Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Why I Do Not Watch Television News or Read Newspapers

Mass mind is my reason for avoiding mass media.  A large proportion of the public, including myself, is susceptible to psychological suggestion.  How many times have you watched a news program and become emotionally upset at some story of crime or misconduct?   Media has tremendous power.  Even if such power were vested in a physician it would require review and oversight.

But those who produce the mass media have no professional standards.  There is no professional oversight.  How much that is presented to the viewer of television news or the reader of print news is subject to bias, slant or involves outright lies, and how much is true?  

There is no reason to believe that television networks or print media are neutral actors. Ownership guarantees bias.  Ownership is not spread across the various interest groups in the nation.  Rather, it is concentrated in the hands of those linked to centers of financial power. 

The claim of conservatives that media reflects "liberal bias" is itself a product of that bias. There is nothing liberal about the interests of the owners and employees of the American media.  It has one goal, one objective, the interests of its proprietors.

I have no doubt that most of what appears on television news is true.  Nor do I doubt that most of what the chairman of Goldman Sachs says is true.  But I have no more reason to believe that the news is unbiased than I do to believe the Goldman Sachs chairman.

Moreover, the incredible power of television to manipulate emotion compounds the risk of deception.  Print media is less emotional but the likelihood of manipulation is ever present.  The likelihood of deception is confirmed by its history.  The New York Times's  history of incompetence and lies; the near criminality of its owners, the Ochs Sulzbergers; its participation in the cloaking of mass murder in the Soviet Union and America's loss in Vietnam; its role in Robert Moses's destruction of New York City and New York State; its vocal advocacy of Keynesian economics and transfers of much of America's wealth to the super-rich. Not only is the Times corrupt, it is the most influential newspaper.

Because of emotional manipulation; the ownership structure of the mass media; and its history of self serving lying the media is not a source of information.  We do better by avoiding its immediacy and emotional content, and carefully evaluating and mostly rejecting its claims.


Pinni said...

Is private ownership of media really not a positive, at least in the modern era?

Because of capitalism, our freedom of the press right, and freedom of the internet, anyone's views can be heard, watched, or read. Pajamas Media, for example, is able to stream TV programming over the internet at little cost to itself, compared to the traditional costs of owning a TV channel. You are able to write blog posts to educate the American populace. And with the increasing trend of moving TV content to the internet, diversity of available opinions will only increase. "Mainstream media" will perhaps even become a misnomer.

The alternative does not look too bright. The U.K. reasoned that private ownership of such an important democratic function was contrary to the goals of a free society. So they have the BBC. Perhaps one can argue the government should fund any and all media companies, but do we really want to give this power to the government? Government and media should always be separate for obvious reasons.

Doug Plumb said...

These lies are contagious. It is a real sickness that is enveloping society-its being done deliberately. That book that I keep talking about, Political Ponerology explains it in medical terms - terms that those doctors had to invent to describe their findings.

It also explains the brain science that has recently reached headlines such as physiological ID of sociopaths. This book was written in the 20's. There is nothing new about a lot of this new knowledge on the human brain that recently got into Discovery & Time rags. I laughed when I saw them on the news stands a few years ago. Its not just the media and newspapers- the lies are in the science rags as well - in the sense of calling many things "new discoveries".

The copy of Political Ponerology I bought with the old cover now goes for $100.00 - $150.00.

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Mitchell Langbert said...

Pinni--yes, of course. I now assign Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom in my senior seminar course and we go over that idea. But current reality is different. Wall Street is not really private enterprise in the full sense. It is dependent upon the Federal Reserve System to survive. We saw this with the bailout, but it's true year in year out that the Fed heavily subsidizes Wall Street without which they would not survive. Hence, they are interlocked with government, not really private enterprise. If you accept that point, there is no real freedom of press because the "military-industrial complex" or the "Wall Street-Federal Reserve" complex controls all the mass media. As you point out, to find alternatives you have to go to really capitalist enterprises, Pajamas Media start up magazines and the like.

Britain is no longer a free society. The fact that they could think that the BBC reflects anything other than government domination shows that England's days as a free society ended in the 1940s.

Doug--good point. The media is imitative, they copy each other. They do not have the facts.

Pinni said...

It is true that the current reality is different, but I am still optimistic about the future. Americans are increasingly turning to alternative news sources to get their information in recognition of the problems with the traditional media outlets. In the future I envision, "televisions" in every home will be hooked up to the internet, permitting people to watch genuine content. Once that happens, it will only be a matter of time before the media giants of yesterday begin to fail. (The technology is already available on the market.)