A column by Leonard Pitts appeared in the Miami Herald recently entitled, “The End of Objective Truth.” (The Week, September 9, 2016, pg. 12.) His point was that falsehoods repeated over and over again gain an emotional credence that has “wrecked the idea of objective, knowable fact.” (Ibid pg 12.) I agree. The mainstream media, presumed gatekeepers of objective fact, have abandoned their post in favor of entertainment and commerce, leaving people free to believe whatever they fancy. That’s why some people insist, and without shame, that President Obama is a Muslim born in Kenya. And others, who believe climate change is a hoax, have a new champion in one Presidential candidate.
Hillary Clinton sent out an email this week expressing concern of about objectivity and the news: “…we can’t sit around and wait for the fact checkers in the media.” She would know. That same media has turned every report and every interview with her into an harangue about emails, although there has been no new information and despite the fact that the State Department, though questioning her judgment on the issue, admits she has done nothing illegal.
I won’t accuse the media of bias. It’s worse. They are fomenting tension among alternate political realities and raking in money from the spectacle, treating the election as if it were a gladiator sport with profit as their sole objective.
Around the world, democracy is in trouble. Thailand, The Philippines, Venezuela and Turkey have fallen under the boot of dictatorships In places like Egypt, Bahrain and Malaysia, citizen’s rights have disappeared. (“Giving up on democracy and freedom,” Fred Hiatt, The Washington Post, excerpted in The Week, September 9, 2016, pg. 12.) According to the nonprofit, Freedom House, over the past decade personal freedom has declined in 105 countries. (Ibid pg. 12.)
An inconvenient question faces our nation. How do we rescue news coverage from the money pit into which it has fallen and which threatens to take democracy with it.