Democratic Underground

The Diseased Media
August 16, 2001
by Joshua Downing

There has been much discussion about the sorry state of journalism today. When we peruse through the TV channels or pages in the newspapers, we see a wasteland, reeking of stale opinions and regurgitated quotes and sound bites. Once you begin digging further down through the piles of trash and broken glass, you begin to see a similar theme repeated throughout all of the media landscapes. Those who try to label this particular idea either conservative, or right wing are missing the point. The main problem that is corroding our media's integrity is not the fact that it is tilted in favor of the right, but the fact that it is tilted in any particular direction in the first place. This presents an interesting question. Is the solution to this obviously askew conservative bent an equally tilted favoritism to the left, or a balanced, unbiased, and impartial perspective?

While it is certainly necessary to offer both sides of the political spectrum with a voice, we can do this other ways besides offering a counterpoint to the conservative media. By having two separate media beasts battling an unholy war for market share and control of the American public's minds, we have not solved anything. We do not need two media giants struggling to destroy one another in an effort to sway the public from one point of view to another. We already have fierce ideological wars being fought, and two media conglomerates combating each other across thickly drawn lines of partisanship will just add fuel to the fire.

Journalism isn't about offering one side of a political debate. I believe that its intentions are more honorable than that. Journalism is designed to offer facts, untainted by loaded words, thinly veiled criticism, and subtle partisan leanings. However, over the last decade, these journalistic integrities have devolved into mere shadows of their former selves. The media has simply become a boxing ring, placing a view, idea, or a politician into its squared circle of abuse for the purpose of dismantling and discrediting it if it does not correlate with their own views. While it is necessary to show the weaknesses of any particular media fixation, when that is all they show it is apparent that they have not done their job. This is becoming increasingly hard, even for those who wish to rock the status quo by doing a well-rounded presentation of the facts.

With media conglomeration and corporate ties, there arise many conflicts with various stories. It would be easy to simply place the blame on the shoulders of the corporations that seemingly control all aspects of the media today. However, ample responsibility should also be placed on the reporters who appear more than willing participants in their employer's attempts at media manipulation. Perhaps there is no one source that we can single out as the corruptors of fair media, but there are many culprits. These sullied propagators will never admit the influences that have control over how news is reported, just as many have never acknowledged the label of "conservative" for the media as an appropriate adjective.

This is disenchanting, because as long as there is no mainstream coverage regarding the biases that exist within the media, there is no reason for the general public to believe that there is any partiality involved in political coverage, and therefore they continue to believe that the news they receive is balanced and fair. This is where the main influence of media is most apparently exhibited. The masses of apolitical and non-involved citizens patch their uneducated political philosophies from these so-called fair news sources and have no reason to believe that they are biased in favor of one particular side. These media outlets often offer a unilateral approach to the issues, which usaually demonizes the opposing views. This will obviously sway those who don't have a firm grasp on the issues to whatever viewpoint is deemed appropriate by the media. Sadly this viewpoint is almost always that associated with the right. Therefore, the proper definitions of the right, moderate, and left have become blurred, whether intentionally or not.

The blurring of political lines has led to misconceptions regarding the suitable associations to be made with either the right or left. Many have been duped into believing that the left wing is by their very nature unconstitutional and godless. Due to the current state of the media, attacks on the right have been less severe; the right is often considered to be completely composed of either crazy militants or devout religious hypocrites. These stereotypes are reinforced daily, until they finally become irreversible and permanent caricatures. This kind of labeling leads to false connotations to be connected with Democrats and Republicans, and further clouds the real issues at the center.

Reporting seems to be less about the views on issues that politicians represent and more about the cliched attributes regarding their party association. There is no place in the market-driven, fast-paced world of journalism for deep investigations and commentary on a politicians' views, only enough room in the headline for a sensational sex-related event, that will draw readers into the illicit world of politics. Scandals not only attract readers, they also allow for smear campaigns against a particular candidate or office-holder. Thus scandalmongering becomes a journalists' best friend when placed in the context of today's vapid reporting. Not only will it increase sales, but also allow for a misrepresentation of a politician, without having to attack their possibly credible political ideas.

Character assassination is one of the most powerful weapons in a journalist's arsenal, because it does not need to have reliable sources or verified information. At least, those items seem to be optional based on many of the blatantly false reports seen in the last decade. Without adding to the current media saturation regarding two of the most notorious cases of character assassination by analyzing them in depth, the current sensationalistic feeding frenzy regarding Gary Condit as well as the eight years of attempts to discredit and impeach Bill Clinton may be offered as representations of what the media is capable of doing. These two smear campaigns can be used as watermarks in order to measure the ferocity of other deceptive and false accusations made by the media. They may also be used as indicators of the decline of journalistic integrities, as well as the methods that the biased media will use to further their own political agendas.

There may be no one remedy for this contagious disease that is seemingly running rampant through the media. However a mass revolution and demand for fair, unbiased media may prove effective for curtailing the current trends becoming more evident. Citizens who deem it necessary to have a media that presents facts and not solely opinions, must mobilize and take in active part in deciding the future of our media landscape. They must thrust their distaste into the faces of the media manipulators and controllers. This will prove that the majority don't want their brand of journalism. There must be a rising voice of dissent from viewers, as well as a boycott of the media outlets and their advertisers.

Inaction can only prove what the corporate masters and their media puppets already believe, that this nation is ambivalent and uncaring towards the disappearance of journalistic reliability. They believe that this country prefers scandals and smear campaigns to fact-based reporting and a close analysis of the issues that mold the world. Obviously the necessity to show the demand for such reporting is apparent, but until people can mount a visible opposition to the biased media, they will continue to ram their views down our throats until we gag on our own inaction.

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