Ever since there has been a way to convey informationspoken language, perhaps even body language?there has been the immediate by-product of misinformation. It is a reasonable assumption to say that nothing presented as information of any sort can ever be fully true, particularly if that information is coming from a limited number of sources. However, the introduction of media that offered the possibility of providing information to increasingly larger numbers of people has only proven to come with more undesirable effects. In times even as recently as the 1800's and early 1900's, when newspapers were the dominant mass media, the public was more prepared to know how specific information affected them and how it affected them personally. Additionally, the linguistic tradition that existed prior to mass media encouraged discursive thought and demanded patience from the public, who could decide for themselves how they felt about a particular issue. As Neil Postman wrote in Amusing Ourselves to Death, events such as the Lincoln-Douglas debate were met with enthusiasm from a public who yearned to know for themselves, and who would ultimately decide for themselves based on in-depth analytical information they received.
[...] Where did our demand for information The implication is that the mass media is what has done the bulk of the damage, which is true, but disregards earlier forms of media and, more significantly, the very nature of people. It is true that television news has become more and more irrelevant, but the roots of misinformation presented as information and entertainment presented as news are much deeper than television itself. The most important difference between newspapers of the time and debates such as the Lincoln-Douglas ones was not that the audience was getting information directly from the source (which they were) or that debates provided a more in-depth analytical forum for the individuals who were presenting information (which it did). [...]
[...] The diminishing ownership of mass media has directly affected not only the way the American public receives information, but the kind of information they receive and the level of contentment they express for compromised content. Huge corporations, sharing political interests, are satisfied with the political status quo as long as it continues to encourage and support them. In their programming, the media finds a way to ensure the same political contentment amongst their audience by removing information from context and convincing the viewer that they are still being informed somehow. [...]
[...] And to keep viewers both entertained and not skeptical of the misinformation we continually receive, the media does a sleight-of-hand tricking by turning the news into entertainment. Turning the news into entertainment isn't as difficult as it sounds, even with news items that wouldn't seem to be too fantastic. Obviously, a major event like a terrorist attack in New York City is a Jerry Bruckheimer film equivalent in the news world, but even the everyday proceedings of politicians can be turned into entertainment. [...]
[...] Mass media owners are obviously content with the political state, considering that as long as the capitalist society they exist in keeps silent about their practices, so they wouldn't choose to expose wrongdoings in the political world that would clash with their ability to continue to grow and conglomerate. As a result, the audience receives a picture of the government and politics that isn't perfect—that wouldn't be believable—but isn't bad enough to do anything about. The administrations of Republican presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan are perfect examples of this idea. [...]
[...] With five corporations owning the vast majority of media outlets in the nation, the purpose of the media today is essentially to maintain the status quo—the media moguls are content with the economic and political state of the country because they continue to make more and more profit. Therefore, the dwindling number of mega corporations has slowly but steadily had two major effects on content and programming; the first is removing the necessity for hard information, which has become less and less in demand the more the media makes the public as content as they are with the status quo, and the second is finding narrative structure in politics or other potentially newsworthy material in order to maintain ratings. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee