In 1876 Alfred Nobel, Swedish chemist and innovator, invented dynamite. At the time he was attempting to invent a substance to replace nitroglycerin, an unstable compound that killed his younger brother in a factory incident. While his intentions were good – or should I say noble, the unintended consequences were far-reaching, and not so good. To his credit, he attempted to redeem himself by creating and funding the Nobel Peace prizes.
While Ted Turner didn’t invent dynamite, nor cause the carnage that results from it … his actions may be every bit as detrimental to the American (and in some ways the world’s) societal and political landscape.
On Monday, April 15 – in the hours following what will forever be known as the Marathon Bombing, the New York Post reported casualties from the terrorism to be at least fifteen and a Saudi nationalist was being held at a Boston hospital suspected of the crime. CNN also reported an arrest had been made. It turned out only three died and no suspect was being held anywhere.
On Wednesday, April 17 – the small town of West, Texas, twenty miles north of Waco, witnessed the devastation of a massive fertilizer plant explosion. Later in the day, CNN reported the death toll to be fifty, with possibilities of more as the rumble is removed. Five days later and the majority of recovery efforts completed; the actual number of fatalities stands at fourteen … not fifty.
In the weeks leading up to the Marathon Bombing, every major media outlet covered the impending doom to come from a nuclear attack by North Korea. Anyone, and everyone who had even a remote knowledge of the situation was trotted out in front of the cameras to pontificate. Then came Boston … and it was as if the North Korean threat had vanished in a puff of smoke, a non-nuclear one at that.
Since the creation of CNN in Atlanta in 1980 by Ted Turner, twenty-four hour coverage has become ubiquitous, it’s everywhere … all the time. When Turner shared his idea of a twenty-four hour a day news network, he was scoffed by his peers; “What are you going fill twenty-fours a day with! There isn’t enough news.” Turner believed there was, and of course around the world there is. There’s things of importance, things that we should all be informed of happening all the time. In theory, the benefits of a network like CNN are enormous. The more the public is informed, the better off we all will be – especially concerning situations oversees in countries we know little if nothing about. In practice however, it turns out this is not the case.
In 1996, as a political counter balance to what was seen as the liberal leaning views of CNN, Rupert Murdoch launched the conservative Fox News with Roger Ailes at the helm – former media consultant for Republican presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush. The same year NBC upped the anty with MSNBC. As conservative as Fox was, MSNBC was liberal and progressive.
While CNN lays claim to be “The Most Trusted Name In News,” the siblings it spawned claim only to ignite their bases with their endless rhetoric backing up their philosophical views. While this unbiased reporting is bad enough, it’s the endless repetition of the same stories “over and over and over” again that really does the damage. As the advertising icon David Ogilvy used say; “It doesn’t matter what you say … if you say enough times, they’ll believe it.” This repetition sets the agenda of we, the viewing public, is to deem important and a priority, no matter what the slant. It leaves little time or attention to be allocated to other worthy subjects and issues.
And this repetitive over simplification of our world does stop with CNN, Fox and MSNBC. Being no longer the only game in town; the traditional network news departments followed suit. It’s hard to believe that the only thing of importance in the world during the course of the last week is the Marathon Bombing. If you were an alien from Mars and just landed … you’d think so. And on top of it, facts seems to have little use in reporting anymore, as the above examples demonstrate. As long as there is a source, any source – the story is worthy of being published. After after, isn’t the first one out with “scoop” what matters, no matter the validity.
The networks’ rationalization of this policy is; “This is what our viewing public wants.” Well how can they want anything else if they don’t even know about it! Walter Cronkite is probably rolling over in his grave, digging at the roof of his coffin in attempt to get out and knock some sense into this current generation of so-called journalists.
So began the dumbing down and polarizing of America. And we have Ted Turner to thank for it.
Never in modern times has America been so polarized, with each side (but especially the conservatives) appearing incapable of achieving middle ground or compromising. The right reinforce their ideologies by falling in “lock step” with Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Ann Coulter of Fox. While the left won’t miss an episode of Rachel Maddow or Ed Schultz.
We see the result of this in Congress. Nothing gets accomplished. Nothing! The good of the country be damned. The only thing that matters is to further the ideology. I feel like we all jumped into a time machine a drifted back seven hundred years ago to the fifteenth century, the time before the advent of logical thought.
Not in decades have we had such an uninformed public. The majority fall for the unabated lies being spewed endlessly by Super Pacs and special interest groups. The media, both cable and network report what’s being said, with complete disregard on whether it’s the truth or not. This is especially the case when politicians are allowed airtime.
A few of the citizenry ignore this Tower of Babel babble and search the internet and beyond for news and opinions existing on both sides of the ideological fence to make up their own minds. But these people are few. And unfortunately, decisions in government are made for the benefit the special interests as they manipulate the “great uninformed” to follow the tune of their Pied Piper flute.
I’m not saying I endorse one ideological stance over another, even though I do. That’s not the purpose of this piece. Normally I try to propose a solution, a call to action. But today … I don’t have one. I believe I’m probably preaching to the choir. If you’re reading this than you’re probably one of the few I described in the previous paragraph. You’re already there.
All I can say is too keep striving for knowledge. The more informed we are, the better our defenses are to keep the agenda of myopic simplistic mass media at bay.