Friday, July 31, 2020

Thank You Journalists

How did we get to the point where a no brainer common sense idea (wearing a face mask during a pandemic) became something debated?  I blame the news media, and the way they've allowed the Conservative Right and big business to push them around since the 1990's.

Journalism used to be far fiercer than it is today.  I remember as a kid the persistence they had.  I was too young to remember the Nixon resignation, but I saw them go after major companies and industries.  They helped break up the Bell Telephone company by exposing the true costs of making calls (something the company had insisted was much higher).  I remember them taking on big tobacco, armed with copious evidence tobacco caused cancer.  The Industry denied it for years but eventually had to admit the truth when whistleblowers started coming out, at the encouragement of journlists.

I do understand the news media has been consolidated down due to costs, and indeed the failure of modern journalism can be directly linked to the shrinking of news room staff, the elimination of investigative journalism and the ever creeping tentacles of the sales department working their way into the editorial process.

I was working in rural Iowa in the mid 90's and we had a massive car accident which shut down two roads.  It was caused by the son of the local auto dealership owner driving drunk.  Obviously this was a major story, but after the 6:30 AM news update, the story was completely dropped from the airwaves.  The car dealership owner called the station and bluntly said they would not spend another dime on the station if the story ran again.  Money trumped the truth.

But even with these restrictions, journalism still had the ability to NOT make a really sucky product.  They instead made the decision to copy the new trend in news media, blatantly pro Republican news.  This how we got to the place we're at today.

Pro Republican news did report some news, but its goal was opinion validation.  They knew there were plenty of people who hated when the truth about the Right came to light, and so it was not a surprise they got good ratings by burying the bad news.  I've talked on the blog in the past about how these news outlets had great ratings (Fox News had 15 million viewers at times) but that it was still a small portion of the population (15 Million is only about 5% of the entire population).  Because those viewer numbers were big (in relation to normal ratings of the time), and with them came big sponsorship deals, right wing media was mimicked within most major news organizations.  A lot of news media was gearing their product to only 20 to 30 Million Americans.

Conservatives started taking advantage of that.  The Big Tobacco story earlier will help you understand the change.  Sure there were tobacco industry doctors and research which insisted smoking was safe, but no legitimate journalist would allow such a lie to effectively become a counterpoint to the anti-smoking science, especially in the 80's and 90's. But when we got to similar debate in climate change, Conservatives started a new tactic.  They demanded oil/coal/natural gas scientists be allowed on the air as counterpoint to the climate change scientists.  If the news media didn't allow industry stooges to scream talking points, they were accused of denying "a fair argument over unproven science" strictly on a political level.  They threatened to label the news outlets 'liberal.'  With money in news media being tied to a conservative leaning, news outlets cowered in fear, forever sacrificing their journalistic integrity.

Not only did this insanity give credence to 'fringe at best' arguments (if as many scientists who believed climate change was real in the 1990's also believed Twinkies staved off cancer, Hostess would've been the biggest company on the planet) but it also was the beginning of screaming psychopaths being given a stage they did not deserve.

From the turn of the century we've watched journalism slide further and further into the abyss:  they didn't investigate 9/11, they sure didn't investigate the justifications of the Iraq War, they didn't investigate Katrina effectively, they didn't catch the clear warning signs the economy was in trouble in 2007, they allowed a grossly unqualified Palin to go unchecked on a major ticket, they encouraged psychopaths screaming about birth certificates, they constantly followed Fox News around as Fox made up scandals on Obama, they turned two Ebola cases in the US into round the clock coverage until they mysteriously stop talking about Ebola completely on election day 2014, they turned a narcissistic, petulant man child into a legit presidential candidate by constantly giving him free air time, and they constantly allowed Trump to get away with impeachable offense after impeachable offense by simply shrugging their shoulders.

At this point, the Conservatives, because the news media does such a horrific job, thinks they can make up science and facts whenever they don't like what's being told to them. This is how we get to a point where face masks are vilified during a pandemic.

So thank you journalists! Your crap work has irreparably damaged this country. It's great to see you start to wake up now that we have a pandemic, economic crisis, humanitarian crisis, and a threat of a totalitarian regime, but I have complete faith you'll fail horribly in doing anything to stop this country crumbling around us, while immediately returning to your "doing what the Conservatives tell us to do" crap work the minute a Democrat is back in charge.

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