Dr. Tim Groseclose, a professor of political science and economics at UCLA, wrote a book–“Left Turn–How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind– about the 2005 study he and Jeffry Milyo conducted of media bias. Now a new Gallup poll reveals the public’s view of the media:
“Americans’ distrust in the media hit a new high this year, with 60% saying they have little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly.”
These developments are a sharp contrast to the concept of journalists’ calling in the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists:
“Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist’s credibility.”
Those lofty sentiments have been replaced by something called advocacy journalism, “the use of journalism techniques to promote a specific political or social cause.*” Advocacy journalism is a natural fit for progressivism. Both are anti-democratic and based on the assumption that the electorate is too dumb to know what is best for it without expert guidance.
Journalists may think they are doing the Lord’s work when they shill for government, particular ideas and/or candidates. But it’s the other guy’s work they are doing.
Journalists play a dangerous game when they cease “providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues” and become the lapdog of government instead of its watchdog. Censorship as an instrument of political power is only an anomaly in America, and perhaps not for long.
Most recently Nancy Pelosi and congressional Democrats proposed legislation to control political speech by neutering the First Amendment. In true Orwellian fashion they call it the People’s Rights Amendment.
In 2010 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) floated a plan to “reinvent” journalism by putting government bureaucrats in charge of the media. It is not surprising that government would want to control the information options technology makes available to consumers.
President Obama publicly attacked Fox News and Talk Radio for ideas offensive to him, including, not coincidently, criticisms of his policies.
A Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule to control the Internet using a bogus premise that there was a problem they had to fix was defeated in 2011.
Now because of a video, falsely blamed for Middle East violence by the Obama administration, a renewed effort has been launched to censor free speech.
Jacob Mchangama in a December 2011 Policy Review reminds that the Soviet Union and allies were responsible for introducing “hate-speech” prohibitions into international law. “Their motive was readily apparent. The communist countries sought to exploit such laws to limit free speech.”
As blogger Mats Tunehag wrote in July of this year:
“Freedom of speech is about making room for opinions that may make us uncomfortable. It is for the politically incorrect, for minority views, for the odd, and also for the ordinary. This is the basis for political debate and activity. It is a basis for freedom of press, art and religion. You cannot have freedom of speech and at the same time guarantee that no one should feel offended or hurt. However, it is guaranteed that if freedom of expression is curtailed then democracy is endangered.”
History is clear that whether overt by government, or covert as in advocacy journalism, efforts to curtail information and expression end badly.
These thoughts were much in this commentator’s mind as I read an Associated Press story (byline, Robert Burns) in the September 21 issue of the AZ Republic.
Sometimes spin is subtle and sometimes not so subtle. When I read the headline, “Obama record in the Mideast is mixed” I expected the worst and I was not disappointed.
“Washington – Images of angry mobs in Arab cities burning American flags and attacking U.S. diplomatic posts suggest the Muslim world is no less enraged at the United States than when President George W. Bush had to duck shoes hurled at him in Bagdad.”
Since when are two size 10 shoes hurled at Bush by a disgruntled Iraqi journalist on a par with the murder of four Americans (including an Ambassador) and rampaging mobs shouting anti-America slogans while torching our embassies?
The rest of the article isn’t much better. The author neatly covers Obama’s gaff of not knowing if Egypt is friend or foe by writing: “Obama is not ready to call Mohammad Morsi, the popularly elected Egyptian president an ally.” Burns expends considerable ink on quoting Obama apologists: “He inherited a very damaged U.S. credibility” so it would be “unrealistic” to expect his “new beginning would take hold fast.” The great man himself is cited twice. In a nod to balance, Senator John McCain’s criticism of Obama’s Middle East policy is also included.
Burn’s summation is telling. He writes: “Such is the complicated progress report that Obama carries toward the United Nations General Assembly next week…”
Maybe I’m not the only one who read the article and questioned the writer’s interpretation of progress.
*The International Encyclopedia of Communication.