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COMMENTARY

Televised Media Propaganda and Fake News

By   S.G. Smith

A Year of Analysis

I quit watching broadcast TV years ago when the government began to mandate the digital broadcasting system.  However, in March 2020, I elected to begin watching broadcast television once again to keep up with the development of the COVID-19 virus and any associated government directives regarding the so-called pandemic.  Needless to say, it proved to have been a most interesting year.

Now I did happen to have watched a bit of television while taking care of an invalid friend several hours during the day, perhaps in 2018.  It was then I noted the rather vitriolic relationship between President Trump and network news, which I had already heard about from others.  The various news channels, CNN in particular, appeared to be relentless in their constant barrage of Trump’s presidential management. Trump naturally responded dubbing critics as purveyors of “fake news”.

So now, as I moved through 2020, the persistent Trump bashing was accompanied by the developing COVID 19 pandemic, the George Floyd incident, race riot phenomena, and the transgender agenda, which progressively advanced throughout the year.  It was particularly interesting how most televised news compared to conservative talk radio.  Nevertheless, within limited space and time, I would like to limit my focus on just television programming.

Education and Propaganda

Since my retirement I have spent a fair amount of time reading a variety of books of personal interest, which was not possible during my educational career.  One such book was Propaganda by Edward Bernays.  Aside from Bernays’ observation, the insightful introduction by Mark Crispin Miller makes the book worthwhile indeed.

Miller notes that the word, propaganda, was used in a positive sense in the propagation of the faith with regard to the wayward sheep of Christendom under Protestant influence.  Whether one cares to analogize the Roman/Protestant conflict to be similar in form to the Democratic/Republican political theater of today, it appears that political “spin” or deception would eventually become logically connected to the concept of propaganda.

We see therefore that propaganda, as a term, was originally no different than what we might mean as any form of aggressive education.  This would reasonably include things like advertising, political campaigning, evangelizing, or any aspect of marketing a plan, a product, or a person.  As I have often been fond of saying, we are all engaged in the business of influencing, cajoling, manipulating, and coercing (ICMC for short) one another in the game of human interaction.   The final judgment rests on how much truth versus deception is in the mix of our interactions.  We should start to become wary somewhere between influencing and cajoling before we commit much further to some sweet siren’s song of splendor.  My line of reasoning naturally presupposes that there is real truth and lies deviate from that truth.  However, what will happen when the idea that “there is no truth” becomes the hallmark of any ensuing generation?

A Few Topics of Observation

I have opened with an emphasis on the news media, but I would like to consider television programming as a whole.  Others would cite different examples, to be sure, but the following list represents my impression of significant, or interesting, shifts which are currently manifest in public broadcasts.

  • Normalization of gay/transgender lifestyles
  • Normalization of abortion/infanticide
  • Doubtful emphasis regarding racial issues
  • Tacit endorsement of social scoring
  • Abundance of crime or legal programs
  • News focus more on arts/entertainment
  • Thank God for CBN

As I remarked above, others might note different features, but these seem worthy of comment.

Sexual / Transsexual Issues

Admittedly, the allusion to (or inclusion of) some homosexual characteristic (or “gay” character) may have appeared in a movie or other TV series.  However, in the past these were far more suggestive if not completely subtle.  In 2020, the culture is not just “out of the closet”, it has left the house.  Medical advertisements are prime examples. Also, some broadcast news, or celebrity, male may casually, but openly, refer to his husband.  Furthermore, we now report transgender individuals being screened for cabinet posts.

Sexual intimacy is unquestionably an important feature within human relationships; but it seems that we have come a long way baby, since Adam and Eve……a long way down, perhaps.  I could quote from the Bible here, but it would probably fall on deaf ears today, and would certainly not be well received in public school or the public media.

Abortion and Infanticide

The issue of legalized abortion has been with us for some time now.  I remember when even conservatives would shift back and forth on allowing abortion in cases involving rape or incest. Interestingly however, abortion no longer seems to be merely a medical option due to “unfortunate” circumstances; it has become a sacred civil right.  And even if some may have considered abortion a civil right since Roe v. Wade, infanticide is clearly on the table today.  This move may have started a bit before 2020, but infanticide-choice, like pro-choice, is certainly not being denounced in the media.

We have agonized and fretted over COVID 19 all during 2020.  It is alleged that around 500 thousand have died of this virus.  If that figure doubles, the lethality of this virus might even catch up to the million average deaths by abortion in the US annually.  Where is the outcry from the news media for this outrage?  Did I miss any media comparison?

Racism

Although I have waited patiently for any clear (sociologically and scientifically sound) definitions for a) race, b) systemic racism, c) institutional racism, or d) passive racism before any broadcast discussion ensues, I remain disappointed.  Maybe I just missed the one program that did this.

Of course, although it’s nice to have things defined, it doesn’t take a formal analysis of concepts to know that Black people and others have suffered grave indignities at the hands of Anglo-Americans in the history of our nation. So, what is the appropriate solution? Reparations…really?  Promise Keepers was really a better start back in the 90’s.  Can more legislation really solve a spiritual crisis?  Are current racial discussions making us more “color blind”, or deepening racial divisions and enhancing public bitterness?  Well, I’ll have to recuse myself from any further judgment here and defer to the opinions of men like Dr. Thomas Sowell, Judge Clarence Thomas, and the late Walter Williams.  They, along with the Christian admonitions of Martin Luther King, probably have one or two helpful suggestions to offer us on these matters……ya’ think?

Cancel Culture and Social Scoring

The logical conclusion of so-called political correctness is showing itself as a technique for the suppression of free speech and the open exchange of ideas.  People are being arbitrarily villainized, culturally persecuted, and ostracized.

Although this occurs more on social media than broadcast television, it still exists in a more subtle format.  This is doing more to attack education and civilization than in providing any real solutions for the public concerns they attempt to reflect.  The new “woke” narrative is upon us, and as Senator Tim Scott has summarized this issue, “Woke Supremacy is as bad as White Supremacy.”

Law, Crime, Cop, and Courtroom Programs 

This is merely an observation, about which I am unclear. Besides such “sit drams” as Bluebloods or Law and Order, the number of televised courtroom programs is greater than I remember.  Additionally, there are shows about FBI case files and other real life crime investigations which can be viewed on dedicated channels.  Perhaps, our sense of right and wrong, or even justice, is somehow being subtlety redefined for our reprogramming.

Am I missing something here? Are such shows really this popular or could this be moral propaganda?  These just seem disproportionate among potential topics for public broadcasting.

News : Art and Entertainment

Perhaps I don’t remember things as well as I used to, but it appears that modern news programming contains a disproportionate amount of entertainment, celebrity, and human interest content than I remember a couple of decades ago.  Modern news programs have become a one stop shop cultural Walmart report. For news, I generally look for information on state, national and international events, so I might consider how these things might affect me personally.  BBC and NHK Asia do a better overall job, from my standpoint, than most of our American media.

For entertainment, I typically pop in a DVD or go to the movies.  Aaaahhhh!

Gold Star for CBN

Last, and certainly not least, are the 700 Club broadcasts on CBN, or other networks. I believe they actually carry the best balance of relevant national, international, and cultural news programming of any broadcast television network.  Godspeed to y’all at CBN!

Submitted by S. G. Smith ; P. O. Box 93075 ; Lubbock, TX 79493

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