I titled this post as Part 2 of another post just a few weeks ago [The Power Of The Media – Part 1 (renamed “”Part 1” after this post)] because I am feeling more and more every day that the media is a big problem that is at the root of much of the polarized, controversial atmosphere in which we find ourselves today. I referred in that post to several past posts I’ve written about the media here in the United States [e.g., News Or NNTN Circa 2017, Fake News Or Just Meaningless News?, Semi-Fake News, Announcing My New App News4Me]. That Part 1 post was focused more on the power of the media, and it’s on that theme I’ll pick up here.
From A Distance …
One of my favorite songs is From A Distance, written in 1987 by Julie Gold, the most popular rendition of which is Bette Midler’s 1990 recording. Consider these excerpts from the lyrics:
“From a distance, the world looks blue and green, and the snow capped mountains white. From a distance, the ocean meets the stream, and the eagle takes to flight. … From a distance, you look like my friend, even though we are at war. From a distance, I just cannot comprehend what all this fighting is for. From a distance, there is harmony, and it echoes through the land.”
I’m a big science fiction fan — the “classy” kind like Star Trek and Star Wars. The visual image From A Distance creates in my mind is similar to the image of a planet that is formed in the minds the crew of an approaching spaceship — i.e., “from a distance,” the planet is peaceful and tranquil, or maybe it’s undergoing massive seismic disturbances, or perhaps its inhabitants are engaged in a raging global war.
Picking up on that analogy, let’s imagine that we are in a plane flying low enough to make mountains, rivers, fields, cities, houses and buildings visible — and people, too, but not low enough to distinguish individual people and see what they are doing in detail. On any given day, we would no doubt view the United States as peaceful and tranquil — farmers tending their farms, people in cities going to work and coming home, people enjoying vacations, etc. … Even on a day like Saturday June 30, when “hundreds of thousands” of people at 750 different locations across America are marching and rallying in protest of immigration policies, from our vantage point that is only about one tenth of one percent of the population, so it doesn’t affect our overall impression of the country.
But The Media’s Magnifying Glass …
I mentioned in a February 2017 post that 90 percent of U.S. media is controlled by six corporations [re: Fake News Or Just Meaningless News?] — so we can logically assume that they are driven by at least two factors that bring into question their objectivity: 1) their responsibility to their shareholders to maximize profits; and 2) the worldview of their top leadership [i.e., the context within which these leaders make decisions about what does and does not make it into their publications and broadcasts.]
What that means vis-a-vis the subject of this post is that if the media has an agenda that would be bolstered by magnified visibility of what 0.1% of the population is doing on a given day [which in this case I believe they do], it will provide that magnified visibility — by 24/7 coverage instead of just one-of-many-items coverage, and by providing more free air time to politicians with like agendas than to less ideologically-aligned politicians.
I should point out that my reference to “0.1% of the population” is apparently a generous estimate based on less “splashy” news coverage two days later. “Hundreds of thousands” — specifically, somewhere in the 300,000 to 350,000 range — would be “about 0.1% of the population.” In a USA Today article two days later, the phrase used was “tens of thousands.” When you Google “total number of people in immigration protests,” you get lots of hits, but if you click on links to articles 6/30/18 or later by major media outlets you don’t find much in the way of specific post-event estimates. The phrase “hundreds of thousands” usually appears in articles before or on 6/30/18 about the size of crowds expected. So … if the actual number was even half that [150,000 — 175,000], I should have used 0.05% [5 one-hundredths of 1%.]
Another thing to factor into my point here is the fact that any kind of scheduled protest that catches this level of visibility requires a huge logistical effort. Does anyone really think these are all just spontaneous events, just thousands of concerned citizens banding together under no overall direction from organizers and financiers? Read the details within articles and you’ll find that the organizations that provided that direction and financing in the June 30 protests are the same ones involved in all “demonstrations and protests du jour” with one common theme that is congruous with “the Resistance” [politicians, many media outlets, celebrities, etc., who generally oppose anything being done by the current Administration.]
Produces The Image
In the spirit of the old adage “One picture is worth a thousand words,” I’ll just point out that the cartoon I chose as the lead graphic for this post summarizes pretty well the image of the United States one might draw if he/she simply used the media — rather than the high-altitude flyover I mentioned above — as the mechanism for forming that image. Had headlines like “One tenth of one percent of the U.S. population took part today in demonstrations against the administration’s zero-tolerance border control policy” simply been one item among many in the media on June 30, the cartoonist’s image probably would have been much different.
What was in the media, though? — Headlines like “Hundreds of thousands all across America took part today in demonstrations against President Trump’s zero-tolerance border control policy,” accompanied by 24-hour “on the scene” coverage that reduced almost all other news to brief mention at best, or no coverage at all at worst.
This is about as stark an example of the power of the media as you can find. My takeaway: never assume that what you see emphasized in the media on any given day is an accurate portrayal of how this country would be viewed that day by the crew of a plane flying high enough to see the bigger picture.
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Charles M. Jones