Saturday, June 25, 2016

"Journalists and politicians have become ensnared in a symbiotic web of lies that misleads the public"; Hat Tip Allen Johnson

"The U.S. press, like the U.S. government, is a corrupt and troubled institution. Corrupt not so much in the sense that it accepts bribes but in a systemic sense. It fails to do what it claims to do, what it should do, and what society expects it to do.


The news media and the government are entwined in a vicious circle of mutual manipulation, mythmaking, and self-interest. Journalists need crises to dramatize news, and government officials need to appear to be responding to crises. Too often, the crises are not really crises but joint fabrications. The two institutions have become so ensnared in a symbiotic web of lies that the news media are unable to tell the public what is true and the government is unable to govern effectively...

Greensboro's non-government sponsored downtown riot that wasn't

A pretty good redistricting map which increased minority representation

Take, for example, the long effort in the 1980s to eliminate the federal deficit... For several years, newspapers, magazines, and television newscasts ran hundreds of stories on the debates..., the views of all sorts of experts on the urgent need for deficit reduction, and the eventual enactment of the legislation. Politicians postured—and were described—as working diligently to get a grip on the deficit. Anyone who read a newspaper or watched television news received the message that Congress and the Reagan administration were heroically and painfully struggling to contain government spending and reduce the deficit.

Water and Sewer tax increase

City Council wanting a referendum on a couple million in debt
after borrowing more than $50 million without one

Behind the smoke screen, however, congressional committees and federal officials were increasing spending and adding new programs in the routine annual budgeting and appropriations processes.

STPAC, DGI, First Tee at Gillespie, Triad Stage etc...

When journalists reported on a new program, they usually characterized it as good news—the government tackling another problem—rather than as an addition to the budget and the deficit.

Susan Ladd on the regressive water and sewer tax hike

Journalists conspired with politicians to create an image of a government fighting to end the deficit crisis, but they ignored the routine procedures that increased the deficit. As a result, Weaver writes, “there were no news stories about government adding to the deficit even though that was what was happening.”

The news media and the government have created a charade that serves their own interests but misleads the public. Officials oblige the media’s need for drama by fabricating crises and stage-managing their responses, thereby enhancing their own prestige and power. Journalists dutifully report those fabrications. Both parties know the articles are self-aggrandizing manipulations and fail to inform the public about the more complex but boring issues of government policy and activity.

...“The culture of lying,” he writes, “is the discourse and behavior of officials seeking to enlist the powers of journalism in support of their goals, and of journalists seeking to co-opt public and private officials into their efforts to find and cover stories of crisis and emergency response. It is the medium through which we Americans conduct most of our public business (and a lot of our private business) these days.” The result, he says, is a distortion of the constitutional role of government into an institution that must continually resolve or appear to resolve crises; it functions in “a new and powerful permanent emergency mode of operation.”

...The rise of television has increased the demand for drama in news, and the explosion in lobbyists and special-interest groups has expanded the number of actors and the range of conflicts.

...many companies have become adept at promoting the version of reality they want the public and government officials to believe. ...corporate propagandist. Companies now routinely use persuasion and image making, whether to attract political allies through philanthropy (Philip Morris Companies), to promote their economic interests (Mobil Oil Corporation), or to deflect critics of their products and processes (McDonald’s Corporation).

As a result, business has become a prominent player in the manipulation of perception and in the corruption of the public policy process. often has a dual identity, an external façade and an internal reality, much like the Japanese duality of tatemae (appearance) and honne (reality). “On the surface there was a made-up public story put out for the purpose of manipulating others in ways favorable to the story makers,” he writes. “Behind that was another story, known to those immediately involved and to outsiders with the knowledge to decode it, concerning the making of the public story and the private objectives it was meant to advance. The two stories, or realities, were often wildly at odds with each other. In the real world, the role of the press was to promote public illusions and private privilege.”

The press corrupts itself, the public policy process, and the public’s perceptions when it seeks out and propagates dueling cover stories, with their drama, conflict, and quotable advocates, but fails to discover or report the underlying realities. The press prints the news but not the truth. It reports in detail the competing propaganda of the conflicting interests but largely neglects the substance of the issue in conflict. can change perceptions, and perceptions often become reality. Adverse leaks or innuendos about a government official often lead to his or her loss of influence, resignation, or dismissal. The stock market is also fertile ground for planted stories...

...much of what appears in the newspapers as business news is nothing more than corporate propaganda.

...the prevalence of propaganda in the press is that the public’s confidence in all institutions gradually erodes. As people begin to realize that they are being misled, manipulated, and lied to, they resent it.

...the press is far too willing to accept government officials’ self-promoting versions of events. has become a victim of the man-bites-dog syndrome. “What’s actually going on in the real world is the ordinary business of ordinary institutions,” he writes. “What officials and reporters converge on, therefore, are travesties, not real events. The news stops representing the real world and begins to falsify it. The barter transaction between newsmaker and journalist degenerates into an exercise in deceit, manipulation, and exploitation.”

...the U.S. public has come to rely on facts, data, surveys, and presumably scientific studies. People are increasingly reluctant to believe any assertion that is not supported by statistical research. ...“more and more of the information we use to buy, elect, advise, acquit and heal has been created not to expand our knowledge but to sell a product or advance a cause.”

A growing industry has thus developed to create the research to legitimize policy positions or marketing objectives. Public policy debates now commonly revolve around competing estimates of cost, effectiveness, or risk, rather than around the intrinsic merits of a proposal.

...the overuse and misuse of polls. How questions are worded and how samples are chosen can have a huge impact on the responses. ...Concocted or inaccurate surveys and studies taint our perceptions of what is true, and they distort public policy debates. ...the media’s desire for drama encourages the distortion and corruption of public decision making. “The media are willing victims of bad information, and increasingly they are producers of it. They take information from self-interested parties and add to it another layer of self-interest—the desire to sell information.”