Free Press and Full-Court Tactics

Free Press and Full-Court Tactics June 9, 2021

When was the last time you looked at your newsfeed and found inspirational and edifying stories?

You certainly won’t find many wholesome stories at the top of the newsfeed on mainstream media, whether they represent both the left and right ends of the political spectrum like MSNBC or FOX. Nor are you likely to find much good news on public news outlets such as PBS and social media platforms.

The reason is obvious, we don’t expect the news to be good. It’s not the purpose of the news to inspire and tell us about all the wonderful things happening in life. Rather, the nature of the news—especially these days—is to tell us how desperate things are and to rile us up. And much like a basketball team in the NBA playoffs, many of today’s news sources are using full-court press tactics to manipulate our perceptions and compel us to play on their team.

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Who is to blame for the strategies news outlets use and the data they stream into our devices?

We are.

As the audience, we choose the broadcasters we like and who talk about the things we want to hear about. We choose our favorite news sources based on whether we prefer more in-depth and factually based programming or talkshow style commentaries such as stations found on YouTube or AM radio. We help generate the advertising dollars for network television news sources, and we are responsible for the “pay for click” dollars that provides many social media influencers with the income they enjoy.

Sure, it’s all a bit like the analogy of whether the dog is wagging its tail. Or is the tail wagging the dog? But ultimately, we dictate what news sources report on the moment we choose their channel over another.

Lately, however, I’m not so sure whether the events that are being reported in the news are getting worse, or whether it’s just the way the news is being delivered that makes me believe all hell is breaking loose.

There is one thing I’m certain of though, a dynamic of many news sources  I find particularly distasteful, which is the way those who deliver the news are spending more and more time badmouthing people. Yet, “badmouthing” doesn’t quite capture the voracity to which many broadcasters are characterizing the villains in their stories. They are demonizing people—and segments of our society—with the avidity to which the Pharisees vilified the gentiles.

“Shooting our own wounded,” is how a professor of mine used to describe the tactic. “Kicking a person while they are down,” is the common cliché. And then there’s the expression “if it bleeds it leads,” which tends to be the media’s justification for running a story that could literally ruin a person’s life or reputation long before they’ve been proven to have done anything illegal.

Do you feel better or worse after listening to your favorite news sources? / Image by Michi S from Pixabay

Sweet retribution

Don’t get me wrong though. I’m no angel. Like everyone else I enjoy a good story in which the deeds of the “evil doers” are exposed and justice is swiftly enacted. In fact, at this very moment I am following the news cycle waiting to see if several former politicians and civil servants will be punished for their unethical conduct. But I’m not holding my breath. I’m not naive regarding the favoritism the American Justice system extends to the rich and powerful.

That said, I have devised a new rule in choosing which broadcasters, journalists, or social media influencers I listen to. The moment I hear them thoughtlessly ridiculing a fellow human being I switch them off or find another story more edifying to watch. I’m looking for facts not commentary, and especially the commentary that hurls insults and insinuations at people without proof.

Besides, the distribution of factual truth does not require kicking an opposing player while he or she is down, much less inflicting a mortal wound to their psyche and reputation. Nor does it require demonizing any segment of our society such as another political party, or religion—or whatever. And the moment the one behind the mic attempts to incite my emotions by getting me to hate another person . . . well, that just tells me they have little or no factual information to report.

Blinded by hatred and anger

There are unethical and immoral people in our society. (Some even hold public office.) There are groups and organizations in society that are counterproductive and cause much harm. It is the duty of the news to report on these segments of society and the individuals who are causing the mischief.

All I’m saying is we could do without the cheap insults hurled by the media towards others, because this kind of demoralizing language only serves two purposes: to incite hatred and fuel anger.

Either emotion will blind a person and render them unable to discern fact from fiction.

About Scott R Stahlecker
Scott Stahlecker is a former minister and now writes for Thinkadelics about the joys and benefits of living as a freethinker. You can read more about the author here.

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6 responses to “Free Press and Full-Court Tactics”

  1. I think a lot of society thrives on the adrenaline rush of DRAMA, always DRAMA, and they eagerly lap up the emotion-inducing content they get from their favorite news source (television/print/FaceThing).

    Silly example; as a fun hobby, I take pictures (nature, pets, that type of thing) and make graphics that I share with friends for their online use as computer backgrounds and avatars. I noticed one of my ALL DRAMA ALL THE TIME friends was using an old graphic I sent her as an avatar and mentioned that I had some newer (and, I thought, better-done) ones to share. Her response was that she had FOUGHT SO HARD to get the picture she had and she was keeping it. Fought hard? By, what, opening up her email in which I’d attached the graphic? LOL This friend also shares breathlessly various news items about how “they” (it’s always “they”, isn’t it?) are trying to keep things from “us” or, alternately, force “us” to do/think/say things. She thrives on the adrenaline.

  2. Did she forget that you had sent her the picture?

    Speaking of the latest conspiracy theories . . . Apparently the vaccine makes people turn into magnets.

    Someday, hopefully, we’ll understand what is happening in the human brain that makes people believe these kinds of things.:)

  3. My guess on what is happening in their brains: “I don’t wanna believe any of this is real, I don’t know how to fix this, so I’m going to launch into bizarre delusions and latch onto ridiculous made-up fantasies, the more ridiculous the better.”

  4. P.S. I’ve thought about the thinking that has to go on about the “I FOUGHT SO HARD for that picture”. I’m sure she forgot I sent it to her and that she didn’t even need to ask–people who like my pictures get sent new ones.

    I think it’s more a matter of being the victim/hero of one’s own story, and also boredom with one’s own life that leads one to over-dramatize everything.

    Another friend chose to move a long distance from work. Why she did this is a mystery because she’s in a standard boring suburban house that you can find close to work as well. As you can imagine, her distance from work makes it difficult for her to get to work on time (or at all, in bad weather), so she’s made a plan…to move further out. Of course all of this means she gets to be the star of the gathering as she tells us all about how hard her life is. It seems to bring her great joy to be so afflicted.

  5. Fantasy for some is so much better than reality right?

    This might also explain why the religiously inclined person is more susceptible to believing in conspiracies than those who prefer reason and facts.

  6. She may have forgotten, but it sounds to me like she did like it. I know a few drama queens. And kings! Let’s not forget there are drama kings!

    I have a good tolerance for strange, weird, and unusual people. Everyone is odd in the own way. It makes life interesting!

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