Add to this witches’ brew the ingredients of intellectual dishonesty and left-liberal politics, and we have a fairly accurate portrait of the average contemporary journalist, whether posted abroad or sabotaging the home front. Such ineptitude coupled with undeniable bigotry plays into the hands of an editorial chauvinism that seeks to control public opinion. In effect, such a corporate monopoly of opinion disguised as news along with its practical irrefutability by dint of excessive repetition has become nothing less than a form of intellectual terrorism. Political analyst David Warren states in the Ottawa Citizen, “I must say—without qualification—that our mainstream media are, despite their protestations of innocence and ‘objectivity,’ objectively working for the enemy.” Be that as it may, there can be little doubt that they are certainly working for their ideological allies.
Of course, the media not only misrepresent the news, they also seek to create it in a process we might call “inventive journalism,” a subcategory of agenda journalism. That is, news is not only misreported, it is often concocted out of whole cloth. The al-Durah hoax perpetrated by France TV-2 remains perhaps the signature instance of recent media malfeasance. But the parade of simulated “realities” that characterizes much of current journalism is a long and flamboyant one. As I showed in The Big Lie, almost every major news service is implicated. But what is perhaps most striking is the evident lack of common sense and intelligent skepticism on the part of the public—or, at any rate, a substantial segment of it.
For example, in a particular “news” clip dealing with the aftermath of the fighting in Jenin during the Second Intifada, the camera zooms in on a solitary Palestinian grandmother sitting in a wheelchair in the middle of a large, empty field littered with wheel-defying debris while BBC commentator Orla Guerin rues her plight. The obvious question is how a wheelchair propelled, as we are meant to believe, by a frail, elderly woman across a field strewn with rubble could have gotten there in the first place. It can only have been deliberately planted, like a theatrical prop carried in from the wings and set center stage for the critical scene. The BBC clearly expected this constructed episode to be accepted at face value, confident that the common viewer would not recognize that a trick had been played on him and would not be disposed to interrogate the producers chuckling in the coulisse.
And this is the nub of the issue. By and large, the political zealotry and tendentious reporting of the News media, in both Europe and North America, depend on the public’s gullibility. The effect is far worse than that of the controlled press of the world’s autocratic regimes spouting the party line since, in the latter case, there is always the possibility of intellectual resistance among those of independent spirit. Pravda and Izvestia, for example, the official organs of state-vetted “news” in the former Soviet Union, did not wholly succeed in forging public opinion to Sovnarkom’s and the Politburo’s satisfaction. Many “consumers” understood they were being manipulated and were justifiably skeptical of the totalitarian project. Instead, they produced a robust samizdat literature to counter such attempts at thought control and the imposition of political uniformity.
In the contemporary West, it is different. There are redeeming exceptions but, generally speaking, a poorly educated citizenry subject to the increasingly unfounded impression that it benefits from the tutelage of a “free press” is more easily exploited than a citizenry that realizes it is laboring under a despotic authority. As noted, many of those in the Eastern bloc who chafed under the Communist tyranny were savvier than we are. Even a not inconsiderable portion of the theologically and politically oppressed Islamic ummah can parry media indoctrination, as the Green Revolution in Iran and the current revolt in Syria demonstrate. But in the West, with its assumption of unfettered access to the flow of information—what qualifies as “news”—and its illusion of intellectual autonomy and fact-based impartial judgment, the deception goes to the very core of thinking. People tend to be more subtly and therefore more effectively managed—the medium is the massage, in a way that Marshall McLuhan did not envisage in punning on his original insight.
Media apparatchiks are perfectly aware of the credulous nature of their readers and viewers. Not only do they take advantage of it, they do everything in their power to confirm and “anchor” it. As Andrew Klavan points out, the majority of our journalists are working for the Left or a “liberal” constituency, attempting “not to elicit information but…to arouse emotions rather than thoughts” in the service of an ulterior progressivist design. “They make us stupid,” he concludes, “because stupid is how they want us.” The consequence is chastening. Far too many of us have been craftily seduced into believing that raw opinion and cognitive gerrymandering constitute objective reporting and that we are encountering a free press when we have become the intellectual peons of a media establishment practicing agenda journalism. We would have been better off reading Pravda.
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