Tag: Media

Media Propaganda

Media Propaganda

When thinking about sensationalism and propaganda within media stories. A few instances stick out to me. The first example is when George Bush, our 43rd president, started campaigning to reform social security. His mission was to privatize social security due to the upcoming projected shortfalls in the social security funds.
The projections are that payroll taxes will only cover 75% of the scheduled social security payouts between 2033-2086. What George Bush was trying to do, was to get a higher return on the money in the trust, in order to help offset the remaining 25% shortfall.

I remember multiple media outlets were reporting how bad, or questionable, an idea this was. A particular news program showed the graph with the shortfall, and then said, “We only come up 25% short”. Of course this was right after the dot com bubble and nasdaq tech stock crash, so the media was playing off those fears. But I feel the main reason that social security reform failed, was because of the media.

Media has powerful effect on how we think, especially if we believe we are getting information from a trusted source that just reports the news. Of course, almost all media outlets put their own spin on the news, and report it how they see fit.
Another story that sticks out to me is when 60 minutes came to my hometown, Newton, IA in October of 2010. They were reporting on how angry people are at the economy and the government. They interviewed a few business owners and some local vocals who had been laid off, probably by Maytag a couple of years ago.

The story angered me, as a resident of Newton, because they only interviewed people who were out of work or had a suffering business. They didn’t interview me, who was doing great as a software engineer. They didn’t interview the former execs at Maytag who retired with boat loads of cash. They choose to interview the person who was out of work and angry at the government. I believe the quote from the person was, “The government needs to get us jobs!”.
The motivation behind each of these journalistic media reports was to influence people’s way of thinking. These stories had obvious spins to them.

Is spinning a story ethical? There is always an ethical dilemma when reporting what the facts are, and reporting what sells. Over time people tend not to trust any source of information that proves not to be ethical. When trust is lost, credibility is lost. When credibility is lost, sales suffer.

As a society I don’t feel we have a responsibility around how sensationalism and propaganda affects us, unless it is government sponsored. Privately sponsored messages can do whatever they’d like. After all most of it is just opinions. Free speech!
What crosses the line is when a government, such as North Korea, flat out lies to its people to influence their thinking. Then you are essentially brain washing your population. That is when it definitely crosses the line.

References:
Anger In The Land, 60 Minutes
October 2010

Social security debate in the United States, Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Security_debate_in_the_United_States