Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Government by Journalism - The Road to America

We in America have a problem with media bias. Who or where does it come from? What did those people say, write, or do? Did it evolve by multiple steps, or by one step? When did the use of narrative get introduced?

In an attempt to answer some of these questions and others, the result is a paper that I have recently written, here. I put it up online for all to read and examine, and I hope there will be those who will take the time to follow the footnotes back and read the original source material. These are things we need to know.

I personally have done a lot of research into some of the early pioneers of modern journalism, because of their relation to progressivism. The historian Richard Hofstadter once wrote: (page 186)

"It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the Progressive mind was characteristically a journalistic mind, and that its characteristic contribution was that of the socially responsible reporter-reformer."

It is clear to anybody that thinks about it that a "reporter-reformer" simply cannot exist. At best a "reporter-reformer" is an advocate, an activist. At worst, they're a malcontent with ill designs. But the link between the early progressives and the journalists of that era is what's so important here, and it is what I tried to focus in on the most in the paper.

Walter Lippmann is considered the father of modern journalism, because he is arguably the biggest reason why we have "objective journalism" today. Take the time to read Walter Lippmann, you would see that the only thing journalism today is about is (in Lippmann's own words) the "Manufacture of Consent". Walter Lippmann was a socialist, and also was a co-founder to The New Republic.

The journalist William Thomas Stead once wrote about his ideology called "Government by Journalism"(text) in which he described the power that journalists have. He wrote:

"They decide what their readers shall know, or what they shall not know."

Coming out of the era of Yellow Journalism, Stead's ideal became compounded when Lippmann wrote: (page 355)

"It is a problem of provoking feeling in the reader, of inducing him to feel a sense of personal identification with the stories he is reading. News which does not offer this opportunity to introduce oneself into the struggle which it depicts cannot appeal to a wide audience. The audience must participate in the news, much as it participates in the drama, by personal identification. Just as everyone holds his breath when the heroine is in danger, as he helps Babe Ruth swing his bat, so in subtler form the reader enters into the news. In order that he shall enter he must find a familiar foothold in the story, and this is supplied to him by the use of stereotypes. They tell him that if an association of plumbers is called a "combine" it is appropriate to develop his hostility; if it is called a "group of leading business men" the cue is for a favorable reaction.

It is in a combination of these elements that the power to create opinion resides. Editorials reinforce."

This is the basis of modern journalism. Using key words to describe some groups favorably, others unfavorably, and the editorials reinforce. We see it every day, don't we? On the surface we see claims of objectivity, but in reality we have nothing but supplied stereotypes and narratives from modern reporter-reformers. After 100 years, they're still at it.

Walter Lippmann's most important book, "Public Opinion" is the book you should read, and is in the public domain. You can find the text here, here, and here. If you do not have the time to read it, then I would like to read it to you. Download the MP3s from here. Its that important. Stead's essay "Government by Journalism" is also an hour well spent.

Here is the paper.


1 comment:

  1. Great post as usual.

    I am presently reading Jacque Ellul's "Propaganda" which makes similar points. I wonder if he'll mention Lippman.

    I tried to contact you awhile back, with no success. I manage http://www.eugenics.us I'd like to connect with you. Can you contact me?