers. Your own newspaper confirmed you were a right-thinking American (or Confederate). You read the other papers to see what the opposition was up to and condemn their wrong-headedness. Should the conflicting reporting of Fox, CNN, and MSNBC surprise us? Isn’t it part of a long tradition? And now we can bypass all of this and find web sites which support any conceivable and possibly some inconceivable points of view. Isn’t there a place for each of us on the internet? Who needs to do independent investigation when Google, Alexa, and Siri can tell us everything?
How do we make this better? Do we shun publications and media which lie to us? How can we tell? Should the government step in and make journalists responsible just like they do in Russia, China, and other places which seem to value order more than free expression? If the government lies to us, aren’t independent reporters our only hope? But what if the independent researchers believe that China shipped ballots on bamboo paper to subvert the Arizona election? What if they believe a dead Venezuelan dictator, Hugo Chavez, rigged voting machines from his grave? Are we forced to think for ourselves, read books, check all sources of information, and ask ourselves always about the honesty and sanity of our sources of information? What fun is that?
Do we need to be informed? Aren’t the most important things family, friends, community, and perhaps cute cat videos? We need the weather report to know if we need an umbrella. We can benefit by checking the traffic report. What else do we need to know? If people are mistreated in far off lands, is that our problem? Or do we live in an interconnected world where an obscure Muslim thinker can inspire people to fly airplanes into buildings? If the climate is changing can we ignore it? If people protest injustice, do we consider them annoying and go our own way? Would a responsible media help us navigate these issues? Would we know if we should get vaccinated or not; wear a mask or not? Where are the answers?
On Monday, September 20 from 7-9 PM by Zoom, Inter-belief Conversation Café will seek the truth and try not to get too misled. Our agreements of open-mindedness, acceptance, curiosity, discovery, sincerity, brevity, and confidentiality may help us be unbiased and informed and hopefully not yelling at each other. If not, we can share pictures of our pets!
As the Delta Variant continues we continue to meet by Zoom. Besides we get attendees from Canada and other areas thru Zoom. The link is http://www.zoom.us/j/99973128471.