by Jeff Thomas
The average person in the First World receives more information than he would if he lived in a Second or Third World country. In many countries of the world, the very idea of twenty-four hour television news coverage would be unthinkable, yet many Westerners feel that, without this constant input, they would be woefully uninformed.
Not surprising, then, that the average First Worlder feels that he understands current events better than those elsewhere in the world. But, as in other things, quality and quantity are not the same.
The average news programme features a commentator who provides “the news,” or at least that portion of events that the network deems worthy to be presented. In addition, it is presented from the political slant of the controllers of the network. But we are reassured that the reporting is “balanced,” in a portion of the programme that features a panel of “experts.”
Customarily, the panel consists of the moderator plus two pundits who share his political slant and a pundit who has an opposing slant. All are paid by the network for their contributions. The moderator will ask a question on a current issue, and an argument will ensue for a few minutes. Generally, no real conclusion is reached — neither side accedes to the other. The moderator then moves on to another question.
So, the network has aired the issues of the day, and we have received a balanced view that may inform our own opinions.
Or have we?
In actual fact, there are significant shortcomings in this type of presentation:
- The scope of coverage is extremely narrow. Only select facets of each issue are discussed.
- Generally, the discussion reveals precious little actual insight and, in fact, only the standard opposing liberal and conservative positions are discussed, implying that the viewer must choose one or the other to adopt as his own opinion.
- On a programme that is liberally-oriented, the one conservative pundit on the panel is made to look foolish by the three liberal pundits, ensuring that the liberal viewer’s beliefs are reaffirmed. (The reverse is true on a conservative news programme.)
- Each issue facet that is addressed is repeated many times in the course of the day, then extended for as many days, weeks, or months as the issue remains current. The “message,” therefore, is repeated virtually as often as an advert for a brand of laundry powder.
So, what is the net effect of such news reportage? Has the viewer become well-informed?
In actual fact, not at all. What he has become is well-indoctrinated.
A liberal will be inclined to regularly watch a liberal news channel, which will result in the continual reaffirmation of his liberal views. A conservative will, in turn, regularly watch a conservative news channel, which will result in the continual reaffirmation of his conservative views.
Many viewers will agree that this is so, yet not recognise that, essentially, they are being programmed to simply absorb information. Along the way, their inclination to actually question and think for themselves is being eroded.
The proof of this is that those who have been programmed, tend to react with anger when they encounter a Nigel Farage or a Ron Paul, who might well challenge them to consider a third option — an interpretation beyond the narrow conservative and liberal views of events. In truth, on any issue, there exists a wide field of alternate possibilities.
By contrast, it is not uncommon for people outside the First World to have better instincts when encountering a news item. If they do not receive the BBC, Fox News, or CNN, they are likely, when learning of a political event, to think through, on their own, what the event means to them.
As they are not pre-programmed to follow one narrow line of reasoning or another, they are open to a broad range of possibilities. Each individual, based upon his personal experience, is likely to draw a different conclusion and, thorough discourse with others, is likely to continue to update his opinion each time he receives a new viewpoint.
As a result, it is not uncommon for those who are not “plugged-in” to be not only more open-minded, but more imaginative in their considerations, even when they are less educated and less “informed” than those in the First World…