So the larger picture that connects virtually everything we publish, blog about, or now report via video, is how the media marginalizes large groups of Americans and limits dialog and coverage. Many of the stories we follow simply could not happen if more people understood the players, issues, and behind-the-scenes activities. After the jump, we will have more -- the myth that we are taught in school, that journalism is "objective" was never true.
In today's hyper-consolidated media environment, a handful of corporate interests have the ability to form an endless echo-chamber where Stephen Colbert's "truthiness" and the illusion of "balance" undermine the purpose of journalism -- to inform the public.
Sometimes, the best way to make a point is with a simple analogy, acknowledging that most of life is more complex. By breaking an idea down to its most basic premises, it can be most clearly shared and understood. Only then can it be applied to intricate and perhaps subtle contexts.
The lie of objective, fair-and-balanced journalism can be illustrated in its most elementary form by considering conflicting reports that the earth is flat versus the world being round. This issue has been settled hundreds of years ago -- indeed, the term "flat-earthers" is used to call out irrational and emotional belief systems that are not based-on reality.
Today, we would not expect to see journalists, reporters, and news media "balance" each and every story about astronomy, geographic locations, travel, and even international relations and conflicts covered in a way that would contain any mention of an alternative perspective where the world is flat-as-a-pancake and everything accepted as scientific truth needs to continually challenged with an alternative perspective that the world is flat and any concept directly or indirectly related to a spherical earth cannot be accepted at its face -- that somehow, there is still a debate and the other side, regardless of facts, needs to be part of the dialog.
We have all heard this summed up distinctly and clearly as follows: You're entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.
This is a serious dialog, perhaps brought to the forefront in the 2012 Presidential Election. Has this nation ever seen such a dishonest campaign of talking points and flip-flops as the Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan ticket? It began with what may have been the most objectively provable major political speech in U.S. History. Paul Ryan's mind-boggling disinformation was easy to knock-down as less-than-factual, but it set the tone for the entire election that followed -- facts did not matter, fact-checking was irrelevant and even "unfair", and that if one side chose to flip-flop and deceive, the media had no choice but to prop up misinformation and disinformation.
And what made it possible to proclaim that self-proclaimed journalists and news reporters had no choice but to parrot contradictory and false talking points? The lie of objective journalism -- the lie that every interpretation of fact is equivalent, even when some can be demonstrated to be false.
Today's journalism has entirely disconnected itself from the truth. And, if it was possible to be "objective" in reporting, then journalism would have to be an attempt to clarify important issues and our political environment by teasing out, researching, and reporting on what can reasonably be stated as true.
MEMO TO MEDIA: TRUTH MATTERS
Without an attempt to determine truth and merit that underlies reporting, there is no objective journalism. While the blatant dishonesty of the Romney/Ryan campaign would have made it difficult for the news media to have covered the election in a rational way, the media is not a victim here -- they were complicit with a massive fraud perpetrated on the American public. And now, they won't even talk about it -- telling the truth may undermine the lie that the media is nonpartisan and "objective".
The republican agenda, resulting platform, and rhetoric is based on "divide and conquer", fear and hate mongering, and objectively provable lies. Perhaps nowhere in America is this more ingrained into politics than Wisconsin.
Gov. Scott Walker may be promoted as a "rock star" around the nation, but at home, it is easy to show the hypocrisy, deception, and even criminality that his politics is based on. Paul Ryan, despite the constant braying of the media, is no policy wonk nor numbers guy.
Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, two experienced political analysts, have had enough and have published a book that calls-out the massive media failure we saw in the 2012 election cycle. Mann explains:
The mainstream press really has such a difficult time trying to cope with asymmetry between the two parties' agendas and connections to facts and truth. I saw some journalists struggling to avoid the trap of balance and I knew they were struggling with it -- and with their editors, but in general, I think overall it was a pretty disappointing performance.Ornstein continues:
I can't recall a campaign where I've seen more lying going on -- and it wasn't symmetric, but it seemed pretty clear to me that the Republican campaign was just far more over the top. It's the great unreported big story of American politics.
If voters are going to be able to hold accountable political figures, they've got to know what's going on. And if the story that you're telling repeatedly is that they're all to blame -- they're all equally to blame -- then you're really doing a disservice to voters, and not doing what journalism is supposed to do.
If you want to use a strategy of "I'm just going to lie all the time", when you have the false equivalence meme adopted by a mainstream press and the other side lies a quarter of the time, you get away with it.VOICES Blog picked up on their work in June -- reflecting on the Scott Walker recall election, it was clear that a media failure to draw a distinction between "balance" and truth played a major role in the outcome.
But Ornstein and Mann's were onto this much earlier and hit the national press last April when the Washington Post published their op-ed "Admit it. The Republicans are worse", which was extracted their book It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism.
Ornstein and Mann were once very popular pundits, widely quoted in the media. Now they are being ignored. This is very unfortunate because, while there may hope that the problem in today's divisive politics and media coverage could be resolved if journalist and news reports worked to ascertain facts before deciding everything politicians say merits coverage, Ornstein and Mann find that half-hearted fact-checking published under the myth of "objective" and "fair & balanced" journalism actually makes problems worse.
We had these little flurries of fact-checking -- which I found not worthless, but not a substitute for coherent, serious reporting -- and most of the time it just got stuck in the back of a news organization's output and there was no cost to a candidate of ignoring it.And Ortsein states:
Fact checkers almost seemed obliged to show some balance in their fact checking.
There was some damn good stuff done, and stuff that really did hold Romney to account. But no fact-checker intent on "appearing to be utterly straightforward, independent, and without an axe to grind, is going to actually do the job of saying that we're going to cover 20 fact checks on one side, to three on the other.Today's republican party is out-of-step with a changing America, but rather than confront reality, they seek to impose a false dichotomy on the electorate, dividing and conquering America instead of finding solutions based on our times, circumstances, and state as a nation. Since Mitt Romney's campaign was largely a front for 26 billionaires with multinational corporate interests, it should not surprise anyone that the Romney/Ryan ticket were less-than-honest. Romney/Ryan were selling snake-oil.
If you looked at where the scales should have been, and where they were, they were weighted. And they weren't weighted for ideological bias. They were weighted to avoid being charged with ideological bias.
So the election is over and Romney/Ryan were kicked to the curb, but the analysts, pundits, and faux journalists that enabled their charade were not. They refuse to acknowledge structural problems in their reporting -- we are not done with "divide and conquer" dishonest politics in Wisconsin until we demand more from the media.