Saturday, November 5, 2016

For Propaganda 101 we need Journalism 2.0

Beyond Lying: Donald Trump's Authoritarian Reality correctly identifies problems with elite media coverage of Trump, but not the solution. By "elite media" we mean any news organization that considers itself above the fray, seeking to report "unbiased" political news coverage. So Jason Stanley, a philosophy professor at Yale and author of "How Propaganda Works" tells us:
"On a certain level, the media lacked the vocabulary to describe what was happening. Trump was denounced repeatedly for “lying” and at times the apparently more egregious “bald faced lying.” But that is not a sufficient description."
He correctly goes on to make comparisons to totalitarianism, but for the solution he goes on to say:
"This campaign season has been an indictment of our understanding of mass communication. Either we lacked the ability or concepts to describe authoritarian propaganda, or we lacked the will. Either way, we must do better."
So he has missed the source of the problem. As we have stated endlessly on this blog, in a world in which Fox News exists alongside a willingness of Republican strategists to scrap traditional norms of behavior--both in campaigns and in governance, the traditional media elite needs to reflect on their failures and do better - not by trying harder, but by doing something different.

Having an opinion is not the same as being opinionated. Everyone has an opinion, but in most jobs, a person can understand the difference between doing the job well and behaving as an advocate for a cause. The sloppiness of the media elite derives from working so hard to avoid any appearance of bias instead of working hard to accurately depict what is really going on in context. They let Donald Trump define himself and they let Donald Trump and Republican strategists define Hillary Clinton. Note the asymmetry there between the doer and the done-to. The NYT media elite response to the Fox News propaganda strategy has been to avoid updating their journalistic standards for this reality, in effect doubling down on a strategy in hopes of everything working out in the end. However, the success of Fox News as propagandistic journalism working in tandem with Republican strategists has been to create a media machine that feeds the beliefs of conservatives to avoid compromise with those who disagree with them at all costs, now defined by them as their enemy. This posture is a threat to democratic institutions.

The NYT media elite needs to hire reporters who value accurate depiction of reality over any opinion or bias they may have. They need to report what they observe, as completely as possible, and not follow the trail defined by one side or the other in a "he said/she said " "fair and balanced" road to nowhere.

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