We are living in an age when we should all be aware of what goes on around the entire world. And the mass media has played a vital role in the dissemination of information. But sad to say there are instances when accuracy and objectivity have been sacrificed, thus opening the door for sensationalism, distortions and outright propaganda.
This dark side of the mass media can only be described as scaremongering. And it would appear that those who are engaged in this type of misrepresentation are doing so to improve the rating status of their particular network. The strong urge to have good ratings seems to be the driving force behind inflated, distorted and sensational reporting.
Instead of reporting the news objectively, a great deal of pressure is put on television personalities to insert a subjective twist on what is being reported. There is no doubt that this practice generally gives rise to distortions and over the top embellishments. There is no better example of this insatiable urge to inflate, embellish and distort their reported experience than what transpired with the suspended NBC anchor, Brian Williams.
The mad rush to be first to report domestic and international activities has become a scourge in the television and radio business. This unethical practice has become so prevalent that I sometimes fear for our national security. There are instances where the mass media has unwittingly revealed our military strategy and tactical manoeuvres to the entire world, thus alerting the enemy and putting our fighting men and women in harm’s way.
There is no greater evidence of this violation of our national security than the worldwide broadcasting of America’s plan to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. One television network in particular blamed the Pentagon for this revelation. But the Pentagon did not broadcast this plan to the entire, the networks did.
In our Western judicial system, people who are arrested for alleged unlawful acts are innocent until proven guilty. But the mass media is sometimes quick to act as judge and jury in many cases. In so doing the collective pressure of the mass media tends to initiate and influence the court of public opinion.
Almost on a daily basis we are bombarded with distorted messages highlighting and deepening our fears about the imminent threat of terrorism. We are inundated with distorted notions of patriotism. We are flooded with divisive messages that deliberately demonize various individuals and racial groups. And it is commonplace to smear people by taking their words out of context.
There is no doubt that the constant repetition of misleading information has given rise to what is commonly referred to as the ‘Big Lie’. Thus, if something is repeated over and over again with a great deal of perceived conviction, many people will tend to believe it, even if what is said is totally false.
It may be said that the mass media can be a source of good if it is used to disseminate truth and unbiased information. On the contrary, if it is constantly used to spread propaganda, sensationalism and falsehood, then it can be rightly called a source of scaremongering.
Rupert Johnson can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.