Friday, April 07, 2023

Has Mainstream Media Become a Threat to Democracy?


We all know that American has transformed from a Constitutional Republic into a surveillance state under run by an oligarchy or kleptocracy. Corporations literally own both major parties. Their lobbyists write legislation which is beneficial to them.  So, what to the greatest threat to the remnant of our democracy?

According to a Gallup poll taken in late October 2022, the biggest threat is the mainstream media. I guess that shouldn't be too surprising. After all, everything we watch, read, or listen to is owned by just five corporations. Our impressions or opinions are largely determined by the spin they put on any given topic. We dance to their tune.

According to the poll, just 34% of the public trust the media. That's a far cry from the days of Walter Cronkite, Chad Huntley and David Brinkley, Roger Mudd, Frank Reynolds, or Howard K. Smith when the overwhelming majority of public hung on every word they said.

We literally put our trust in individuals like these to tell us the truth about what was happening at home and around the world without any political spin or bias, and rarely was our trust misplaced. We could depend on radio show hosts like Paul Harvey or talk show hosts like Merv Griffith and Dick Cavett.  

But those days are long gone. We've gone from journalists and reporters who were interested in uncovering the truth of what was happening and giving it to us unfiltered. They had the conviction of their morals and integrity as media professionals to do no less.

Today, we live in a world of media celebrities posing as "journalists". The news isn't about facts as much as it about their version of the "facts". It's about manufacturing stories for the sole purpose of garnering higher ratings, which translates into advertising dollars, and manipulating or manufacturing opinions.

The Gallup poll goes on to say that 37% of those surveyed had absolutely no trust whatsoever in mainstream media. That's the highest percentage ever recorded by Gallup. 28% of the responded reported having very little trust in what the mainstream media tells them while just 27% said they had a "fair amount" of trust in what they were being told. 

When broken down by political ideology, we find that on 27% of Independents (the nation's largest political bloc) have any trust in the media. Republicans show the least amount of confidence in the media at just 14% while Democrats have the highest with 70%. Perhaps that's not surprising since studies have shown that mainstream or "establishment" media tends to have a liberal or left leaning bias.

Social media has followed suit with its increasing tendency toward censorship under the false guise of "community standards". Most media sites employ the use of bots looking for trigger words or phrases which is a not-so-subtle means of censorship.  Most of the time these bots will block a posting based simply on the words picked up without any understanding of the context.

When broken down by age and education, the level of confidence in being provided with a accurate and balanced account of a given story varies greatly. For instance, among Democrats those in the 35 to 55+ age bracket strongly trust the mainstream media with a 71% to 79% range. Those under 35 years of age have a slight majority---51%---level of trust.

Now compare that to Republicans in the same age brackets that just 6% to 15% have confidence in what the media reports. Among the pre-35 age bracket, its 16%. As for Independents, the younger groups has a 26% level of confidence while the older age brackets run from 32% to 40% which is still significantly less than Democrats.

When it comes to education, those Republicans who graduated from college with a four year degree had a 11% level of confidence in the media. Those without a college degree had a slightly higher level of trust---12%. For Independents, non-college graduates had a 28% level of confidence while graduates had a 40% trust in the information they were receiving.

However, when it came to Democrats the results were dramatically different. Both college graduates and non-college graduates were virtually the same with 71% and 70% respectively. This seems to reflect a preconceived notion that the information they were taking it was accurate and their level of education (which presumably included honing their critical thinking skills) were unaffected.

Of course one could argue that institutions of higher learning were already geared to pushing a liberal or Left leaning agenda. According to one study, 72% of college students believe that their professors have  political agenda or has sought to influence their student's political ideology.

In another study which looked at all faculty  members regardless of their specialty, 72% self-identified as liberal while just 15% said they were conservative. It's worth noting that conservatives failed to have a majority in any major, including business.  

In a 2022 study, more than 80% of Harvard's faculty self-identified as being liberal (37% said they were "very liberal"). That trend is fairly consistent through these Ivy League institutions which traditionally has turned out many of our political and business leaders. Princeton University is considered the most conservative of the ivy League colleges followed by the University of Pennsylvania  (Trump attended their Wharton School of Business). 

In the area of Communications, Political Science, and English, which produces the majority of media personalities, those who identify as liberal are among the highest. 75% of Communications professors identify as liberal compared to 14% who claim to be conservative. 81% of those who teach Political Science say they're liberal as opposed to just 2% who admit to being conservative. Among English professors, 81% are liberal while only 3% are conservative.

It's worth noting that 55% of Economic professors and 49% of Business professors reported being liberal as were 84% of teaching Performing Arts and Psychology. Conservatives reported their highest percentage---49%---in the area of Nursing along with 39% of those who teach Economics.

It should also be pointed out that one third of students have said their professors have ridiculed them because of their political beliefs and of this one third, 48% believe they've received a lower grade because of their political opinions.

So, if you're like most college students who are focused on maintaining a high GPA, you keep your mouth shut and your opinions to yourself in the hopes of getting a good grade and perhaps a recommendation from your professor to a potential employer.

What this all comes down to is freedom of speech and expression be it verbally or in print. Our Founding Fathers made free speech and expression first when it came to the Bill of Rights along with the freedom to practice whatever faith we wanted, the right to peacefully assemble, and the right to petition the government to address our grievances. So, is this right under threat by the ruling oligarchy?

In a poll conducted on behalf of Times Opinion and Siena College, some 84% of those surveyed said that our freedom of speech is seriously under threat. Some of the respondents---46%--- admitted that they have had to monitor what they say out of fear of some sort of reprisal. Many claim that cancel culture is largely to blame for this. Only 21% said they felt comfortable with speaking their mind.

Proponents of cancel culture claim that its purpose is to hold individuals and groups accountable for their actions or words, while those opposed say that's its nothing more than intimidation and an attempt to force people or groups to self-censor out of fear of verbal or physical attack.  As an aside, 40% of Millennials and Gen Z surveyed expressed the opinion that the First Amendment was "dangerous" and should be changed  to prevent "offensive" speech.

According to a poll by Pew, 58% of those surveyed said that calling people out on social media was justified while 38% said it typically resulted in harsh and often unjustified punishment. a majority of Democrats and liberals---75%----are fine with calling people out while 56% of Republicans and conservatives disagree. They believe that individuals are unfairly being punished or bullied for expressing an opinion, albeit an unpopular one.

So, where does that leave us? It appears that the majority of Americans believe that freedom of speech and expression are under attack. In fact, 59% of Americans who feel we have a serious issued with the First Amendment being undermined. The majority want a media which provides them with the basic facts in which to make their own decision instead of pundits trying to make our decisions for us.

I couldn't agree more. I don't want to listen to a bunch of talking heads trying to talk over one another in what amounts to nothing more than confusing verbal cacophony of noise in an attempt to score more personal rating points which is why I tend to avoid so-called "political talk shows".

At the same time, I don't want some well manicured puppet spin the day's news in a not-so-subtle effort to manipulate my opinion on some issue. They try to talk and act as if they're our most trusted friend, so I for one know I'm being conned right off the bat. It's not so much that I care that they are liberal or whatever. It's the fact that they pretend I'm not intelligent enough to notice!

What Americans want is a media that's honest. Just tell the facts--both sides---and allow us the common  respect to make up our own minds. The same goes for social media which tries to hide its private agenda behind rules and regulations designed to suppress differing opinions. And to borrow from the great broadcaster, Walter Cronkite, "that's the way it is" or, at least the way it should be again.  


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Who is the biggest threat to democracy? Most people say themedia

72% of College Students Believe Professors InfluencePolitical Views

ResearchGate: Political Identification of College Professorsby Field


More than 80 Percent of Surveyed Harvard Faculty Identifiedas Liberal

Americans and 'Cancel Culture': Where Some See Calls for Accountability, Others See Censorship,Punishment

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