Many of us read the papers or watch TV and assume there is some kind of gatekeeper watching any and every thing that is published. We assume that such a gatekeeper evaluates every item that is published against certain criteria that we never fully formulate even in our own heads.
We expect out and out lies to be seen and stopped before ever they reach us. We expect the many and varied media to be both honest and transparent. Why we do so is a mystery as virtually none of them are.
Why is it that even the most cynical, hard bitten, hard-headed thinker is convinced that because a certain newspaper printed it it must be true? That the news on a particular TV channel is both complete and completely unbiased?
The media of all it’s hues employs many fine and honest people, who are well intentioned and fair minded. Unfortunately, like the rest of us, they have to pay their bills. The people who bankroll them have certain expectations, and they will only continue with their support if those expectations are met. And, whilst biting the hand that feeds is a fine old tradition, one can only go so far before that hand is withdrawn.
This doesn’t mean that everything in the media is a lie, it means that everything in the media should be evaluated against the knowledge that there is a bottom line. Additionally, there is a paradigm of “what is interesting to the audience” that limits what is reported. The news, as Terry Pratchett so beautifully put it, is very often the “olds”. (As a matter of fact his book “The Truth” is woven through with an insightful critique of the media, which is not surprising when you know that Sir Terry worked in newspapers for a number of years.)
But it isn’t just what is reported, or even if it is reported honestly, that is an issue. What of the things that aren’t reported at all? What of the things that are so oversimplified that they become a misrepresentation? What of the things that are over-reported and become distorted because of that?
The media doesn’t have to be dishonest to mislead us. It has it’s own rules, it’s just they are not necessarily the ones we think they are, let alone should be. What they leave out is often more important to us as individuals than what they put in. Whatever they currently focus on inflates it’s importance in most people’s minds, without them consciously evaluating why.
And we are encouraged to think that the things that are not reported are not important or are delusions of “cranks”. As a cranky crank I stopped reading newspapers many years ago, reading between the lines and evaluating every sentence became tiring and unrewarding.
Finding the wholesale trivialization and distortion of a large proportion of the population angered me. Reading articles that were blatantly designed to stir up hatred and divide the population further infuriated me. The whole blame culture made me ashamed, but not as ashamed as the blame the victim culture that the current Conservative/Liberal Democrat government encourages.
Iced on the top of everything else is the prurient celebrity obsessed culture. Which raises unfortunate individuals to a precarious pedestal and then knocks them off, often in the most unkind ways possible.
I find it deeply upsetting that firstly these poor souls are raised up, supposedly, above everyone else; that their private lives are then scrutinised with a magnifying glass; and then, when they are found to be human, they are cast aside and ridiculed. We might want heroes and gods, but can we not be kinder about it. It is not fair to expect anyone to meet the impossible expectations of the celebrity media.
But in addition to setting some people up for a painful fall, celebrity culture is negative in another way, it trivialises and devalues our lives. It tells us we are not important. And we are important, every single one of us is vitally important. No one is more important than you are, and don’t you forget it!