From time to time, I turn on Fox News to get the “other side” of the political debate, but the more and more I watch, I am struck by how similar Fox News is to a state run news organization. They “report the news”, but with a specific psychological slant, not only towing a hard-right political angle, but justifying pre-determined points that are “rationalized’ into “alternative-facts” so that they become real to their audience. I witnessed these state-run programs firsthand during my visits to Mexico.
News-as-psychological-warfare is not new: In the 1890s, William Randolph Hearst helped start the Spanish-American War using his newspaper, the New York Journal, to fabricate stories and push propaganda to justify military action by the United States. Hearst is often referred to as a “newspaper” publisher. However, his media empire was not built upon providing news by the credo of journalism ethics: objective, unbiased reporting to the public. Hearst made a fortune hooking wide-eyed Americans with concoctions of lies and distortion, while destroying countless innocent lives in the process. Yellow journalism was born at the New York Journal. Its father was Hearst. Fox News is his favorite grandchild.
America is on the edge. Trump is trying to herd the country to its own Buffalo Jump, with the help of yellow journalism. We, the People, must demand the return of the independent newsroom, outside of any revenue pressures that all current editors face. We, the People, are the owners of the airwaves on which these media empires are built. We, the People, deserve truth and objective, unbiased information to determine the best course of action because, in a democracy, if we are presented with “alternative answers” to scientifically proven, factual information (i.e. global warming), we are going to destroy this nation and, eventually, ourselves.
The FCC licenses all airwaves on behalf of us—the citizens of this country. If the company is a “news” organization, they are required to report unbiased, factual news that is beneficial to the public, without a personal or ideological point of view. Freedom of the Press in the U.S. Constitution guarantees that the government will not interfere with news outlets. We, the People, are not licensing OUR airwaves as an exercise in Freedom of Speech for reporters to say what they please, or to spin a story that benefits their corporate sponsors. Freedom of Speech—the liberty to speak openly without fear of government restraint—and Freedom of the Press are two distinct concepts.
If ABC News reports on the amazing mathematical discovery that 2 + 2 = 4, FOX News cannot report their results as 5 based on expressing their Freedom of Speech. When so-called “news” organizations such as Fox News or Breitbart News Network report “alternative facts”, they are simply telling lies or promoting propaganda, but they are not informing the public with facts.
In fact, Merriam-Webster has a message for the Trump administration: There is no such thing as an “alternative fact.” There are facts, and then there are falsehoods.
This week, without batting a lash, Fox News commentators lied to their audience about the impact Trumpcare would have on American lives, downplaying the number of people who could die.
“…You know what the crazy thing is? We’re all gonna die. There is no way to predict, unless they’re absolutely psychic, or have a party line to heaven, they don’t know who’s going to die, or when or how many people. That’s such a fool’s error trying to quantify something that serious and grave.”
- The study on the lack of health care for Americans is so “serious” and so “grave” that it has been quantified and studied and documented with facts and numbers and research for decades.
- The Congressional Budget Office informed us that 22 million American will be uninsured by 2026 under Trumpcare.
- Reuters reported that 130,000 uninsured were dying every 5 years—3 people per hour—before the Affordable Care Act. Other studies show similar numbers.
Yet, a group panel, on a televised “news” show, reported to their nationwide audience that “there is no way to predict how many people will die” if Obamacare is repealed.
This is not the unwitting ignorance of Montgomery and her fellow Fox colleagues and guests. It is willful lying to the public, under the guise of “news” and “journalism” about a life-and-death issue that will affect almost every American who is not a member of the 1% — because the uninsured affect the insured via higher premiums—unless you make $250,000 a year. This income bracket is set to save money and do very well under Trumpcare.
What made America the greatest country in the world?
We were informed.
On the HBO series, The Newsroom, the character Will McAvoy, who plays a Peter Jennings-esque nightly news anchor, was asked what made America the greatest country in the world. In his now-famous monologue, he reminded us that honorable journalism was one of the cornerstones of what made America great.
[Americans] were able to be all these things, and to do all these things, because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered. The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one.
The framers of the Constitution vaulted the importance of a Free Press and Free Speech as a critical component to the health of a democratic nation, but they wrote them as separate rights: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech; or of the press…”
An informed nation is a free nation.
Freedom of Speech is an individual’s right to express any opinion without being punished for having done so.
Freedom of the Press respects the right to publish and distribute factual information to the public.
The two are not synonymous.
We, the People, must Resist yellow journalism. We, the People, must know the difference. And, it is our responsibility to seek out the truth because only the truth will keep us Free.
Cheryl Diaz contributed to this article | @thecheriebomb