Saturday, March 14, 2015

Setting a better example for the Mass Media

The Mass Media isn’t even trying to do a good job. They are controlled by a very small percentage of the population. Some of the problems with the Media have been clearly defined in a book by Robert W. McChesney “The problem of the media: U.S. communication politics in the twenty-first century” 2004. He describes how only five media companies control the vast majority of media outlets. They are forbidden from collusion officially but unofficially they meet with each other at board meetings for other companies supposedly unrelated to the media on a regular basis.

They don’t pay for the use of the airwaves nor are they required to give most members of the public a chance to have air time. Some of the few ways to influence the Mass Media is to boycott it or write congressmen. They can and do routinely ignore these methods.

They have an enormous influence over the vast majority of the public. A lot of this influence is a result of right wing talk radio which receives preferential treatment by the Mass Media. Bernard Goldberg claims to expose this media Bias in his book “Bias: a CBS insider exposes how the media distorts the news.” He is actually even more biased than the Mass Media and after he was ignored for a while he has been promoted by Fox as an expert at exposing the Mass Media.

This should raise major alarm bells. If a Nazi was claiming to expose Hitler would you trust him? If Fox was truly as concerned about reforming media they would start by changing their own practices not claiming every one else is worse. The success of democracy is supposed to be based on the free press. This issue was originally raised when the governments controlled the media. Now there are a small number of companies controlling the media and the vast majority of the public doesn’t fully understand how biased the Mass Media is or how much it influences the public.

We need serious Media reform so that there is input from the public and preferential treatment should be given to those that do accurate research and do a good job showing the work. This doesn’t mean that the rest of the people shouldn’t have a say in how the media is run but if I want to know about a particular subject I want to hear from people who have done research not just talking heads who are constantly changing positions and not keeping track of the work behind it or trying to correct contradictions.
This is especially bad when it comes to dealing with violence. Violence is routinely used to manipulate people’s emotions and accomplish goals for special interests. The Mass Media spends little if any time telling the public what the true causes for violence is. They spend much more time using demagogues like Nancy Grace to manipulate the public.
We may not be able to get Media reform right away but in the mean time we can do a better job setting a better example for the Mass Media. This could start with creating alternative Media outlets and drawing more attention to them. With the internet some of this has already happened but it isn’t nearly enough. One of the biggest alternative media outlets available is Wikipedia which is edited by the public. This gives the public an opportunity to set a better example but in order for them to do this they will first have to learn how to do a better job themselves. Wikipedia is currently discussing ways to reform what they are doing. This is a good idea and it is a good opportunity to improve the direction of Wikipedia and recruit new users.

They are doing a lot of good work but they still have some problems to work out. One problem is how to weed out political objectives that are contrary to the best interest of the majority. In order to improve this it will require more participation from the majority of the public. The public will also have to learn to understand how the media works better and how special interests manipulate the media. They need to spend more time checking sources. In some cases they do this very well but in other cases where there are people on Wikipedia with political agendas it doesn’t work quite so well. One example of this is school violence. Wikipedia has many articles about school violence but very little about prevention. I tried to improve this myself but was unable to accomplish much because of disputes with others in some cases it seems as if the issue of gun control may be part of the problem. There is more about the discussion on gun control in Wikipedia than there is about research done by people with the appropriate educational background. There are plugs for politicians and a comment from Ted Nugent about how we need more armed people but when I attempted to provide sourced material from people I considered qualified researchers they were referred to as advocacy and un-encyclopedic.

I may not be the best writer on Wikipedia but I believe that much more can be done to improve the way this subject is addressed. The assumption that preventing violence based on academic sources should be banned from Wikipedia but political speech should go unchallenged seems unreasonable to me. I’m not opposed to presenting alternative view but when Ted Nugent receives as much attention if not more than scholars who research the subject that seems biased to me. I believe that an encyclopedia should provide more priority for academic sources than political sources. This is supposed to be about academic work so that politicians can use the information to make their decisions not the other way around. When politicians or commentators decide what is true then the researchers search for evidence to prove they are right this strikes me as highly unscientific.
The media could do a better job by providing more information from academic researchers about the circumstances that lead up to violent acts which usually involve other less serious violent acts and child abuse. They could give them much more air time than they do instead of the demagogues. In the mean time Wikipedia and independent blogs and news outlets can set a better example. Wikipedia as well as other outlets can provide more information from credible sources like James Garbarino, Joanne Scaglione and many others. In addition to the ones I have cited here and elsewhere I’m sure there are many more that I haven’t checked. It is just a matter of looking for them. The problem is that many people have already made their decisions based on information that they have received from demagogues. There needs to be a better effort to teach people about how demagogues manipulate the public as well.

There doesn’t appear to be many people at Wikipedia who are interested in providing more information about prevention. There is plenty of academic work to provide good information about prevention and the rules of Wikipedia usually gives preferential treatment to academic work. The exception seems to be when there is political opposition. When this happens it can be countered with political support. The benefit in the long term could be very large if it helps to advance public understanding of the problem and how to solve it. The invitation for discussion by Jimmy Wales and Michael Snow is welcome and I hope it leads to improvements in Wikipedia. Wikipedia has a lot of potential but it can’t be any better than its contributors and that is the general public. This virtually guarantees’ that there will be a significant amount of disagreement. The public is in my opinion not as educated as they could or should be and this can’t be fixed quickly. It will surely be long effort to correct superstitions. This requires a long term education project which many educational institutions may have to help with. Wikipedia can be one of them.
First posted on Tripod on 10/09/09
For my recommended article see:

For a proposal submitted about setting a better example see:

For more about how Wikipedia can be reformed check Wikipedia out for yourself or read the following:

(For more information on Blog see Blog description and table of context for most older posts.)

The following are the original replies when this was first posted on Open Salon.

Excellent post Zack! I'm going to do a post on the same thing, especially Rupurt Murdock and Fox. Not only did they effect the outcome of our latest farce of an election, they are going to actually promote the candidates for the 2012 presidential election. Chris Wallace, in the link I'm providing, actually admits the next election will be bought and paid for and they will promote the candidates they want for president. In a sort of reality show, they are going to have the next election fixed like this one and are bragging about it. With a conservative Supreme Court bought and paid for, there is nothing that the little man can do about it. It is insane!

scanner November 06, 2010 02:03 PM

Fox is running a cult propaganda machine! Those that understand cult activities would never fall for it and many that are more influenced by other cults won't fall for it either; however they are appealing to the strongest cult mentality in America and they have a lot of reinforcement from other sources including right wing talk and churches indoctrinating people from birth as well as the corporations trying to brainwash the public.

I look forward to your post on the subject.

zacherydtaylor November 09, 2010 12:01 PM

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