We have all grown up with the saying that “less is more”. As with many sayings we have heard, there is truth to this one. A room with too much furniture seems small and cluttered, while positioning fewer pieces strategically can make the room feel larger. When we first fall in love and marry we feel that all we need is each other, that material wealth is secondary. We look back on those years of having “less” as some of the best. Sometimes we have to make less out of more by prioritizing. Choosing how to budget our income or how to study for an exam forces us to simplify the choices. While the “less is more” concept has made a lot of sense for many years, there is one important exception to this age-old wisdom. In certain situations more is actually less, and a perfect example is in the sheer amount of media we have the opportunity (or chore) to sort through every day, or every hour, or every minute.
While newspapers and magazines have always had a political slant, there was a rigid wall between the news and opinion sections that was carefully guarded. That was certainly the case with TV and radio news as well. If an opinion was to be aired, it was carefully labeled as such. The concept of “fair and balanced”, so flagrantly abused by FOX News, was, in fact, the credo of the news media for many years. That is why the exceptions to that practice were so evident and chastised. Now the loss of the Fairness Doctrine has enabled the cable news outlets and conservative radio to feed the public information that has been filtered and slanted with disregard to truth or fact. It is a fact that all cable news outlets have an agenda. There is no subtly or attempt to disguise it as unbiased. As the viewer share of the traditional network news telecasts slides, an ever increasing portion of the viewing public receive their daily dose of news from a biased cable network. Certainly, this can’t help but have an impact on political and social perceptions and opinions.
Further, now that we have the proliferation of opinion masked as information available online in the form of blogs, tweets and Facebook posts the opportunities to influence opinion is even greater. This problem becomes truly critical when the purveyors of these media outlets seek to influence, and the consumers lack the ability to critically assess the veracity of that information. As I have lamented on many occasions, our population is sorely uninformed and disengaged.
Thomas Jefferson warned centuries ago that a true democracy requires an informed and engaged populace. Obviously the consequences of an uninformed populace is that the few may to tell the many what they need to know and what is “best for them”. Does that sound airily familiar?
In order to make educated decisions we must educate ourselves. We must be able to distinguish between opinion and fact. We have an unprecedented and undisciplined cascade of opinion and a slow and painful drip of fact available. Please take the time to make informed and educated decisions as we are confronted with many important issues during the coming year. Don’t be fooled into thinking that more is really more.
- Diversity of opinion missing in media: Jaipal Reddy (thehindu.com)
- History Palinized (washingtonmonthly.com)
- Independence (Post #6) (mpbrooks2013.wordpress.com)
- The Rise (and Fall) of Objectivity (tellmehowitends.wordpress.com)
- Whitewashed TV isn’t Just Racist, It’s Boring! (thenerdsofcolor.org)
- News media provide answers… or do they? (ceaseanddecysthealthblog.wordpress.com)
- Fair and Balanced? (kluketic.wordpress.com)