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What is wrong with the news media?

On 29.11.2016 I attended a seminar “America after the Elections” organized by Department of Political Science and International Relations at Izmir Economic University. The department hosted Mr. Phillip Kosnett, Deputy Chief of Mission, US Embassy in Ankara. Mr. Kosnett focused mainly on what recent elections mean for democracy and he expressed his opinion about the news media. He emphasized the media’s failure to recognize potential of Trump to win the elections. Today’s media are characterized by “echo chamber”, which means that the news media practice the repetition of ideas, beliefs in enclosed system and different, alternative views are rejected or underrepresented. Today’s media simply do not accept other point of view.Everyone who thinks differently becomes the enemy.

seminar

This seminar encouraged me to express my own view about the news media nowadays.

Tocqueville in On Democracy in America said that free press is a great tool to defend rights of individuals. In democratic state, where the society as a whole has a enormous influence over individual, where often individual rights are sacrificed for the sake of common good, the free press is the only way to give voice to those who feel isolated, neglected and lost in the crowd. Indeed, he was absolutely right but let’s not forget that Tocqueville was a philosopher of his times. Understandably, he could not see that some day the press or rather the news media, which were supposed to prevent tyrannies to occur, would become new tyranny itself. The aim of news media should be to talk about facts, encourage discussion and bring about new and alternative ideas. What we observe today is the radicalization, one- sidedness of all news media.  In other words, we are exposed to mediocrity of journalism. No matter with which ideology the media are associated with, they are blind to see what the other side has to say. In the American elections campaign we had a chance to see that all kids of the news media were busy with creating more and more ridiculous stories about both candidates. The aim was to insult and denigrate either of candidates. At the end of the day, the blindness and ignorance prevented all news media from seeing that Trump had a big chance to win (and he actually won). What we were exposed to was ridiculing Trump by media that supported Clinton and denigrating Clinton by media that supported Trump. Everyone was ardently occupied with primitive journalism and they missed to see the changes that have been happening in American society for a while.

The media associated with the establishment did not realize that Trump’s supporters represent vast part of the American society; they are those who are dissatisfied with the economy, high unemployment and could not see the future for themselves. Americans, like other people in many parts of the world, have experienced negative consequences of globalization. The situation of working class, which used to live relatively good life, has drastically deteriorated. The same happened in the Great Britain  and many other countries. Another thing that everybody missed was that the youth has totally different expectations from older generations. Neither Republicans nor Democrats could see that American society has changed, that expectations and needs have changed. Both sides have been too busy with maintaining status quo that they forgot about founding principles of their own country: the people decide to whom give the power.

Neglecting and underestimating a vast part of the society is foolish and ignorant. History offers many examples of similar situations, where in Europe or other parts of the world the elections brought unexpected results. During American election campaign people were too busy insulting each other and did not have time to read some history books to see analogies. History is the best teacher but nobody is willing to learn. Now, big news media are doing self-study, asking themselves where did they make mistake. Dear all, your mistake was IGNORANCE.

It is not only about media or politicians, it is generally about people who are too afraid to realize that listening to the others would help them to better understand themselves. Listening what others have to say does not mean you join their camp. Accepting other points of view is not a demonstration of weakness, it is demonstration of your strength. Reason and good judgment come from experience rather than from isolation from the world.

All of us should see that these are not the media or politicians that limit our horizons, we limit them ourselves.

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24 thoughts on “What is wrong with the news media?

  1. I agree with much of what you say, but not the last sentence. I think the media and politicians do limit our horizons. At one point in our history, there was news reporting and there was opinion/editorial. That is a division that has been terribly blurred. The media is controlled by those with the most money with disregard for the rest of us. The media is in bed with the politicians which makes us very close to state controlled media. I’m hoping that will change in the next 4 years as the media is now being called out publicly for unfairness.

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  2. Yes, I totally agree with you. Media do not report anymore, they do what is convinient for politicians and other infuencial people. I think they do not deserve to be called “free media” anymore.
    I come from Poland, where current government fully controls national TV channels. In the past, those channels were reliable sources of information. Now, the government uses them to spread cheap populist ideas and those who do not agree are discriminated and called the enemies of the nation.

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  3. I had no idea that was occurring in Poland; I thought that was a thing of the past after the communist regime was deposed. From what you are saying, there must have been a “honeymoon” period in Poland and then a reversion to government controlled media. I also fear that is where the United States has been headed. If you do not agree with what mainstream media says, then you are a “…ist” and they get to fill in the blank with a usually unwarranted label. One thing I love about the Internet is this kind of discussion. Forgive me for my ignorance about Poland. That is not the kind of thing that is reported in the U.S. With all of the important things happening in the world, our media has to focus almost exclusively on their views of U.S. politics and how low it can go.

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  4. I understand, I also do not see a lot of coverage on situation in Poland in Western media. They do not focus on Poland because the country does not have strong position in international arena.
    After transition to democracy situation was steadily improving. After Poland joined the EU our economy improved, political culture changed, and we started to appreciate the media. I do not say that situation was perfect but it was much better than it is now. Currently, journalists working for state TV channels quit as protest against government’s actions. Everyone who does not agree with the rulling party (The Law and Justice Party) should be punished. The position of the Catholic church is getting stronger and stronger. The state wants to control any aspect of our lives. Poland starts to resemble the communist totalitarian state that it used to be before 1989. The only difference is religion. Communist tried to destroy the church and religion, while current government shares the power with the church and tries to impose religious principle to whole society.

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  5. It sounds like what happens in so many different systems–government, education, etc. The pendulum swing, going from one extreme to the other. Really the best is usually the sweet spot in the middle. For example, in our discussion, the sweet spot was when Poland achieved democracy after communism but before the ruling party asserted itself as having the only right way to do or think. It is great that religion is now allowed, but it should not be imposed and there should be freedom of choice as to which religion to follow. Again, the pendulum swing from no religion to mandated religion is just not a good thing.

    I appreciate your taking the time to share what has happened and is happening in Poland. It has been an eye opener for me!

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  6. A powerful analysis Patrisya. And thank you for dropping by and reading the photo essay I put together on my friend, Charles Brandt. I may mot of commented hear now, except the last night my wife and I watched a DVD movie called Truth – a true story about the fall of Dan Rather and his fellow 60 minute producer who were fired from CBS after they air a story during the 2004 US election. They exposed how George Bush Jr. had avoided military duty in Vietnam, but it is disputed and picked apart by other media, until finally Don Rather apologized in a newscast for airing it in the first place. The movie is based on American journalist and television news producer Mary Mapes’ memoir Truth and Duty: The Press, the President and the Privilege of Power. Mary Mapes had earlier exposed the Abu Ghraib attrocities.

    I really wonder if there is still democracy in the US, (reminds me of Leonard Cohen’s song – Democracy, is Coming to the USA) As you point (from the seminar), the system has been corrupted by the corporate owned mass media, who are now complicit in the outcome of the recent US election.

    In my humble view this is really the last dying days of US hegemony. I really wonder if America ever really was “great”. Maybe a big dose of American humility and contrition would go a long way, and for this I still have hope.

    Bruce

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  7. Thank you for your comment. I think that to the extent the “greatness” of America is a job of Western media’s discourse. The American interventions cause more harm than good. Also, domestic situation is far from perfect. America is just like other countries that cope with multiple difficulties.

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  8. Good analysis. However, after some 30+ years of hate, lies, and disinformation propagated by certain segments of the media (I’m looking at you Fox “News” and radio hatemongers like Rush Limbaugh and his ilk) where daily listening Americans have been ‘taught’ to hate and distrust their President, government, politicians, liberal thinking, facts, reality, science and anyone that may be somehow ‘different’ than them, it’s no wonder we in the U.S.A. have ended up in this dire situation.

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  9. I totally understand you. America is a blatant example of what news media (which actually do not deserve to be called media) have done to the people and how much hatred and chaos they have caused. I hope that with time the situation will get better.

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  10. I wonder how the recent revelations of false news and foreign influence would effect this discussion? Did you all see the National Enquirer the days before the election?

    Thanks for the news on Poland. We noticed that the right-leaning church guys seemed to have come to rule. Communism is transnational, while fascism is nationalistic, so when the Soviet Union broke in ’89 (Thanks Wolensa and John Paul II, alias Wojtyla), the thing became “Now we will have to deal with the nations (italics).

    My ancient ancestors come from Galicia, Witki, near Stary Djikow by the San river there. Some others are from West of Warsaw (Scripia? Plonsk) and maybe East, in what was then Russian Poland due to the partition. The Galicians came after failing around Ladycyzyn in the West Ukraine there, due to the Russians. Great Great Grandpa Tomczyszyn threw his useless money in the street and brought the family over on a ship by indentured servitude, to Bremond, Texas, having left from the port at Bremen Germany, about 1896. Grandma’s guys came over just after 1900. They were Szytkowski and Butkowska. They all got out at a good time, before Poland was crushed between the two forms of twentieth century totalitarianism. We missed the Katyn forest and the Gulag by just one generation. Grandma sent packages to Poland in WWII, maybe to some guys working the camps like Thaddeus Borowski (another hero. That is our last living connection back to Poland, and I just re-discovered this stuff about 2015.

    Our hero is Kasimirez and Thaddeus Koscusko, and we hope for liberty for Poland, especially regarding religion. Do you think ‘Tocqueville right that religion flourishes in liberty? Britain has an official established church and also allows free expression, but our pursuit of happiness is spelled out first in the first two clauses of the first Amendment, forbidding establishment at all and allowing free expression.

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  11. Thank you for sharing your family history. I come from Southern Poland, my parents still live there.
    You asked about Tocqueville’s view of religion. Generally, I disagree with him that Catholicism can preserve democracy. In fact, clergy is inseparable part of Catholism and always tries to control the state politics. The clergy waits till the conditions are suitable to get involved into state matters.

    I think it depends on circumstances of particular countries, as Tocqueville emphasized many times. Religion might flourish in liberty in one country, but might not in another. On the other hand, in Britain state religion does not prevent other religions to enjoys liberties.
    Comparing to Tocqueville, I am more optimistic about Protestantism and its compatibility with democracy rather than Catholicism.

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  12. You have many insightful observations here. It is because America was Protestant that we have liberty, as certain Baptists came and persuaded Madison and Jefferson that it was possible. The Catholics wee still smashing native American “idols,” etc. I like to say I am “half Catholic,” and set aside a career teaching because I would not swear an oath to obey the hierarchy in every matter. Madison says that it is because we owe obedience to God that we cannot promise this to men, even if they say that obedience to them is obedience to God. Consider the Priest’s sex abuse.

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  13. I have general problem with Catholicism because I was born in Poland and I have seen what priests and nuns are capable of. You could not believe how people protect priests accused of child abuse. There are cases where women called children whores, who seduced priests. Recently, the goverment with collaboration of the church try to fully control women and their bodies. They want to make women obedient creatures that are unable to think for themselves.
    If you take into consideration the affluent life that the clergy enjoys, you realize they have nothing to do with God! That is why Polish church is so rebelious against Pope Francis and his ideas how to improve the church.

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  14. I have a blog back a while ago on the psychology of priest sex abuse, and what I take to be the prophecy of the millstone. Consider John, writing in the late first century, how thee are seven churches, and if they do not behave he will take away their lamp stand. This contradicts what they try to make of the keys, that Peter was given such authority. Apparently, thirty four years later, John, the wisest and the last living Apostle, has not heard the Roman argument. We are Roman Catholic by tradition, but the east Galicians are orthodox, and I think the Greek orthodox has a number of points on which they are simply superior to the Roman imperial arguments. But I have known sincere and very good Roman priests. Lack of criticism in a free political life allows deviants to hide behind the robes of a priest, but these are not real priests. Why do they target little boys, by an overwhelming majority? This is very difficult, but has a psychological explanation we have not found yet. Free people can remove tyrants and bad people who abuse the authority of their office.

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  15. An excellent article I enjoyed reading and some well balanced comments too, quite a rarity these days. I understand you are naturally writing about the US media but the same is true here in the U.K. The BBC as a news channel and website is so skewed in its reporting and biased in its staffing and writing that the public are virtually abandoning it. They seem to be in bed with The Guardian newspaper with each magnifying the others reports. Too often, as you say, they express opinions on an event rather than describing for me what took place so I can form my own view. Their bias against our recent referendum result, giving air space to any opposer of Brexit, with many events not reported at all if they go against what the majority voted for. Our other news channels and chat shows are similarly loaded with so called hate speech a one way trapdoor it would seem. Try this one for size: A recent BBC chat show discussed the likely effects of Brexit on ordinary lives with all bar one of the panel being anti Brexit. In the middle of the audience questioning a nurse stood up and said ” I hate these people who voted for Brexit, if I found one of them waiting for a bed on my ward I would put them to the back of the queue!” The audience cheered! Now that is the BRITISH broadcasting corporation, the so called bastion of balance, independent reporting. And, paid for by the British taxpayer. Anyway, apologies if this has become a bit of a rant, but it had to come out!

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  16. Thank you for your comment! I wrote about American case as an example of general problem of the news. You are right, the British media are biased when it comes to the topic of Brexit. I think in every single country we could find similar problem with the media: manipulation rather than reporting. The conclusion is that we face serious deterioration of the media and I am not sure whether there is any quick solution for this at the moment.

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  17. I am fortunate to be able to watch a news show on US public television, “Democracy Now!” Anchored by Amy Goodman, it reports the other side of the coin from the mainstream news. Biased in its own way, to be sure, but for me it is a relief from the networks’ one-sided reporting. There is no advertising or corporate sponsorship. If interested, you can, of course, Google the show… it is also on podcasts and YouTube. You might find it interesting if you can access it.

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  18. Would it be OK if I cross-posted this article to WriterBeat.com? I’ll be sure to give you comptlete credit as the author. There is no fee, I’m simply trying to add more content diversity for our community and I liked what you wrote. If “OK” please let me know via email.

    Autumn
    AutumnCote@WriterBeat.com

    Liked by 1 person

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