The news media are supposed to be about informing the public. A society needs reliable sources of information to function well. The purpose of the news media – the so-called “fourth estate” of the realm – is to supply that information reliably and effectively.
One of the reasons we often find ourselves wallowing in incapacitated confusion is the failure of the news media to fulfill its obligation to our society – to inform the public about the facts as opposed to pulling the wool over our eyes with propaganda or keeping us distracted and confused with the circus act of excessive sensationalism.
There are many factors at play here, making it hard to gain a true appreciation of the problem. There is, fundamentally, the constitutionally protected right to freedom of expression and a free press, which should, by rights, allow for alternative media sources to exist and thrive. However, there is also a tendency among some alternative media outlets to engage in sensationalism, unverified sources, distracting clickbait and, sometimes, outright misinformation. This only serves to muddy the waters of good journalism.
As such, we are forced to navigate the dire straits of Messina, as it were, with Scylla and Charybdis on either side of us. On the one hand, we have a frequently ineffective and out of touch establishment media — often compromised by apparent deep state connections. For example, there is compelling evidence to suggest that the CIA has infiltrated establishment news vehicles like CNN and the Washington Post — making them, in effect, no more than mouthpieces for deep state propaganda. On the other hand, we have noisy, confusing and confused alternative media sources which often lack the self-discipline to verify their material, deal in hard evidence and avoid needless, over-the-top, lurid, mindless sensationalism. Unfortunately, this is often an unpleasant necessity for them to make their presence felt in the crowded alternative media landscape.
The answer to these problems can never be censorship, which would be undemocratic, unconstitutional and anti-intellectual. It would feed into mechanisms of state control, the perpetuation of disinformation and the suppression of valid information. However, it’s no less problematic to permit the noisy alternative media to drown out all intelligent, meaningful and civilized public discourse!
I can only hope that the internet, which has been somewhat self-policing thus far, will avoid the tendency to descend into the cyber-equivalent of a lynch mob, as it frequently does. I can only hope that alternative media sources — the so-called “fifth estate” — will follow the example of the noted outlaw media organization, Wikileaks, which is simultaneously notorious and exemplary for the quality and standards of its information. In essence, it would be in everyone’s interests if the alternative media dealt in hard evidence and discussions based on hard facts, not in wild speculation or excessive sensationalism!
The new media landscape of the early 21st century is an untamed “Wild West” of unorthodox ideas and revolutionary perspectives. That is certainly a good thing, because it keeps public discourse fresh and engaging and prevents us from sliding into stale clichés and disingenuous talking points read by hired actors from teleprompters. However, it also needs to be authentic and reliable. It needs to fulfill its obligations to the public trust and it needs to respect the public’s intelligence – neither of which, sadly, have been upheld by the mainstream establishment media.