Kris Morgan, September 6, 2017
“…And that is why our press was protected by the first amendment. The only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution– not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply give the public what it wants–but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion… And so it is to the printing press, to the recorder of man’s deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news, that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be, free and independent.”
Media today is certainly not focused on being watchdogs of government overreach. Instead we have what we all know to be the liberal media and conservative media. Deep down we know we are getting a spin, but hope that the effects are negligible and the facts are solid. We are in the midst of an anti-intellectual movement that is powered by these left/right biases. Conservatives and liberals tend to stick to their own sides in media consumption. As a result, each thinks the other nothing short of pure evil.
This observation was echoed by Mediaite when they published the following in an article: “Most of those who get their news only from Fox News, Matt Drudge, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity & Breitbart.com think Donald Trump is a savior who is certain to win (the 2016 election) and that Hillary Clinton is the anti-Christ [sic]. Almost everyone who only consumes the New York Times, Washington Post, MSNBC, CNN, NPR & The Huffington Post are sure the opposite is true.”
These attitudes stop intellectual discourse before it even starts. How can people with differing points of view possibly have a productive conversation if they each go in thinking of the other person as the devil?
On the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, Howard Kurtz (CNN) reflected on the beginnings of the war and wrote “Major news organizations aided and abetted the Bush administration’s march to war on what turned out to be faulty promises. All too often, skepticism was checked at the door, and the shaky claims of top officials and unnamed sources were trumpeted as fact… From August 2002 through the March 19, 2003 launch of the war, I found more than 140 front-page stories that focused heavily on administration rhetoric against Iraq.”
While we do appreciate people like Mr. Kurtz writing such pieces years later, the damage is done. War is the first example used in this essay, but the media’s weakness is not limited there. How economic circumstances are reported is also not entirely factual.
Matthew Stein of the Huffington Post opened an article on the 2007 financial collapse with criticism of the free market. “Unregulated greed will result in the demise of our planet just as surely as it is causing the collapse of our economy.” Indeed, there is always a tendency to blame free markets for all economic woes and praise government for economic boons. That is to be expected when the two major parties are products of Keynesian economics. For a market to be free, all levels of government (Federal, State, and Local) have to restrict their actions to the protection of private property. No economy riddled with regulations, taxation, fiat currency, central banking, wars, uncertainty about those in power, a welfare state, etc. can be said to be free. It makes absolutely no sense to blame that which doesn’t exist.
Before 2007, for about two decades, the central bankers at the Federal Reserve and politicians alike specifically focused on giving cheap credit in the housing sector. In essence, they inflated a bubble that was certain to burst. Credit and interest rates are reflections of assets on hand and time-preference. Using politics to control interest rates obscures the information entrepreneurs use to gauge how many resources are available and where to invest. It’s easier to spend $100 in your wallet if you think you have $1,000 in the bank. What happens when you spend that money, only to realize later that your account is also empty? Free Market? You might as well blame space aliens, at least then it might be possible.
When I was younger I dutifully watched the news. I believed I was staying informed about the world. However, I later realized I was exposing myself to story after story of some evil crime taking place; people harming their own babies, shootings, robberies, assaults, etc. After years of studying economics, philosophy, politics, logic, etc. I came to the conclusion that the media is nothing more than the watchdog of the people. Rather than keeping an eye on government acquiring unjust power, the news seems more interested in running negative stories that originate in the general public, almost as a reminder of why we ‘need’ the state.
Although much more could be written on this topic, I think it would be more productive to start brainstorming what changes we can make. The news gives us information about events taking place and provides us with some hard facts. However, when we dive into any analyses that requires serious thought, such as economics or whether or not to support wars, we have to research these topics in detail. It is irresponsible to use sound-bites from biased media to make long-lasting decisions. Don’t be afraid to study opinions that contradict your own. Most people stick to media and explanations that reflect their own assumptions about the world. We are all prone to this behavior. Opening ourselves up to the possibility that we are wrong, or have been taught incorrectly by people we love and trust, creates uneasiness. Rather than put our first instincts to the test as we should, we tend to associate with people who echo our own bias.
The world, with its nuclear weapons and tools for economic manipulation, cannot afford to be ruled by people who are not willing to step outside their comfort zones. Spotting our biases is not hard. Simply ask yourself why you believe X, and if you don’t have evidence and logic in your answer, then your stance is based on assumption. Ask yourself why others believe the opposite you do. Study their literature. Converse with those of varying viewpoints. Leave the “anyone who disagrees with me is the devil” stuff at home. While there are exceptions to every rule, for the most part we all want the same things, to be physically and financially secure and have long, happy, and productive lives. It may be more beneficial in debate, especially on social media, to determine if you and the other person share the same values before you begin.
I presented this article for two major reasons. First, libertarianism takes a great deal of abstract reasoning to fully grasp, which is why we are so often painted as people who want the poor to die off and everyone else to shoot up heroin. Second as long as we let the news control us, by feeding us constant streams of negativity which make us fearful, we lose domestically and we lose internationally. We cannot expect to make sound decisions when we are driven by anxiety. When our population digs deep and pushes back against this news lead anti-intellectualism we will get on track towards real virtue.
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