Misrepresented Truths

A campaign of attitude and traditional truth was engineered and disbursed by conservatives some forty years ago, propagated by a growing (spearheaded by Reagan trashing the Fairness doctrine and eschewing media regulation) conservative media and has stuck like Velcro to the fabric of mainstream news. Consequently, we are consistently lied to – or at the least, the truth is misrepresented — by even the mainstream media.

Some lies are ongoing. Some are outgrowths of generalizations. Some based on prejudices established with conservative ideals. Some rise from ignorance. But two large issues stand out in contemporary news stories.

Most media sources fail its readers and the country regarding national politics. Perhaps it is easy to do so when most Americans are relatively ignorant about what their representatives actually stand for and what legislation they support or oppose. Why else would voters – even some 30% of them – have given a political party which obstructs all legislative progress, shuts down the government and represents the interests of 1% of the population a majority in both Houses of Congress?

Perhaps major news sources are most to blame, aside from that voter apathy. Even the almighty NY Times gives us a steady stream of personality-based pulp rather than the truth. Do we even remember the march to war in Iraq conducted by the feckless Bush administration and the jingoistic media headlines which intimidated dissenters? Remember the deadly lies passed along by the Bush administration, care of the NY Times’ Judith Miller?

Even now most major news sources posit the Republican Party as functional with competing factions, one “conservative” and the other “moderate” or “centrist.” Republican is not even a separate element in the equation when citing the Congressional approval rating. Less than 8% see members of Congress as good or excellent. Reporting (NY Times, for example) rarely cites Republicans as the cause of dysfunction in Congress, never citing GOP obstruction as a cause for little accomplishment.

Then there is the recent murder of two NY police officers by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, a man with a history of untreated mental disease. The focus for CNN News was not his mental illness but the incendiary comment by former governor, George Pataki. A combination of conservative-led movements helped set the stage for misinformation – an anti-entitlement for average Americans bias, hard-on-crime stances, an expensive drug war, high incarceration rates for mostly the poor, and mental-health treatment changes. This helped to push incarceration over treatment of social ills.

As a result Brinsley’s declaration of “acting on behalf of Michael Brown and Eric Garner” was the perfect bunker-mentality, spectacle-based backdrop for framing the news, especially from Fox News talking heads who amplify right-wing banter. But even the NY Times enjoyed quoting Patrick Lynch, head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, who announced that Mayor Bill de Basio had “blood on his hands” for sympathizing with protestors against police misconduct (the choking death of Eric Garner, for example).

All media was more than glad to quote former NY governor George Pataki, who called the killings the “predictable outcome of divisive, anti-cop rhetoric” by Attorney General Eric Holder. Reporting, of course, also covered the “I can’t breathe” or “hands-up” demonstrators who were seeking equal treatment under the law. Facts lost in the NYC media coverage spectacle are that 80% of African-American men between 16 and 24 have endured unsolicited stops by the NY Police Department while 10% of whites in the same categories were stopped.

News sources failed to mention this or Brinsley’s long history of untreated mental illness, or the lack of association with any protest movement,  or the fact that he shot his ex-girlfriend (not a social-cause target) in the stomach before taking a bus to New York to kill the 2 policemen.

Reporting on these stories to a public who generally watches or listens to rather than reads unfolding news are categories of choices. There is Fox News and conservative radio pitching hard-right views, including packaged attacks on all Democrats. There is other corporate news selected with a profit bias: CNN, networks, and a progressive island of MSNBC. Newspapers are almost an afterthought these days.

Without media once a cornerstone of investigative truth and gutsy reporting, we have monolithic corporate ownership of profit-based news with audiences drawn to spectacle and celebrity. Endless speculation on plane crashes is delivered by a bevy of coiffed beauties on CNN. Fox has the aging rude, arrogant, and bullying O’Reilly, a Megyn Kelly who shocks when she makes a rare cogent point, Sean Hannity, who cherry-picks false information supporting his dogma — out of the Ferguson grand jury testimony, for example, and a cast of failed right-wing Republican candidates. Mike Huckabee, for one, did the “honorable” thing and chucked a lucrative show to pitch himself for the 2016 run for President.

Is there a prayer that good information will flow each day to Americans, even if there is someone present to watch or listen?

What do you think?

James Hoover is a recently retired systems engineer. He has advanced degrees in Economics and English. Prior to his aerospace career, he taught high school, and he has also taught college courses. He recently published a science fiction novel called Extraordinary Visitors and writes political columns on several websites. Read other articles by James.