When the founding fathers first drafted the Constitution they had the benefit of hindsight to help them craft an instrument that would protect the citizens of the new United States of America from the same injustices which led them to revolt and break away from Great Britain in the first place. Never again would they be taxed without representation; told who, what, and when they could worship; or be left without a voice capable of making a difference.
At the time of our nation’s inception, the Founders believed that the open, free exchange of ideas was necessary for the survival of a representative democracy. That is why it was so important to take measures insuring freedom of speech and freedom of the press. In the last 200+ years since the Bill of Rights was finally ratified, these two freedoms, in particular, have become hotly debated, contested, misapplied, and abused in general. No more so than by the fourth estate, AKA the press, AKA the media.
In 1949, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) introduced the Fairness Doctrine, which required holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was – in the Commission’s view – honest, equitable, and balanced. This was driven by a concern that the three main television networks at the time – NBC, ABC, and CBS – could use their broadcast licenses to set a biased public agenda. The FCC eliminated the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 because,
it was complicit in brainwashing viewers with the proliferation of cable television and the Internet, the FCC deemed the doctrine unconstitutional and a detriment to the public instead of in the public’s best interest. Over the years there have been a number of unsuccessful attempts to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. In October 2008, Senator Bingaman (D-NM) told a talk radio host:
I would want this station and all stations to have to present a balanced perspective and different points of view. All I’m saying is that for many, many years we operated under a Fairness Doctrine in the country, and the country was well-served. I think the public discussion was at a higher level and more intelligent in those days than it has become since.
While I may not go so far as to suggest the Fairness Doctrine be reinstated, I do agree that something needs to be done. Freedom of the Press was meant to bring the workings of our government into the public forum in order to add another check and balance to the system – to hold the government accountable to the people. It was not meant to sway the people and proliferate ignorance in the common population. And yet, that is exactly what we have today – a media that forms rather than informs and uses perception and omission as its weapons of choice.
So, if not a fairness doctrine, what is the solution? It seems that with every day the world spins a little more out of control. While I don’t deny that there will always be racism and bigotry in this world (some people are just narrow-minded assholes that will never change), I feel like the media is purposely fanning the flames of race and religious discord in this nation by reporting news “based on a true story” rather than simply reporting the facts.
Perhaps it wouldn’t do such harm if the majority of people were aware of the poetic license being taken by those they think are providing them with true and accurate information. If you’ve read my previous post “To Hell in a Handbasket…” you know that the percentage of good old intelligent folks in this country is pathetically small. Perhaps one of the most pivotal events to happen in this country recently – the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia – is merely a blip on the radar of most Americans. In fact, a survey conducted by FindLaw.com showed that nearly 2/3 of Americans cannot name even one Supreme Court Justice. Only 34% of those surveyed were able to correctly name a Supreme Court Justice and only 1% could name all 9 current Supreme Court Justices. I wonder how much better the results would be if we asked people to name a Kardashian.
People in this country have become lazy, and that laziness will be our downfall. We are a nation of the misinformed and uninformed because many people simply accept whatever they are spoon-fed by the media rather than actively seeking honest and accurate newscasts, if such a thing even exists anymore. And because others have embodied the mantra “see no evil, hear no evil” and stick their heads in the sand preferring to remain in blissful ignorance. I confess that sometimes I feel the urge to do that as well. In fact, I have one of these on order:
But eventually you will have to come out of hiding, if for no other reason than to eat, and ISIS will still be there – most likely holding a knife to cut your head off with – even though the media would have us think otherwise.
Perhaps I’m alone, but I’d rather know what I’m facing (so I can build an underground shelter, buy enough pizza to get me through the nuclear winter, and stockpile weapons in case the zombies make their way into said shelter) so that I have some hope of surviving – in body, spirit, and wallet – what’s coming my way. So I make an effort to show the media that they are MIStaken if they think I will accept their MISinformation.