Someone posted in a Facebook group I belong to, about a conversation she had with a Homeland Security agent. The gist of it was that she asked what he was doing, he said he was protecting the “homeland” from scary people. This resulted in a conversation about the Muslim ban and what regular citizens can do if we believe our country is heading in the wrong direction. The agent told her that the problem isn’t the administration, the problem is “the media.” He said that the executive order isn’t a Muslim ban and that the media is lying to us.

He suggested that it would be best if the media were shut down.

So, I read this, and once I had put a cold compress on my head to deal with the bruising it took when I bashed it into the wall, I gave it some thought.

And here’s what I don’t understand. The news media report on events. They don’t create the events, they report. The media outlets tell us what is in the executive orders. They don’t create them, they don’t make up fake executive orders and tell us they have been passed. They tell us about something that actually happened, and in the case of many news outlets, provide supplemental interpretation from experts (e.g.: immigration lawyers about the immigration ban, judicial experts about Supreme Court nominees, etc.).

Yes, it’s true that some outlets swing right and some swing left, but if we’re talking about actual news outlets (as opposed to click-bait fake news sites) we’re talking about institutions that have people on staff who go out, track down information about what is happening, and report on it.

Does anyone remember junior high science class? Where we learned about the difference between observation and interpretation? Journalists in the “real news” outlets are still making the distinction. Interpretations are in the opinion section and observations are in the news sections.

So, why hate the media? Why hate the reporters of facts instead of laying the blame at the feet of those who are creating the facts? I know that we humans have a bad habit of blaming the bearers of bad news, but we also have a parable about the importance of NOT blaming the bearer of bad news, which makes me think that as a species, we have realized that it’s wrong to mix up the source of unpleasantness with the observer/reporter of unpleasantness.

So, I would say, if you think that you don’t like the media think about what it is you don’t like. Is it that you don’t like hearing about unpleasant things happening? Is it that you don’t like seeing your elected officials behave abominably? Would it be better if they did it all under the cover of darkness? Would that make things better?

Do some people really believe that if you don’t have to see it you can pretend it’s not happening? Or do they think that our newspapers are lying to us? And if that, how do we explain the instances where they report on things that we have actually seen with our own eyes (examples: the two executive orders banning people from select majority Muslim countries; Rump’s ridicule of a disabled man; the crowd size at Rump’s inauguration) and have been vilified for “fake news?”

I say this – we can’t always control what goes on in government. As American citizens we have rights that give us the ability to try – to make our voices heard, to let our elected officials know that we’re watching and will hold them accountable and to use our votes to effect change if we don’t like what the current elected officials are doing. In order to use our powers effectively we need to know what’s going on, and furthermore we have a right to know what’s going on with the people who work for us. If you hate “the media” and think they should be shut down, think about what that would really mean for us as citizens.

 

Posted by lesherjennifer

3 Comments

    1. Thank you!

      On Wed, Mar 15, 2017 at 8:37 AM, Jennifer Lesher wrote:

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  1. From what I understand, those who say things like “the media is lying to us and they should all be shut down” actually believe that all mainstream media outlets are involved in basically a vast conspiracy to literally lie and obscure the truth. The only sources of true facts are right-wing sources like Breitbart and sometimes Fox News (but for a lot of these people, even Fox is too left-leaning sometimes).

    They do not accept your argument that even media outlets with a particular political slant still base their reporting on facts, because they simply don’t see the difference between plain facts and the conclusions that some media outlets draw from them. They are completely incapable of objectivity — everything is subjective to them. They also are completely incapable of putting themselves in someone else’s place, unless that someone is essentially just like them. That’s why they have no empathy for the people who are being oppressed by Trump’s policies.

    I should mention that there are people like this who hold left-leaning beliefs as well. Lack of logical thinking is not limited to the right.

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