Inspection- What “News Media?”

Two angry friends or roommates arguing and threatening in the living room at home


by Ken Carman

 It’s been a long hideous path from a more civil and objective news media to “Here is what the _____ REALLY want” (whatever goes into the blank). It’s been a long hideous path from the civility expected at the wider gatherings of Inspectionfamily and friends, to Trump, Junior, encouraging the right to trigger the left during Thanksgiving dinner and the bloodbath that drowns a free nation in the rising flood of politically triggered mass shootings.
 But I think these are all symptoms of a virus grown in the huge Petri dish created by the deregulation of the media. The fantasy that deregulation is a cure for everything is a nasty nightmare, and the deregulation of the news media has created a toxic virus; especially when it comes to how we handle discourse and our anger, our fears, when we aren’t getting our way politically.
 Right now we have little to no true news media.
 One Facebook poster commented on one of the pages I visit that he found The Young Turks covered the news better, more fairly, than MSNBC or Fox or… I resisted the temptation of answering back with the confrontational, “YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING!” or “REALLY???”
 Confrontational, as studies have shown, does nothing to make anyone “think.” People get more protective of their views, even get more extreme.
 So instead I offered a commentary explaining why there is very little to no news media these days. Almost all is news-based entertainment, or newsfotainment. TYT is a strongly partisan source but the others often are too: either worse or somewhat watered down. People rarely hear what might challenge them to rethink their stances because newsfotainment has helped turn us so partisan too many people just dismiss everything else. We also don’t hear it because we have multiple channels that tells us what we want to hear, follow the newsfotainment format. Seems everyone has their personal partisan, sometimes little more than propagandist-driven, Nirvana.
 Except those who prefer thinking to following.
 Oh the news kind of sucked before Bill Clinton deregulated the news media: another one of his calculated attempts to also reach out to the right. Even he admits that backfired, was a mistake. Yes it sucked but news media sources: far less plentiful at the time, were nowhere near as bad as it is now.
 Currently I have MSNBC on in the background while I type this and they just finished covering recent stabbings, shootings, hate crimes. After a minute or so after Joe and his crew are now spending far more time commenting on what we should think about that. I have the same reaction to that that I had to the first time I heard Rush Limbaugh say, “I will do your thinking for you.” That reaction is, “NO, YOU WON’T.”
 Doesn’t matter what skew there is to the commentary, commentary-based news isn’t news. In the 60s Walter Cronkite enraged supporters of Nam with an editorial at the end of the cast that was definitely NOT pro-the war. I had no problem with it because it was at the end, brief and clearly labeled as an editorial that does not reflect upon the corporation. I imagine most news professionals back then would be angered by what has become of journalism. Since then the news media has been reorganized to cheer on our anger, make us hate those considered to be politically incorrect, inspire those on the edge into horrific acts. I just noticed my Direct TV has doubled to tripled their channels providing highly partisan-driven newsfotainment. Satellite and cable has gone from FOX, and the more recent Newsmax (Which I call the “Liberals are Nazis channel.”) to adding RT (Putin approved propaganda), some weird channel that has a banana character that in one segment promoted Stalin as a kind, heroic, leader (STALIN???), OAN… short list. Yes there are somewhat newer leftward ones too, like Link, Young Turks, but no one can claim the left invests more in pure newsfotainment than the right. Not even close.
 Why are we so divided as a nation? Easy: division is a very profitable business model. Not just from the left or the right: from all sides. If you scroll through satellite or cable channels you will notice we have more sources that claim to be news sources than we ever have had before. But so many sinply aren’t news channels. They are newsfotainment with the emphasis on strongly on “fotainment.” And if it didn’t complicate my invented word I would tag “news” with “faux.”  We actually have less real news. Real news lets us do our own thinking. The old majors: CBS, NBC and ABC newscasts are now mostly pitiful coverage of national news and local on their newscasts. Oh, also weather, sports and traffic on the affiliates. I suspect if the trend continues those will mimic newfotainment so much the difference will eventually be no difference at all. Hate and division is profitable, like a WWE grudge match. And often just as staged therefore phony.
 Internet-based changes have made this worse. Debate sites where one would be sanctioned for ad hominem attacks have been giving way to bully enabling Facebook. Facebook is increasingly giving way to hate tweets.
 Solutions? I firmly believe if the media leads us away from insult-based communication the public will eventually follow, and those who lag behind become easier to dismiss. How do we do that? Reregulate. I learned a long ago there are bad regulations and good regulations. Reregulate any media source that is news based. Free speech no loner free if it’s all about profit and a bad, oppressive, business model. Where licensed it must be part of the license. Newsfotainment must be labeled as opinion.
 Require the media to carry public interest information, like access by opposing views. Some of this will require changes in our highest court to get better rulings.
 When money is speech and corporations are people speech not sponsored by them is like a whisper in the winds of Saturn.
 Oh, and to facilitate all this let’s stiffen and shift the focus of our laws against slander. Maybe networks and internet-based sources that consistently allow pinheads to call other people pinheads, tell lies that destroy reputation, skew elections, maybe murder encouraging phrases like, “Tiller the Killer,” might find their profits transferred to the pockets of those they slander, seek to defame, or their survivors when they inspire murder.
 We need to provide disincentives for those who claim to provide “news” when they encourage hate and domestic terrorism. That way the worst of the worst might find themselves out of a job, and in the worst cases in prison.

                                                  -30-
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 40 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks, and into the unseen cracks and crevasses, that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
©Copyright 2020
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
all rights reserved