Curtain Raiser

Misappropriating the News, Colltalers

If you want to be remotely informed about what’s going on in the world, do yourself a favor and do not watch any of the major 24-hour news channels this week or ever. For a truly educated view about our times, you may have to do a little research of your own.
In fact, a half hour of what passes as news these days is enough to completely misinform you. Most of what you see is not news and what’s going on around us remains as under reported as it used to be before modern communications became so prevalent.
These two pieces of gratuitous, and mostly unsolicited, advice may run counter all you’ve heard about the need to stay current of global affairs, pay attention to the issues that affect you life, and be able to hold a coherent conversation about your place in this world.
It’s particularly regrettable, and even dangerous, to the young, assigned to be news cognizant by their well-meaning teachers. So much hearsay and opinion disguised as facts can pose a risky proposition when handed to minds still lacking a fully developed critical vein.
In the long run, however, it’s our own collective loss, as such a massive mix of hysteria, conjecture, assumptions, and celebrity gossip, has quite a deleterious effect on society’s psyche, to the point of saturation, or worse, feelings of complete impotence before reality.
But mind you, there’s more to it than a pure drive to raise ratings and advertising dollars, which is the business model of all contemporary mainstream media outlets. Beyond that, there’s also a Machiavellian manipulation of people’s expectations and attitudes.
Joseph Goebbels comes to mind, as even the choice of headlines, concocted for maximum efficiency either at pulling heartstrings or emptying pockets, has the built-in ulterior motive of forcing your eye to the effects and diverting your attention from the causes.
It’s all designed to maintain control over people’s impulses and to clamp down on their arguably innate willingness to seek the truth. Along the sheer monetary value of turning masses into herd, there’s the allure of power, of being atop the heap, dictating what’s next.
Before we get too preachy, though, let’s do some housekeeping and admit, right upfront, that Colltales and million bloggers alike, also have a shared responsibility in blurring the frontiers between fact and opinion. And if anything, that’s what this post is supposed to be. So any hypocritical attempt of placing blame solely on our big cable brothers, should be taken at a deep discount and tons of salt.
That being said, however, we still feel sick about how the Ebola, for instance, has become an all-encompassing drive to get asses in front of screens by any means necessary, including or rather, preferably, by numbing all other parts of their functioning bodies.
Or that, at the same time, the U.S. and its allies are already in a state of permanent war, despite all evidence that this military slash armed contractors reliance has proven catastrophic again and again. And that disarming diplomacy and disavowing international institutions such as the U.N. can only do us all harm. And that defense and weapons corporations are salivating. And so on and on.
Perhaps even worse, it is as if such compulsive-driven media coverage, allied with yet another devilish push for sending Americans into harms way, has the power to paralyze all else happening in the world at this moment. Which is, in itself, a cruel joke on the reality of billions, and an absolute disgraceful way to channel public sensibility and attention. But as we said, it’s not by accident but design.
The second piece of unsought advice – which as everybody knows, if it had any value, it’d be charged anytime someone would offer it -is that one should always research when it comes to the news, so to have a few different streams of information before absorbing it.
That means that no one should rely on a single source of reporting, specially when there are so many to choose from. Again, without being too professorial here, it’s crucial to distinguish between what a news agency, or newspaper, is publishing, from the countless ‘aggregators’ and even syndicated vehicles, that repackage and often reproduce content without much double-checking for accuracy.
Such distinction is important because, for all their flaws and corporate tinge, organizations are liable by law to substantiate their reporting with tangible proof. And unless one is prepared to do just that, they’d better be transparent about what they say. Besides that, voicing opinions is everyone’s right, as is to say pretty much what they like, minus slandering. It’s a readers beware world out there.
The still thousands of papers circulating today, however, have something else in common: the majority is owned or controlled by a few billionaires, people and corporations, which in itself shouldn’t be a factor to impact independent reporting, but in practical terms, it is.
The modern concept of media ownership has completely trampled the anti-monopolist idea that prevailed in the 20th century, which prevented the creation of single-opinion news juggernauts. Not coincidentally, it was also the golden age of investigative journalism, and writers, editors, photographers and war correspondents, specially, were expected to have full autonomy to report on the military.
Such reign of the Fourth Estate, that of freedom of press, is no longer possible, at least, not in the way it used to. But some were very hopeful that the Internet, with its democratic access, would compensate for that, providing a fast medium for multiplying information.
Those are now bitterly disappointed, of course. Not just the majority of what’s considered news on the Internet is the product of single-minded individuals, carrying on their unique agendas, but that the powers that be have already moved in, to curb that so-called democratic spirit of free access to the Web. That fight is still going on and the threat of ending the Internet as we know it is very real.
So what’s left for the earnest citizen who wants to have a reasonable idea of what’s going on, both in the surrounding community and around the world? As we said, research. We’ll not insult your intelligence suggesting you how or where. Only that you must.
Check who’s saying what and why, and what did they say before. Ask where the reporting is coming from and whether it adds anything fresh to what you already know. Above all, make sure you’re getting views from both working people, deeply involved with the subject being discussed, and also certified experts, scientists, those who actually can prove they’ve studied and dedicated their lives to it.
Don’t get fooled by the pseudo unsophisticated, because they, as anyone, can only pass along what was fed them beforehand. Or by the pompous, know-it-all pundits, whose ‘expertise’ is never explicit. Use your noise to smell rats, and instinct, to read between the lines.
These are but a fraction of things one should consider before forming an opinion about any issue, including those directly affecting their lives. Critical thinking, like empathy and tenacity, is a muscle to be exercised, and the more one do it, the better to see the world.
We know there’s nothing new about what we’re saying here. But in the interest of preserving that precious gray matter that orients your decisions and path in life, we thought it’d be useful for you to know that you’re not alone feeling despair by what’s taken as news today.
We too go out of our minds trying to figure who, or what kind of invested interests, are behind of most of what we are bombarded on a daily basis, and every once in a while, it’s not just OK, but absolutely necessary to zoom out and, honestly, have a life of one’s own.
Striking this balance between what’s relevant to one’s private realities, and what’s important to be aware about the planet we all live in is what, ultimately, makes us functional human beings and citizens with an irrevocable right to have a political role in our society.
Unlike the illusion of the 25-hour cable news, no one can be ‘on’ all the time. Opinions must be loaded with facts, and go beyond a for-or-against approach. Searching for what’s real, or truthful, or barely palpable, is a progressive, ever-evolving effort, based on honesty of purpose and motives. It’s also a courageous and dangerous quest, as jails and cemeteries are loaded with many who’ve tried it.
Not to end on a full-blast bummer, discouraging note, though, we must add that one of the conditions to become better informed about the world has already been accomplished by many: people are generally more skeptical about what they read and watch on the news, judging by how many more outlets of information are sprouting about, and what they say when given a chance. Or so we hope.
Opinion polls, consumer quizzes, and most of all, elections, are also reliable ways of gauging such assumption. However, specifically about the news, it’s never too much to remind everyone that the most effective way of showing your dissatisfaction with the established media is not to support it. In other words, do not watch the news.
Or what they call as such. Even as the term has been all but wrongfully appropriated by corporations, and these days one often finds better content in the realm of so-called fake news, as in comedy shows of all places, we should still demand the right to be informed according to our needs as people, not as advertisers and war profiteers. Have a peaceful week ahead. WC

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2 thoughts on “Curtain Raiser

  1. Great, Wesley. It’s very good to stimulate people’s awareness in this way. For those, who already know, it reminds them hey are not alone, and for those who didn’t, it acts as an eyeopener.

    Like

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