Thought of the Day-Journalism: The Art of Self-Congratulations

branches&creaturesI had access to a computer, and now I don’t again. So I hope you enjoy reading one long paragraph. But this problem occurred to me while watching the Roger Stone documentary on Netflix. I came away from it thinking that Roger Stone was a piece of shit, as intended. But at the same time, something didn’t sit right. Now I don’t HATE journalism. I’m just simply saying: “Hey, journos, calm down.” I’m not anti-free speech, don’t be stupid. I’m just anti- self-congratulations. That’s all that I’m saying with this post……..”Never read the comments section” is usually sound advice. But I have a dirty secret to share: I almost exclusely read the comments section. Is most of it garbage? Of course. But I think it would be a mistake to think that it’s ALL garbage. I tend to think of articles and their comments sections like a Hegelian dialectic. The article poses a thesis, comments are USUALLY antithesis, and I’m able to construct a nice synthesis from reading both. But I’m a strange person like that. Even out of garbage, I’m able to find a nugget of wisdom…even if it’s completely wrong. Am I making sense? That may be neither here nor there, but the point I’d like to get at is…the comments are almost always challenging the article. That may not be unusual for some. After all, common logic suggests that people would rather complain than say something nice. I’ve been on the Internet a long time, I’ve been reading comments for longer than what any normal person should. Nerds once flooded IMDB pages trolling other users. People being mean to another on the Internet is nothing new. Now I don’t have any scientific evidence to back this up…in fact, I’m probably just imagining shit. But, online comments are, and someone will probably want to kill me on this…they’re getting BETTER. Not better in a way that they’re more CORRECT, but better in a way that they are ALMOST as well thought out as the articles themselves. It’s like the people, after finally understanding the power that the Internet has granted to them, are rivaling the experts and so-called “journalists” on interpreting the facts. In my personal opinion, anything that I read on one of the many blogs I follow is immensely better than anything on Slate, CNN, Huffpost, Fox News, etc. They’re better written, INDEPENDENTLY though out, and immensely less hateful, especially when it comes to the opinion pieces on current events. To the many “journalists” and experts out there that are on a payroll for a major news outlet…this SHOULD be concerning. Yet that’s not what I have observed. An arrogance still permeates this profession, which claims to be an outlet for the people. This is especially obvious in sports journalism. We all remember when Jim Rome almost got his ass kicked on the air by Jim Everett. But there are few events in history which brings all people together. Tragic ones usually do, think 9/11. But there are few positive ones that are able to achieve this. But I can immediately think of two. The first one was man landing on the moon.  The second is Marshawn Lynch’s infamous “I’m just here so I won’t get fined” press conference. It doesn’t matter who you are, you were thinking “fuck yeah” when you heard that. While I believe that the reporters there took it in good humor, I recall that there were some writers that had a “how dare you” moment. While every viewer was cheering him on, some sports writers were genuinely upset that he was essentially saying “fuck you” to the media. There are NFL writers that still get miffed when Bill Belichick blows them off (I’m looking at YOU, Dan Hanzus). Their defense is usually something like “it’s part of their job to talk to the media, and we’re ONLY asking questions.” But I doubt Robert Kraft keeps Bill Belichick on the payroll because he’s an electrifying public speaker.  And every single NFL fan understands that, even if they hate the man, except for a few NFL writers. Rarely does anything interesting get said during a press conference. NO ONE cares about sideline reporting (it’s really only useful for production value, in that it “looks good” to jump to other people. But nobody cares about WHAT’S being reported.) But there’s this insistence that what they’re telling us is important, and they’re entitled to the information. Additionally, some might hide behind a “just questioning” defense, but that’s paper thin. The average reader will understand the concepts of “loaded” and “leading” questions when they see it, even if they aren’t familiar with those exact terms. The idea of an unbiased reporter is simply not realistic and is probably difficult to find. So yes, non-journalists are justified in their distrust of journalists. “Fake News” has been the buzz term for the last couple of years. People either mock the term or take it to its extreme. But, is the concern unwarranted? Should this be a bigger deal than what it is? And should the practice of journalism be re-assessing itself in the age of the Internet? The Press once prided itself on being the defenders of free speech, and to a large extent…they ARE. But when a normal person hears a journo (as I’ll call them) proclaim their self-importance in this manner, many will think “so what does that make the Internet?”. While many journos have exposed events to the public , there have been MANY incidents where they blatantly mislead the everyone. William Randolph Hearst? UVA Rape Case? Fox News? Those are just the ones at the top of my head. But the journos are all to quick to overlook those events, and instead of addressing those concerns head on…they want to think of themselves as HEROES! I don’t know, if you’ve exposed an important story, I suppose you can be called a “hero”. But the only people that call them “heroes” are other journos! Foreign correspondents that go into dangerous territory to get the big story? Heroes, for sure. But the guy that exposes a congressman for exposing himself? Good job buddy, but you’re not a hero. The media has often been referred to as the unofficial “fourth branch of government”. And in the public eye, that’s certainly the case. And as of right now, the political elite (which includes politicians and members of the media) are INCREDIBLY unpopular. Politicians know this, but probably don’t care. The media, as a whole, is completely oblivious to the fact that they’re lumped into this “elite”. I don’t know how much commenters in the comments section are representative of the readers as a whole, but there’s a sizable portion of readers that ONLY read the material because they absolutely HATE the publication. I’m convinced that’s the only reason why the National Review is still in existence. The publication ITSELF doesn’t care as long as people are still viewing it. As long as they’re still getting clicks, nothing else matters. So I often question how genuine the opinions are. Do the writers actually believe the stuff they’re typing? Or are they just writing crap that they know people will read, regardless if it’s true? This level of distrust between the public and mainstream journalism, and journalism’s unwillingness to address these concerns, is what’s allowing Trumpism and their accusations of “fake news” to fester. Us on the Left have been providing a false sense of solidarity by not calling out each other’s bullshit, which might help our case at “winning” but will certainly not help our case at being CORRECT. Many of the liberal sites I visit produce incoherent shit…stuff that just riles up the crowd, but doesn’t challenge anyone. Of course me bitching at this system might be about as effective as bitching at the weather. There’s probably nothing that can be done about it. Maybe this is where philosophy might be useful because it challenges our assumptions on the interpretation of truth. It’s rarely as black and white as how the news tries to present it. Maybe we should do away with journos and let philosophers do all the reporting…whatever will prevent the practice in just becoming an exercise in self-congratulations.

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