Musings of a Recovering Lutheran: Journalism and sausage
O LORD, God of my salvation,
         I have cried out day and night before You.
Let my prayer come before You;
         Incline Your ear to my cry. 

Psalm 88:1-2 (NKJV)

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Journalism and sausage

There is an old saying that goes something like this: if you love sausage, don't ever watch it being made. As time went by, writing and passing laws was added to the things you might want to avoid watching while it is being created. Now Ed Driscoll reminds us that modern journalism is also something that cannot withstand much scrutiny.

Even before I was old enough to vote I have been skeptical of the modern media - especially television news. In my case it was a single news story - the failure of the nuclear power plant at Three Mile Island - that started my questioning of what I see, read and hear.

Those who were old enough to remember the events at TMI will never forget them. It was the subject of blanket coverage for weeks. I was in high school and took little notice of the outside world, yet this story was big enough to capture my attention. The eastern half of the United States was in imminent danger of a massive radiation leak, a calamity that could kill thousands and turn large sections of the country into a radioactive desert - or so the media narrative went.

One alarming thing that I noticed about the coverage of TMI by ABC, NBC, and CBS (the only sources of news available to me at the time) was the fact that it was amazingly uniform. There was little if any dissent from the prevailing anti-nuclear narrative. Groupthink seemed to be operating in full force.

It was shortly after TMI that I stared my undergraduate studies in electrical engineering. The more I investigated, the more that I realized that the journalists had gotten the TMI story wrong. Nor was this a case of missing a few facts or going a bit overboard for the sake of ratings. Subsequent stories about nuclear energy show the same pattern of fraud and deceit, a pattern that seems designed to panic people into blindly accepting the dominant media narrative.

The irony is that if you were to question these journalists, they would hotly deny that they are biased or did anything wrong. They deeply and sincerely believe that whatever it takes to advance their political agenda is both morally right and morally mandatory. Power always corrupts, and the technological power of modern journalism has created in too many journalists a "gatekeeper" mentality, in which they choose stories and facts in order to manipulate the dangerously ignorant unwashed heathen (the public).

After the massive failure of journalism regarding Three Mile Island (and nuclear energy in general) I began to question other dominant media narratives about the Cold War, racism, welfare, and other issues. Sometimes I found honest, accurate journalism. But far more often I uncovered lying, manipulation, and (occasionally) outright fabrication. Where were the "layers of fact checkers" that we have been told makes modern journalism trustworthy?

When Jesus warned us about false prophets (Matthew 24:11) He was speaking about false Messiahs and teachers. But the princes of this world are consistent, and lying to gain power is their trademark. Beware those who promise secular salvation if we just elect this person, or enact this law, or eliminate this racial group or religion, or outlaw "hate speech". What they usually deliver more closely resembles Hell than Heaven.

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