Saturday, July 29, 2006

Who Controls the American Media?

You know what? I’m really sick and tired of pundits from both sides firing off about how the media is controlled by the other side.

I realize that due to consolidation there are a few big companies that control a lot of the news agencies. Also, I do think there is a liberal bias in the mainstream media simply because being well-read and well-educated usually makes you more left leaning than not.

However, we know there are many well-educated folks on the right too as well as in between. I consider myself to be snugly situated somewhere in the middle as I have libertarian tendencies on some issues. I’ll also acknowledge that there is a conservative bias in certain other sections of society.

So what?

The fact is there are liberal media outlets like Mother Jones, and, I would even say, the New York Times, considering how much the Bush administration hates them. However, there are also conservative outlets like Fox News and the National Review.

In Paul Krugman’s most recent op-ed piece in the New York Times titled Reign of Error, he goes after what he claims is the Bush administration’s attempt to misinform the public. I agree with him, but I disagree with who is at fault. I’ve linked to the full text at Rozius’ blog, as again, this is a Times Select piece. (BTW, there is a funny cartoon starting off this post, so I suggest you look just to get a laugh).

Krugman starts off by saying this:

Amid everything else that's going wrong in the world, here's one more piece of depressing news: a few days ago the Harris Poll reported that 50 percent of Americans now believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when we invaded, up from 36 percent in February 2005. Meanwhile, 64 percent still believe that Saddam had strong links with Al Qaeda.

At one level, this shouldn't be all that surprising. The people now running America never accept inconvenient truths. Long after facts they don't like have been established, whether it's the absence of any wrongdoing by the Clintons in the Whitewater affair or the absence of W.M.D. in Iraq, the propaganda machine that supports the current administration is still at work, seeking to flush those facts down the memory hole.

I agree with him because I don’t believe there were ever security threatening WMDs in Iraq nor do I believe that Hussein had an alliance with Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Of course, the conservative pundits have come out to chastise Krugman’s piece and also liberals have come out to support him. Just click on the link as I ran a search for “Reign of Error” on and found quite a few links.

However, I differ with him by assigning blame to the “propaganda machine”.

Read some treatises on democracy and you know the onus is on the electorate to stay informed, stay active and keep their politicians as honest as possible. As voters it’s our responsibility to realize that those in power and those who want to be in power just might massage a story so that it reads more in their favor than not. In fact, they might do more than massage a story they might lie outright. Should they be truthful at all times? Yes, but would they be successful in politics as they are now? Probably not.

As voters we need to make ourselves as informed as possible to actually elevate the level of discussion. Now all we get are soundbites, watered down statements, and smear TV ads during elections. We get that because, unfortunately, that’s what the ill-informed American voter responds to.

We’re responsible for this dismal situation.

I’m not sure exactly when it happened as it’s been gradual, but the current political climate is one where you’re left or right, liberal or conservative or red or blue. It’s just stupid and divisive.

People need to get smart and realize that slapping a label on themselves and every view out there throws a bias in the way of having reasoned and effective debates. Read the articles published by both sides, watch Fox News as well as listen to NPR radio. In this day and age we really must become and stay informed. The level of debate in most areas of the American electorate is rudimentary at best. However, these are the debates that rule our policies. We must seek out and demand accurate information in order to reverse the tide in our political system.

Who controls the media? Ultimately, we do, but we're doing a piss poor job of it.

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