WASHINGTON, July 1, 2015 – We live in a world of 24/7 news where mass media is constantly babbling about their particular slant on life. This is an insidious form of persuasion, some may call it propaganda, which inundates viewers on a daily basis. To learn about what is happening in the world, consult the Spin Doctors.
There are a multitude of options for consumption, depending on one’s particular taste. Consumers often use more than one source to get news, and develop preferences based on beliefs and approach to life. The leaders of the pack are the networks; Fox News, CNN and CNBC, followed by ABC, CBS, and NBC. Each network provides its own filter for its viewers, reporting on the news it wants, in the manner that fits its paradigm.
The network decides what viewers learn about, what they ignore, and even explains how to think about events.
Those who still receive a daily newspaper get that filter on information at least one day late. The paper is divided into local, state, national and international news. Thanks to space constraints, and that filter, readers find precious little about what is happening in Bangladesh, or even New Jersey, unless they happen to live there.
“News” services serve up a refined and processed version of reality. After a service anoints information as newsworthy, it is edited for broadcast and reduced to the minimal essence that will convey the message. Then come the voiceovers, and the clip is headed to the newsroom for broadcast on a continuous loop.
Few news clips last longer than a minute, unless they receive eternal life from commentators. If the various commentators seize on a story, they add their own spin and slant, further distorting the information and distancing it from objective fact.
Viewers no longer have to wait patiently for the evening or bed-time news cast. News now runs 24 hours a day, via smartphone, ipad or big screen. As an additional bonus, by accessing only pre-selected broadcasts, viewers can avoid uncomfortable, unpleasant or just plain boring news.
There are two main categories of presenters in mass media, categorized in a simple way: Solo and Group.
Solo presenters often have roots in traditional news reporting, those who previously anchored the news at 6:00pm and 11:00pm. They are now on the constant news loop but continue their previous approach.
In the past decade, a new category of solo presenters has entered American life: The Commentators.
Commentators are a new breed, often from the political world, the military, and the legal profession. Some come to the sound stage courtesy of their good looks or their ability to make the viewer laugh. They are not hired solely to entertain, or to present information, but to twist and push news through their particular brand of “analysis.” They save viewers the step of figuring out what it all means, by explaining it for them.
There are many prominent solo commentators with a consistent message who deserve mention. Here are several examples:
Sean Hannity-“I will repeat myself until you capitulate, and that dead horse has been beaten to a pulp. If you disagree with my opinion, I am right, and you are a liberal.”
Rachel Maddow-“I will slant my topic until it becomes obvious to you that I am left, and that those on the right are all stupid. ”
Bill O’Reilly-“I will interrupt you constantly and impose my opinions over yours until I have made my point and the allotted time has been used up. If you haven’t bought any of my ghost-written books, you are a pinhead.”
Group commentary panels are gladiator-like events aimed at spicing the spin with a hint of controversy. There is always dissent and verbal jousting. Panels are typically comprised of a diverse group of recognizable people who disagree, or of a group of like-minded people with the token dissenter. The dissenter agrees to disagree for a fee and a guarantee that they will not be replaced for a minimum of weeks, months or years. Guest commentators don’t have that job security. They get by with outrageous comments intended to stoke debate.
Viewers seldom know the qualifications of most solo commentators, or care to research the issue. Some approach news viewing as sport, virtually engaging in debates with the televised personality, either agreeing or disagreeing. But most numbly follow the diatribes of their propagandist of choice, swaying with the presented commentary and adopting it as their own.
The press will play a major role in molding public opinion in the 2016 election cycle. With a crowded field on the Republican side, a clear Democrat front-runner who will be a legitimate target for attack by her opponents, and a lone Independent to take populist swipes at both parties and candidates, it will be a street brawl from the start.
The networks are already sharpening their knives and fitting their filters, ramping for an all-out political orgy. They are gleefully noting the missteps of opponents while excusing gaffes of those they back. They are prepping non-stop coverage of events that meet their narrative, while shielding their eyes from actions that don’t fit their world view.
News outlets are no longer in the business of presenting facts. They are instead straddling the line between persuasion and entertainment. If you enjoy quasi-reality TV, watch the networks in between episodes of The Kardashians. If you want facts, pick and choose your sources for accuracy. Don’t let an entertainer influence your choices.
Remember, you pick the filters through which you view the world.