By Rob Meyne
- May 20, 2023
- 4-min read
If you ever feel like you are living in a different world than your friends, neighbors, or work mates, it is because you are. We may reside on the same planet, but the specifics that make up our “worlds” are distinct in infinite ways.
Our opinions on political issues are often in conflict because they are based on a completely different understanding of the facts. It is hard to overstate how much this contributes to national division.
Constructive policy can be developed through collaboration and compromise. But it is difficult to do that when you don’t even agree on the facts. Since we’re not making decisions based on a common, agreed upon set of data, it is inevitable there will be huge disagreements.
A variety of dynamic factors have led to this.
For one, the way we get information has changed more dramatically in the past two decades than at any time since a guy named Guttenberg was doing his thing. Newspapers, broadcast TV, and radio are still around, but their influence is waning. Cable and streaming services exert tremendous influence, as do podcasts, social media, and various subscription services.
Mainstream “corporate” media is still powerful, but its role has been largely usurped by digital communications that are accessible wirelessly. This diversification in communications – the way information is conveyed – is unprecedented and getting more complex.
Two, governmental agencies, mainstream media, tech companies, political organizations, and NGOs are very good at coordinating their activities, suppressing speech, and promoting only those messages that meet their preferred narratives. If you don’t believe this, spend ten minutes looking at the “Twitter Files.” It is no longer deniable that the CIA, FBI, and even the Democratic National Committee are able to censor stories on Twitter and other platforms on an ongoing basis.
As artificial intelligence gets more pervasive, it will become the source of editorial direction that impacts everything we see. It will make it easier to censor even accurate information long before it has a chance to enter your newsfeed or inbox.
Three, we have come to accept there is this thing called disinformation. To the average, walking-around citizen, who doesn’t think about such things day and night, it makes sense that someone might protect us from disinformation. How could disinformation be good? The problem is there is no way to determine what is disinformation. “Disinformation,” in 2023 America, is anything the people in charge don’t want you to see. Information isn’t censored because it is wrong; it is censored because the people in charge don’t like it.
During the pandemic, information was kept from the American people about several therapies that turned out to be quite effective in treating Covid. They said people who promoted Ivermectin or Hydroxychloroquine were spreading disinformation. As a result, people couldn’t access those drugs. Government and the drug companies didn’t want you to know about them. They had a vested interest, financially, in you getting vaccinations rather than you getting well.
Four, bias is more pervasive than ever. I long ago gave up hope we will live in a country where the media report news accurately and objectively. The good old days of Walter Cronkite and Paul Harvey probably weren’t as good as we want to think, but the public at the time at least had a generally consistent collection of information. Journalists today, by and large, don’t even pretend to be objective. They set out to mold opinion, and they do.
Five, some 85% of people today say they get most of their information from social media rather than traditional news sources. That should not be comforting. Delivering factual stories about essential national issues was never even a tertiary goal of social media companies. That isn’t what they do. Plus, many people no doubt “get their news” from friends and anonymous organizations who are unencumbered by objectivity, knowledge, or ethics.
Any screen that has a lot of eyes on it is an opportunity to make money, so governments, campaigns, and non-governmental organizations descend on social outlets like maggots on a rotting carcass (try looking at a maggot, now, and NOT picturing Mark Zuckerberg). Today, platforms that were designed so you could post cat videos and pictures of your new hair cut have morphed into the main source of information on the proliferation of a deadly virus or pronouncements from the Fed. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
It would be lovely to finish this piece by recommending the one or two news sources that are thorough and objective. That isn’t possible. On the other hand, all news outlets aren’t equally flawed, either. Generally speaking, it is fair to say that the New York Post, WSJ, Washington Examiner, or Louisville Courier-Journal are more objective and thorough than the NYT or WAPO. The Blaze, Just the News, Newsmax and FOX are generally more reliable than their competitors, too, but no one is perfect. Consumers of news should be careful and incredulous. Most are not.
The “truth” is still possible to find, but you won’t locate it by tuning in to just any one network or reading just one paper.
The real question: If we are to save our nation – to ensure we are still a functioning Constitutional Republic a century down the road – requires that a substantial portion of us be concerned about our country, cognizant of the paucity of reliable information, and have the ability to ferret out the truth and act on it. It’s a pretty big ask when people are busy dealing with the exigencies of life.
I wouldn’t bet Grandma’s kidney that the American people will suddenly become unbiased and intelligent consumers of news. I would prefer that our national survival depend on something more likely to happen like, oh, drawing to an inside straight with a thousand dollars in the pot at the Mirage.
It could happen, and I pray it does, but you might want to learn how to like living in “1984” just to be sure.