Thursday, October 03, 2019

Feedback Loop

I wrote recently about Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves To Death, and his introductory claim that we are in more danger of embracing the Huxley version of totalitarianism because it's a path of less resistance than the externally-imposed Orwellian version. I think there is something related in media bias.

Conservatives complain that legacy media has an enormous power to influence their readers by the way they report - or more often don't report - the events of the day. They are especially skilled at reporting-without-reporting, underemphasizing a story to begin with, leaving out important details, and then dropping all mention of it as soon as possible.  In discussions with liberals at work, I often find that they have not even heard of some of the events I reference, or have never heard that a particular story was seriously undermined by later events, or even exposed as a hoax entirely. "But what about that guy who shot that Congresswoman after reading Sarah Palin's website?" (Actual quote.)

Yet the media outlets in this era of cancel culture and fevered objection respond to their audience as well.  In August he New York Times changed its headline after it initially reported that Trump was urging unity against racism.  Can't have that. They are in some ways at the mercy of their readers, not their leaders.  And indirectly, the audience can go elsewhere, exercising control that way. We might look through the other end of the telescope and say that all media outlets, even the historically most respected, are simply responding like amoebae to exterior forces, giving their public what they want to hear.  They consider stories less-important and think no one wants to hear any more about that, not because they are craftily burying it for political advantage, but because they think like their audience so thoroughly that no self-examination is necessary.

Who is leading whom?


Sam L. said...

This is just one more reason for me to despise, detest, and distrust the NYT (the WaPoo, too).

james said...

the owners/producers of the media, and the noisy fringe of their viewers

It isn't obvious that most NYT readers objected to the headline.