“Let’s be blunt about it,” was the lead on KQED’s Marketplace (American Public Media) this evening.
Let’s pretend for a moment that all of the organizations ostensibly broadcasting news are doing no such thing. Let’s say they’re just businesses, even public radio. Recall they get a few pennies from taxpayers for each dollar they make in phone sales. Their product, we’re saying, is primarily a vague combination of extortion and acceptance. For all the outlets, pretend the mission statements, the programming, and even the pruned and deliberate lexicon are motivated by the psychology of marketing and not any assent to the public’s right to know.
So what’s with the lead? Let’s be blunt? If you guessed correctly, I think it’s funny that you listen to Marketplace. I wonder if you’re too lazy to change the channel or something, dude. How typical of the liberal media establishment to endear themselves to drug users with suggestive language. The story, of course, is as banal as abstinence-only education. Miracle Gro CEO says he wants to target pot growers, which is later suit-santitized into a statement regarding the viability of rapidly-growing niche markets in the legal medical marijuana industries.
It’s not necessarily evidence of a liberal bias. But it’s enough to make someone who’s on the lookout for one (invariably, an opponent) turn up their nose and complain about their time being wasted. For them, this kind of time is best spent discussing the relationship between Obama running this country into the ground and the skyrocketing price of gold and commemorative plates that will certainly result.
What, pray tell, is compelling evidence for a liberal media bias?
Let’s examine the state we’re in: every word that airs is the effluent of careful thought control. This begs the question of where I’ve put my tinfoil hat, but I want you to stay with this point. Clearly, I’ve disclosed my positive status as a liberal. But if you re-contextualize (after all, what else is bias?) the term “thought control” from a tool of the supervillainous psychopath and instead as a skill involved in professional psychology, you’re aware of the goal of many clinicians, especially those who work on a behavioral level. Fortune tellers, life coaches, salespeople of all sorts capitalize on our appetite for cognitive distortion.
I’m persisting with “thought control” because I’m following Orwell’s advice and being clear without sensitivity to “quietism.” It’s easy to see why anyone providing compassionate, psychiatric treatment would resist the term; other psychologists, however, arrest and manipulate thoughts without the rigorous and vigilant ethics demanded of the clinical folk. They’re called advertisers, and they seem worthy of malice projection; they operate without the hopeful pretense that a compassionate framework of humanistic empathy, support, and behavioral modeling will free you from maladaptive, harmful patterns. Instead, they know you’re probably going to suffer along with everyone else. They’ve seen the numbers, and it’s looking pretty likely that you’re not only going to wallow in dysfunction, distortion, and other dissonance—you’re going to celebrate it!
This is why a cycle of filling needs with commercial products (from “news” to foot cream) seems more like an authentic life than say, a narrative. In Orwell’s 1984, we’re presented with a narrative model of the thought-control process at work here. Spoiler alert: Big Brother wins because the language does not permit the thought required to transcend oppression. Unfortunately, that thesis has been relegated by populist anger to the domain of the obnoxiously bookish. Instead, it’s superficial message dominates: conspicuous authoritarianism is frightening. We’re immune though; we willingly watch the glowing screen, but it doesn’t watch us back. Enslavement to television is as Orwellian an exercise of one’s treasured freedom as archival incineration or any of the other relatively accessible metaphors in that story, but I digress.
Luckily, one doesn’t have to engage in elitist literary analysis in order to figure out what Orwell thought about Politics and the English Language. There’s an aptly-titled, straightforward essay. He cautions against making such analysis of language “frivolous” & “the exclusive concern of professional writers,” instead arguing that “to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration.”
(from near the end of the article you might not read)
I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought. Stuart Chase and others have come near to claiming that all abstract words are meaningless, and have used this as a pretext for advocating a kind of political quietism. Since you don't know what Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism? One need not swallow such absurdities as this, but one ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end.
“Improvement” here means the desire for clear thinking, ostensibly the goal of the clinical thought-controllers. But let’s turn to the dark side, first with an effort to re-contextualize them again for emphasis. They’re not a cabal of Pinky & the Brain types trying to govern your every action, they’re simply mundane, amoral board members trying to monetize those actions.
Why would their programming threaten this dominance? This would be like serving rotten food at a restaurant. This is the real conflict revealed by closely studying human psychology: we rarely want what’s best for us. Our own best interests are compartmentalized as abstracts in our brain, sequestered physically from the part that governs behavior. The insight to change what’s not working is shrouded in dense layers of our own B.S. This is as daunting to the treating psychologist as it is thrilling to the advertiser.
So, we’re back to our original hypothetical: what if news is a product just like any other? The taste for “authentic” journalism (if such a thing exists) is surely a less-lucrative niche market than growing medical pot. This is why the servers that house the iCloud are built to serve far more people than the narrow corridors of vinyl record stores, both of which can offer you the new(ish) Black Keys album.
So why all the bitching about a bias? If the clearest indicator of bias is adopting the conqueror’s dictionary, I see only a constant effort to yield to the delusion that reactionary, divisive obstructionism is the mainstream, morally-grounded ethic of everyone in America without an ocean view.
Fox News fans don’t hear “fair and balanced” as earnest descriptors, but rather as warranted barbs against the establishment. This is because the experience of being informed by current events is, in the commercial transaction, not about the expository content but about the emotional entertainment. An editorialism like “we’re fair and balanced,” (and the implicit they’re not) would, if designed with clarity in mind, sound like: “we validate your efforts to shape your sense as common.” The scapegoat of bias, content—murder, war, and impersonal poverty, etc.—varies little from audience to audience.
If every side of the ideology aisle is seeking the same base gratification in their news stories—kick ‘em when they’re up, kick ‘em when they’re down—why shame the opposition? Answer: thought control. The reality is that NPR has no accountability to the Fox News audience, no matter how many narcotics officers they interview.
Consider KQED’s benign effort to cover how Miracle Gro could benefit financially from marketing to rich kids paranoid about output and quality control? In some subversive way, this could be a liberal bias; it certainly seems more palatable to a right-wing, free-market ethic that a good old American corporation could benefit from a domestic, hand grown product. That was certainly the logic of the person who cleaned up the Miracle Gro CEO’s enthusiasm for taking the Nancy Botwin approach to business.
Moreover, it’s the logic of whomever organizes the language of NPR broadcasts.I see that, however, not as a product of liberal bias. It’s a product of immersion in an environment constructed by these profit-driven and false bastardizations of conservatism wherein a journalist is constantly on guard for their perceived allegiance to progressive ideology.
The story that followed this one was again about the lethal drug cartels in Mexico and how hard it is for law enforcement to contain the growing threat. Conspiracy-minded people sensitive to patterns like this would fear impending military action south of the border. I paraphrase the end of the broadcast: ~”~An estimated 22 million Americans use illegal drugs each year, do they share the blame for the escalating violence? ~”~
In Lies & the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, Al Franken presents, with classic liberal bias, his thoughts on the matter. There’s no bias in the content, he says, flippantly; instead, the private progressivism of journalists is a result of their inquisitive and educated nature. That’s what he thinks, anyway. In Orwell’s drama, though, we are being conquered by the conscious efforts of a ruling class. I think it’s simpler than this, I think it’s Darwin’s drama: we’re participating in this as a result of our natural appetites. The integrity of the systems we travel through to meet our needs simply isn’t relevant; the impetus of our thirst for stasis is too strong to cling to any one dictionary.
Thanks for allowing me to share my bluntness; I look forward to controlling your thoughts in the future, yeah?
This is the first song I ever remember hearing.
- Won’t you get on my back for a piggyback ride?
- Reasons why a mother could hate her baby