April 8, 2016

Is mass media qualified to cover the presidency?

Sam Smith - I just saved readers some time by not writing another piece about who's qualified to be president. I felt myself being suckered into the debate and then remembered that the mass media these days is far more interested in what people say about things than in the things themselves and how they deal with them. One reason is that you can use up endless airtime discussing the former while, say, describing what the two Democratic candidates have actually done or what their positions are can take only a few minutes.

Thus most Americans are not aware that Bernie Sanders is running on the most progressive Democratic platform since the Great Society. Or that the otherwise crummy Richard Nixon boosted more progressive domestic measures than Hillary Clinton, things like the EPA, affirmative action, the Clean Air Act, the first Earth Day, indexing Social Security for inflation, Supplemental Security income, OSHA, and healthcare reform.

Instead of a debate over definitive action we are given an endless manipulation of definitions of which "qualified" is just the most recent example.

This is an important development in American life that I call semioticism, in which what we say matters more than what we do. Aside from TV news, it is also heavily encouraged by our colleges and universities that teach their students to place great emphasis on the inner meaning of what people, especially important ones, say.

For example, in recent campus based civil rights efforts, there has been a striking emphasis on dealing with symbols that appear offensive as opposed to, as in earlier times, taking on actual serious offenses such as segregation. And the media helps, witness the near total lack of coverage of ways to improve police forces in the wake of many revealed offenses. Once you cover the offense, called it racist and discuss it at length, you just move on to the next incident.

We need a lot less time spent on the inner meanings of what people say and a lot more on the outer results of what they do. It used to be a key principle of journalism: what was actually happening, not what people say about it.

1 comment:

accountablepublishing.com said...

Mr. Smith, brilliant as always.

I wanted to point out that your blogs post badly to social media due to formatting. The following subtitle appears with all posts on FBook:

Undernews: Is mass media qualified to cover the presidency?
In November 1990 it devoted an entire issue to the ecologically sound city and how to develop it. The article was republished widely.

While I agree ecological cities are important, you should have a subtitle for Undernews or the article being posted.

Keep em coming!

Paul Fenn
Local Power