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BAD NEWS

 

A Graphic Wisdom opinumentary by Marchelo Bresciani

I work in an industry that is well known for its ability to distort reality for profit- advertising. This is something that has troubled me, for in the ad world, we are often made to characterize certain facts to increase an emotional response. This process even has its own catchy name- spin. Spin sounds fun, hip, catchy. It's certainly better then calling it what it is: distorting reality. This is just is one example of an uncomfortable fact that has been coated in a thin candy shell.


We closely monitor people's habits, and have nearly perfected the art of communicating directly to any demographic. We can doctor any photograph to virtual perfection- in fact, a skilled graphic designer can do a better job of doctoring a photo then the Iranian government (we know to hide our clone traces).


The Iranian missile launch spin is a rather sad and disturbing story. Subtle manipulations here and there twisted the facts into a fiction of their own design. The decision was made by the Iranian media to cover up the facts and present an image of success to the world that supporters could feel good about and the opposition could fear. Once it was exposed as a fraud it was quickly denounced worldwide, and a once fearsome sight became the shame of a government that now struggles to cling to power.

In America, the struggle for power is a far more subtle game. The same refined and well honed tools that have been used to sell products are also used being used to sell ideas; and advertising is everywhere. In fact, this vary paragraph is brought to you by the lovely people at [your company name here for $200]. They sure do make a quality [product name], I don't feel whole without it!
With enough persistence the fiction we create to sell products can all to easily become the reality; especially when our devotion is rewarded with cool new stuff.

When I saw this, it effected me unexpectedly (and please try to look past the fact its from comedy central and focus on the content. A spoonful of Stewart helps the disfunction go down, in the most delightful way: Sean Hannity Uses Glenn Becks Protest Footage

While I laughed at the joke of it all, I realized there was a line that had been crossed. The decision had been made by FOX News to deliberately distort reality to present an image of success that supporters could feel good about. While the effect of the story was minimal, what bothered me was the source. FOX News- the highest rated news channel on the air. I had to ask myself- Do people really believe that FOX News is presenting reality on their programs?

This distortion of reality was not an isolated incident, but rather an seeming spree to see what they can get away with. See for yourself.

When a news program fails to present the facts it is no longer a news program.

One fact that comes to mind when I think about FOX News is that 46% of Americans didn't vote for Obama. Thats 58,343,671 people with a sympathetic ear for any news of President Obama's short comings to justify their vote for the losing candidate. This is a rather large demographic that FOX News has exploited with great success and much to their financial gain. When the new President wont oblige them with daily blunders, they seem to have no problem fabricating their own "news" content. Stories of twisted reality to smear and undermine an administration are told to lure viewers to wittness the downfall of their beloved country.

I don't blame the viewers. Not everyone has the time/energy/interest necessary to pull factual information from the news media. I do blame FOX News for deliberately exploiting millions of people for higher ratings. As the circus they've assembled attracts attention: the higher their ratings go, the more they can sell ad space for, the more money they make, the more influence they have, the more people they convince their fiction is reality, and round and round we go.

I wondered what effect blatantly lying to the public would have and the internet (like it does so well) provided the answer:
Crowd interviews outside of a Sarah Palin Book signing event.

This might be evidence of a populace that believes unquestioningly that FOX News is telling the truth. They passionately babble the same rhetorical lines they are told day after day. Mostly ideological and divisive with very little substance. They admit flat out not knowing Palin's platform and that it would not effect their voting for her. I somehow doubt that this is a minority opinion amongst her supporters.

This frightens me (and I don't spook easy).

As the world's superpower, we are in effect responsible for electing our world's leader. Kinda cool, but it's a big responsibility that has global ramifications. Our presidential vote effects the lives of people in countries most American's don't even know exist. When people blindly give power to their leaders they are always taken advantage of. Far to often there are unintended and terrible consequences for bestowing power blindly on those who appeal to our passionate emotions over our collected reason.

I see Democracy being twisted subtly away from reality, and FOX News viewers are cheering our decent. It is not their policies, once you can get them to define them, that I take offense to. What disturbs me is the blind faith that is placed in FOX News. It's viewers are told to fear for the future of America and so they do, with little regard to the validity of the reasons why. The nice man on the TV said so.

Propaganda is most dangerous when it becomes fact and so inspires people to false action. How much longer can they add to the frenzy of fear and hatred before someone gets hurt? [UPDATE: not very long after all.]

FOX News is spreading propaganda. To what end beyond massive short term profit, I cannot begin to guess and I doubt if they even care to know.
I'm not going to demand a boycott (they are largely ineffective) or try to force my own beliefs on anyone.
I have a deep respect for the dedicated opposition and its role in just governance. Policy views which are contrary to my own fascinate me- they do not anger me. I want to understand others answers to our mutual problems - and it is this attitude that drives my thirst for fact. Not truth, but fact.

I only ask that each of us as individuals take the time to discover the facts for ourselves. Use multiple sources for news to find out what is fact and what is opinion. The internet is great for this. All you have to do is copy the headline of the article in question and paste it into your search engine of choice and hit search. There is usually a way to search for just news results once you've searched a news topic. Hit that link and see how many different news sources you can find for any give story. Read as many as you can. Then, with a confident understanding of the issue and your opposition's stance, you may finally have discovered the fact of the matter.

I understand that this exercise of researching the opposition's arguments can try one's patience. So don't do it for everything. Save your fact finding missions for the news that emotionally effects you. If you hear something that makes you feel angry or fearful see what everyone is saying about it before you jump to a conclusion. With an informed opinion you will be able to defend your ideas and offer ways for your opposition to understand your point of view. This will help everyone.

Except for FOX News, but they'll be fine, they sure do know how to entertain.