Media Complicity: Then and Now
Media Complicity: Then and Now

Recently, Republican Sen. Jeff Flake said members of his party should stand up to Donald Trump’s lies. But, who is left in Congress to do so? During the McCarthyism scare of the ‘50s, a few Republicans would (eventually) stand up to Sen. Joseph McCarthy. But today, who will? The fact is that the bigger issue might just be why do reporters and journalists insist upon repeating everything Donald Trump says that they know to be false? Seriously, why? Repeating a lie only perpetuates it. Not only that, but by turning falsehoods into stories unto themselves, the media is promulgating the lie and providing cover for any serious examination of Republican issues and policies.

During his reign of fright, Joe McCarthy frequently made statements that he seemingly knew were false because newsmen didn’t have time to fact check, due to deadlines. Then by the time they could check their veracity…he would move onto something else that would draw attention to him and his “cause.”  Sound familiar? Imagine Twitter in 1951. So, when McCarthy began his witch-hunt in 1950 by claiming to have the names of 205 card-carrying members of the communist party who worked for the State Department, he was providing a road map that conservatives have used ever since. Find something that seems “different” or foreign or even perverse to so-called middle America, speak falsely about it, then move on to the next pernicious falsehood. It should be noted that McCarthy himself did not find one communist working for the government. Not one. Though he was himself censured.

If you want to know more about Joe McCarthy by someone whose primary goal was adding to the historical record, find this book:

 

For journalists, accuracy must always be an essential goal. But in this day and age, for those who make their living as journalists covering politics, policy, and government, as well as those who cover other aspects of American cultural and social life, another fundamental goal must emerge as arbiters of truth

The days when the media was compelled to report/print what someone says, without pointing out errors, and let the reader decide if it’s true or not, no longer exists.  If it ever really did in the first place. Journalist Richard Rovere said about the media’s coverage of McCarthy something that’s equally applicable today: leaving it up to the reader to make his/her own decision, “was rather like saying…if a restaurant serves poisoned food, it is up to the diner to refuse it.”

Today, many reporters have simply become conduits for political leaders; conduits for lies. The more outrageous the statement the more likely it is to be reported. And that’s exactly what people like Trump and Kanye West desire. So when a less-than intellectually enlightened rapper marries into a family whose only noticeable goal is to advance their own fame, we shouldn’t be repeating their wildly absurd statements. Even if it’s under the guise of an opinion. Slavery was no more a matter of choice than to say those in prisons or concentration camps choose to remain there voluntarily.

So, how about this, the next time a politician or celebrity says something that you know to be false, don’t say a word. See what happens. Try it.

 

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