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Objectivity in the Media and Politics (The Chicken or the Egg?) September 6, 2006

Posted by earthlingconcerned in Social and Politics.

A few weeks ago, I was watching an interview with Thom Yorke, the lead singer of Radiohead, on CBC Newsworld. He discussed his recent solo work, but also his frustrations with the objectivity in modern media. On global warming, he suggested that because the BBC has to remain impartial at all times, they hire any schmuck off the streets just so they can present both sides of the story. The obvious weakness, as he saw it (and I would agree), was that no matter how much evidence there was to support one argument, the network must always present both sides equally. It’s for these reasons that shows like Crossfire existed on CNN. If for any reason there was any question regarding the legitimacy of the color red, the networks would give equal time to the side arguing the existence of red and to the person who suggests otherwise. What this sort of reporting does is confuse the viewers, it creates conflicting opinion where no such opinion should exist.

The problem is that if one side is favored over another, you run into the problem of favoring something that may be incorrect after all. Choosing the wrong road to follow, so to speak. So objectivity, the solution, allows for all the facts to be presented from all sides and subsequently discussed so that a consensus can be reached and both sides are satisfied in the compromise or at the very least understand perfectly where they erred. Sadly, I believe, coming to a conclusion objectively works in the realm of academia but not so much in the media which relies so much on conflict over consensus. Allowing for this opinion, I would further suggest that this ongoing objectivity in most of the media today (advocacy journalism does still exist, but its voice is severely muted) gives a huge advantage to any government in power. And that this ongoing objectivity may have something to do with the growing partisanship seen around the world.

Before I go any further, I will admit that a lot of what I will say is simply an opinion that I’ve gathered for myself by living in the world I live in. I’m aware that the topic has been discussed and criticized by the likes of Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky (along with thousands upon thousands of others). But this time around I’m going to simply write what I see, before gathering all of the possible opinions. In doing so, I am disallowing a certain tint of objectivity that I myself tend to strive for. Using the United States as my guinea pig, I would like to suggest there are several topics that have fallen into the eternal trap of objectivity in the media. The war in Iraq, Global Warming, Stem Cell Research, Gay Marriage, and illegal immigration are all topics that will never be resolved in the media because the requirement to present both sides and kindly agree to disagree. Using the now defunct Crossfire (Thank you Jon Stewart) as an example, Tucker Carlson and James Carville were not paid to ever come to a consensus. Their primary objective was simply to object what the opinion of other and do so convincingly. To suggest that there was ever any debate on the show is truly asinine. It was a platform that would have been able to discuss, with much passion and supposed certainty, the legitimacy of the colour red. The true tragedy is how this obvious fallacy continues and is subsequently understood by the governing parties.

You’ve probably heard about how Iraq is showing the historic signs of an impending civil war. A recent pentagon report stated that the conditions for a civil war were in place. This resulted in several articles written on the topic until George W. Bush, in his weekly radio speech, suggested otherwise. It was only a matter of increased violence, nothing more. Considering civil wars and violence don’t have anything to do with each other, I should probably believe the president. But, then there’s always the pentagon initial report that stated otherwise. The media, I’m sure, will hammer out all the kinks and come out with a responsible conclusion by the end of the week. Mr. Carlson, you represent the right so do some research on what Bush said. Mr. Carville, it’s your job to discuss the impending civil war. Go! But realistically, and this is what this entire article is about, the second Bush suggested that there was no real concern of a civil war in Iraq, the topic was forever condemned the world of partisan bickering. But it is indeed a touchy topic, so why not have Condoleezza Rice compare the Iraq War to the American Civil War. That way, when you search for “Iraq Civil War” you aren’t presented with the potentially damaging civil war discussion, but a government sponsored message. Out of Sight, out of Mind. The stench of paranoia was evident in the last few statements so I’ll just leave it at that (although, since then Dubya has compared the middle-east extremists to Hitler’s fascist Germany and Communist Russia). Providing a counter argument is presented, the information messenger to the majority of the public will always falter so long as the objective approach continues to dominate. Humanity has made progress through discussion which leads to agreement, not because its agreed to disagree.

I’m not saying that this flaw in objectivity is an American issue. It is a kink in the democratic ideal. The Prime Minister of my country, Stephen Harper, has rewritten his role since his election. As the recent Toronto Star article suggests, he’s succeeding by failing to explain Canada’s role in Afghanistan to the Canadian people. His Conservative party won the election partially because of a liberal scandal, but also because of the merger of the right. And baring a complete breakdown their ability to run the government, they will likely hold the upper hand until the left concedes and has a similar merger. So now it’s always about two parties, not three, not four, not fifty. But this is all part of the partisan world we live in. As the last two American elections, and most recently, the Mexican election has shown, is that the voters of the world are either Tucker Carlson or James Carville. You’re either with us, or against us, as the US president put it ever so eloquently a few years back.

How did this all come about? The chicken or the egg story can be used in several situations and this is one of them. Ross Perot won 18.9% of the popular vote in 1992, Bill Clinton selected a republican as his Secretary of Defense in 1997 and George Bush has a republican, well, everything today. It is possible that the population at large is to blame. It is us who still hold the vote. But it appears the trend of partisanship is here to stay. Many of us are being raised in a time of politically correctness. Where having an opinion is frowned upon unless it fits the accepted norm. We’re being raised where a debate doesn’t resolve anything but the continuation through time. So yes, we are polluting our planet far too much but the ice bergs would have melted anyway. Stem cell research will allow for giant leaps in modern medicine but it’s not worth it because it’s a form of murder. America is a country built on immigration yes, but Mexicans are different. The war in Iraq was illegal, but the war on terror must be fought. Bah Bah”, said the sheep.



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