The Press is Owned, not Free.
For almost forty spins around the sun, the talking heads of news media have been the source of information for me, and many I know. I can recall in the before times, way back when in grade school, searching for news articles to present to class as a current events exercise. The process in which we were taught to source these articles was by credibility and determining the source of the information. At the core, to question the source was the assignment. That exercise in critical thinking has stuck with me, that drive to perform my due diligence and examine the source has led me to realize how tainted mainstream media is today. I question the validity of most claims simply because of my experience of being misled. The adage of not believing everything I hear or read is taken seriously, yet shades of gray do exist, and the most crucial response goes back to that sourcing exercise in grade school.
You’ve probably read an article or watched a broadcast presented by CNN, FOX News, MSNBC, Washington Post, New York Times, New York Post, Huffington Post, Sinclair Broadcasting Stations – (local news stations owned by Sinclair), or god-forbid OAN, and the list goes on. Any one of these networks have misled the public through the internet and airwaves in one way or another over the years, in an attempt to sway public opinion through biased opinion. If you get your news about the world from any of these sources, an important thing to remember is that the information contained in the publication is ALWAYS monetarily-incentivized to be published, and will always be biased. The CEOs need their stacks of cash, the pundits need their million dollar contracts, and there are a multitude of other interests in play that benefit from leading or misleading the public. That money comes from advertisers, wealthy investors and hedge funds, and Billionaire owners using their wealth to manipulate the people. There was a time, before the 1980s, that the press was held accountable and the idea of public trust being held sacred was significant. There was enforcement through the FCC to make sure that any holder of a broadcasting license presents controversial issues of public importance equally, and work in the public’s interest. During the Reagan administration, the FCC abolished the rule in 1987 and since then the trust built between the press and the public has deteriorated. Under the disguise of freedom of speech, it was determined you have the freedom to lie or twist the truth to sway public opinion, even to their own detriment. The press is not free, it is owned and serves its masters, not the public.
Fox News remains the leader in pushing toxic agendas simply through their massive reach. From Tucker Carlson’s constant dog-whistle racism, bigotry, and corporate and police state boot-licking, to the lineup of billionaire lapdogs hustling the American working class into further voting against their best interest, the reach of Murdoch’s wicked influence has infected our country. They keep the focus off of the billionaires fleecing us, the politicians taking bribes, and the imbalance in justice of the wealthy and the rest of us. Take the January 6th insurrection, for example, and the absolute gaslighting that happened and continues to happen regarding the facts of that incident.
When the media pushes hard to convince you of anything questionable, yet provides flimsy information supporting their claims, cherry-picking information, and even resorting to making up information (while providing late and buried corrections), you can be sure there is a monetary reason for it. It would cost them nothing to ignore it, yet they need to spread an agenda. Using critical thinking, deduct the reasons why they continuously highlight negative aspects of a subject when overwhelming positive aspects exist, or vice-versa. If you are diligent, you can spot and ignore these types of stories, and even help others to see the flaws. The push to attach a scary label to something benign and use it to strike fear into fragile white conservatives/liberals is standard. An historic example of this is the way that the media reported on the Iraq war, or more specifically the precursor to the war, and the “reporting” of weapons of mass destruction. The power behind the media was successful in convincing the public that invasion was a good thing, and we proudly sent our children to die or come back mangled physically and mentally traumatized.
Another example is the Bernie Sanders’ Presidential campaigns, 2016 and 2020, running smears consistently and going silent on the DNC’s role in suppressing Bernie as much as possible. It’s much clearer when you already know why the mainstream media would do this – Bernie Sanders and his movement threatens the super rich and powerful that run this country. His policies would end their never-ending wealth hoarding contest and awaken the masses to a new period of enlightenment. To be clear, it is not speculative that the DNC did in fact attempt to suppress Sanders’ campaign, as pointed out by DNC interim Chairperson Donna Brazile. Bernie was saying it, we all saw it, yet the media failed at truly presenting it fairly and in a meaningful amount of time. In 2020, there was a concerted effort to place Joe Biden as the front-runner. In 24 hours, three promising candidates drop out and endorse Biden, and the media push to end Bernie’s campaign was underway. When the facts point to a confirming realization that the media that has been pushing the narratives as well, you again are reminded that the press is not free. Be sure mainstream media profits from what they push. Since they are no longer required to present and equally convey controversial topics, they can pick their stories and push the agenda they choose and ignore the ones they don’t wish the public to see. Suppressing unionization and social policies while pushing for war and damaging environmental policies is profitable, and the revenue pours in for these traitors.
News cycles are an interesting aspect of the world of media today, and the manipulation of the short attention spans of Americans can not be ignored. The 24-Hour News cycle that cable news introduced has created an addiction for the next big story, and in the path of this destructive practice is the important topics that have gone ignored. It is near impossible to keep the public’s attention on crucial yet admittedly boring topics, even if only due to repetitious reporting. This provides an excellent way to distract and bury significant stories, and the lack of diligence on the public level allows it to work almost flawlessly.
The perfect example that comes to mind is climate change and combating its sources. We know the main sources of negative climate change are due to irresponsible agriculture practices, industry, manufacturing, and dirty energy production. Individual consumption plays a part, but that part is almost insignificant to the main culprits. Yet the main stories you’ll hear are how you can make a difference by changing the way you individually consume, which I do agree with the changes and have happily adopted many climate-friendly practices. The media’s problem with reporting on climate change is that the focus is on the smallest affecting party, the consumer. The change to more climate-friendly practices comes with increased costs, which puts lower income individuals in a position of not being able to as much. We all need to do our part, and some make it harder than it needs to be, but the job of the media and the press is to inform on the real culprits and not stop. The goals of reducing climate change are not being met, and the reason is the financial interests out weigh the negative aspects, and they simply do not care about the climate. They pay the media to spread misinformation and to let important news get buried in the 24-hour news cycle. If you follow the money, you’ll find your answer. Pushing hard for continued coal mining? Usually invested in the dirty energy sector. The 24-hour news cycle is great for business, but awful for the public interest. If the press was truly free and not owned, there would be no need for this ridiculous manipulation and perversion of the public’s trust.
To achieve a solid foundational trust between the press and the public, there needs to be regulation enacted outlining what the media is required to convey to the public, like there was before 1987. If the misinformation lies in what the press isn’t saying, that is a problem. If there is misinformation being spread as fact, that is a problem. Freedom of the press relies on the public’s trust, and breaking that trust is a huge problem. Freedom of the press should not include blatant misinformation, lies, and spread hatred. Being able to present information to hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions, is a privilege and should be treated as such. It is a position of power that is being abused today, used to spread misinformation, hiding truths, and to platform destructive propaganda.
The most important tool you have to combat this gauntlet of misinformation is, you guessed it, critical thinking. This is the public’s responsibility and must be accepted, just as the press must remain trust-worthy. We must fight the need to be told what we want to hear, that what we believe in is true without questioning it. Especially when those beliefs are held for life, the ingrained, preconceived notions tend to outweigh rational thought, we must always look for new, reliable information to evolve. The current arm of propaganda used freely amongst the wealthy, powerful, and corrupt needs to be seen for what it is. Owned is not what the press should be, it should be truly free.