Sunday night I participated in a conversation with Wildside Clyde, PO Taxpayer, and Tony Jones on the subject of bias in the media. Not just the question of less than objective reportage, but the question of extreme perspectives, and opinions pre-loaded with the venom of a dozen cobras. Bias, in other words, not to further a particular argument, but to incite hatred in the cause of attracting a few more eyes and ears to programming that, in a nation given to rational discourse, would quickly be identified as the ravings of sociopathic maniacs. Unfortunately, the United States is no longer a country interested in rational discourse- at least in the realm of mass media.
So, why is said media behaving with all the control and responsibility of a sandbox full of spoiled brats in desperate need of Ritalin? Or, to put it another way: why do FOX, CNN, and their brethren make Goner, Wildside, PO, and Jones sound positively reasonable by comparison?
In order to understand this situation, we need to get one fact straight right up front: this is not a simple matter of media bias. Bias can be ugly, especially when we don't agree with the point of view being aired. But just because an argument is biased, doesn't mean it can't also be well-reasoned and well-informed. The nonsense spewed by today's talking heads is neither, but that's not because it's bad news reportage. The reason is more straightforward: The content of today's news programs is not news.
This is the basic point well-intentioned, reform-minded people fail to grasp: there is no more news in the Walter Cronkite sense of the word. What we watch on the 6 o'clock News, News at 11, and 24/7 on CNN is Entertainment under another name. Traditional Cronkite-style news implies coverage of an event at least within shouting distance of objective truth. By the time a story is offered through a media outlet today- TV, radio, or internet- the event has been so fictionalized, it has lost touch with reality, never mind objectivity.
The victims of the Boston bombing, and the victims dismembered in the latest Chainsaw Massacre film, are treated exactly the same.
Look at the way "legitimate" news stories are presented, as compared to Reality TV and the horror film sub-genre of "found video"( 'The Blair Witch Project' is the prototypical example). As a friend said while we watched footage of the Boston Marathon carnage, "It doesn't look real." It didn't. Downtown Boston looked like a movie set with not-very-original dialogue and MTV-quality camera angles wrapped around it. The only thing missing was a catchy B-movie title. " Marathon Tragedy" doesn't have quite the hook of "Massacre In Theater 9," as FOX dubbed the movie theater shooting in Colorado.
My hands are not clean. After all, horror is the lifeblood of the Haunted Cabaret here on WBOB, and I have a lifelong passion for horror in media. Having said that, I hope somebody out there still knows the difference between friends and relatives being killed in Boston, and zombies being killed in a George Romero movie.
That's the true horror these days.
We watch both.The media tells us there's no difference.
And the American public believes them.
Unfortunately for the dead and maimed in Boston, in Colorado, and everywhere else, the situation is all too real. Their suffering continues.
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