Posted in Education, Gonzaga University, Politics, Social Issues

The Ever-Present Plurality

For my communications class, one of the projects was to watch Buying the War, a PBS feature where “Mainstream Media” reporters bemoaned how they let the government deceive them into supporting the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and then writing a commentary on it using a couple of communication theories from our theory book.
Many of the reactions from other students included the idea that after watching the feature, they now no longer completely trust the mainstream media.  Being too polite, I refrained from saying, “so, you finally decided to join us.” Some of us have been mistrusting the media since before Ronald Reagan.
Some of them also talked about seeking out other news sources. Which tends to miss the whole point. It isn’t a question of number of sources, it is having the capability to properly evaluate them. Without it you just end up exchanging one questionable source for another.

Finding sources, and then evaluating them is a critical part of what we will be doing with papers in our communications degree. We are taught to look for peer-reviewed materials as the best qualified sources. Those major media outlets would seem to be the “peer-reviewed” source for news stories. But as we have seen in Buying the War, even these sort of sources can be compromised.

What is required to evaluate the truth. But how can you know the truth?

C.S. Lewis would speak up and suggest reading sources from other ages. Studying other ages helps us become aware of the blind spots of our own age.

Which makes me reflect back to the book Cronkite that we read in book club several months back.  The book presented a time where the news media was fairly homogenous, and the country really united. But when reading the book, I asked myself the question: was the country as united as it seemed, or did the media oligopoly just make it seem so? 

I don’t think public opinion has ever been as united as history books or media stories make it seem. There have always been people underrepresented.  Before civil rights black opinions were definitely underrepresented, and that is just one example.

Today the internet allows people to follow and find information targeted to their groups and interests in a way never seen before in history. The media oligopoly is extremely fractured. But they continue to talk as if they were the true purveyors of news and truth, getting ever more strident about it as their actual influence shrinks.

The rest of us are finding more outlets for expression, and differentiation. The Plurality is finally finding it has a voice. Those in the mainstream bemoan this as polarization. They think this is new, and blame scapegoats and bogeymen. But it is just natural currents that were already there becoming visible.

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Author:

Husband of beautiful, brainy Jasini of Jasini.wordpress.com as well as father of two way too brilliant teens. Singer, thinker, writer, a creative type who spent 20 years in the world of institutional investment accounting and customer service, and now is spinning his creativity in a search for his next career.

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