Media and the Truth: A Love Story – Part One

In a NutshellThere is a lot of truthful reporting of news on television, in print, and on the web, but they often make mistakes.  A Critical Thinker needs to be careful about believing news outlets until their stories have been proven.

  Brian Williams

Poor Brian Williams.  I watch Mr. Williams on NBC every night and rely on him for my news and information.  See, I was an NBC page in the ‘90s.  I rubbed shoulders with (actually I wasn’t allowed to get even close to them) the likes of Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, Kevin Costner, Dick Clark, Maria Shriver, and many other television stars.  Clearly I am a little biased towards the NBC network, so I watch their news.  Brian Williams has been criticized for mis-telling a story about action he saw in Iraq.  Now, I have to watch the NBC Nightly News Without Brian Williams.  I’m sure he’ll be back.

Both Williams and Hillary Clinton have gotten into trouble for telling battle stories which weren’t exactly accurate.  In the stories they told they really were in the country they spoke about (Iraq/Bosnia), they really were flying around (Helicopter/plane), and there really was a threat to life (gunfire/rocket fire).  They simply embellished or overgeneralized their stories.  Normal people do it all the time.  We say, “We’re all going to catch Ebola”, when only a few Americans actually catch Ebola.  I said, “There were bullets flying everywhere, and people were being killed everywhere we went,” during the 1992 L.A. riots, but this isn’t extremely accurate.  Yes, bullets were flying…in Los Angeles county, but just not right around myself.  Yes, there were people being killed, but not right around me.  It’s just how we talk.  But when one is in a position of political authority or in a position in which people rely on them to speak accurately and truthfully, then these overgeneralization are unfounded and hazardous for both their listeners and for the speaker.

See, there is a problem when the media makes mistakes.  The average television viewer doesn’t have the wherewithal to travel to Ukraine to be sure that the separatists who are fighting Ukrainian troops are really just upset Eastern Ukrainians and not Russian Red Army troops surreptitiously mounting an offensive against a neighboring state for a land grab.  Most readers can’t stop to verify that every photo published in a newspaper is using accurate names and descriptions of all the people in their pictures.

For example, on September 30, 2000 the New York Times printed a picture of an angry-looking Israeli police officer and a bloodied young man.  The Times caption read, “An Israeli policeman and a Palestinian on the Temple Mount.”  Any reasonable reader could conclude that the Palestinian had been beaten about the head by the police officer until he was soaked in his own blood.  Israelis were outraged that media in the West would continue to depict the Israelis as brutal thugs attacking the innocent Palestinian.

Tuvia Grossman

    The facts behind the picture were that the young bloodied man was actually Tuvia Grossman, a Jewish student from Chicago who was being protected by an Israeli policeman after being beaten by Palestinians.  Some observers have voiced their concern with the continued and significant media bias by print, broadcast, and entertainment organizations.  Furthermore, the privilege and power which modern media corporations have been entrusted with has been abused by its producers, directors, writers, and broadcasters.

Many filmmakers create cinematic productions which appear to present accurate biographical or documentary works which instead twist the truth and border on propaganda.  The contemporary media artists who willfully use the cloak of ‘artistic license’ in works of film or print to propagate political or religious ideology with fraudulent information should be properly punished.  Facing fines, censure, and other punishment for defrauding the people of this nation should cause those members responsible for content in the media to take notice of their work and be more careful in exercising their freedom of speech.

Research into deception and fraud in media will reveal a long and sordid history; Records about Herodotus, the Father of


History, and his stories about Atlantis,liberties taken by Eusebius, and the power that William Randolph Hearst abused in his publishing empire.  More recently there have been rumblings in the media about such movies as JFK by Oliver Stone, Fahrenheit 9/ll by Michael Moore, Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News, and Dan Brown in his novel The Da Vinci Code.  Film, television, and print have all become a medium for people’s personal biases.

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