In my peripatetic existence, friends and acquaintances often ask me what is a good source of information. It is a question regrettably necessary in today’s United States, given the Left’s hatred of dissent and love of censorship which is assiduously practiced by institutions presently under their control from academia to corporate media to Big Tech; and these institutions' collusion with the Biden administration and its lackey Democratic Congress to silence your first amendment rights.
Initially, to answer the question one must recognize how, due to the rise of the internet, the broadly defined “dinosaur” news media has regressed back to an earlier age: specifically, the advent of newspapers.
Evolving from pamphleteering, the new communication technology of newspapers allowed a greater ability to disseminate one’s political views. History tends to blame the “Little Magician,” Martin Van Buren, for being the first politician to understand and exploit this new technology’s potential. Thus, newspapers were not considered objective sources of information; and made their money by selling papers to those who agreed with them. This is why many newspapers today still bear a partisan “tell” in their banners.
In sum, the early newspapers had monetized confirmation bias long before their present-day successors, such as MSNBC and Fox News. It was only later that the corporate media claimed to be objective. There is no need to debate the merits of this claim, for it has been rendered moot by journalism schools’ indoctrination of “accountability journalism” and news outlets’ internal DIE (diversity, inclusion, equity) training that possess the patent intention of slanting the news to the Left under the risible guise of defending “truth” and combatting “disinformation.”
Next, one then must recognize the question asked by these friends and acquaintances is not where they can receive information than will confirm one’s existing bias. If nothing else, the current corporate media has revealed its pervasive Leftist and occasional conservative slants. The most intense partisan viewers are well aware of which outlets will scratch their confirmation bias itch – and, perhaps more importantly, which outlets won’t. Thus, their question is where can they find truly objective information that allows them the ability to assess, analyze, and draw their own conclusions?
Obviously, the first step is to exclude media outlets with a professed and/or patent and/or presumed ideological bias; editorials; op-eds (mea culpa); news “analysis”; et. al. This latter exercise will necessarily entail some subjectivity on the consumer’s part; however, the need for subjectivity is diminishing daily, as the media is increasingly open about its biases.
Yet this, alone, will not remotely solve the problem of where to find truly objective information. Even if one finds the handful of ostensibly non-partisan think tanks dedicated to providing factual events, they also usually provide analysis. Depending upon the bent of this analysis, the consumer may well decide the “facts” presented may not be entirely objective or accurate.
What to do?
Like the 19th Century’s California Gold Rush’s “forty-niners,” one must learn to pan the news for objective information. From the headline to the last line, like river rocks and sand, 21st Century forty-niners must discern and discard prejudicial verbiage, such as adjectives, conditionals, loaded terms, and appeals to authority. While certainly not an exhaustive listing, let us look as some key examples of prospect for objective news.
An adjective can give the reporter’s game away. For example, a report can describe an event that occurred due to “Russia.” So, too, the report can state the event occurred due to “peace-loving Russia.” The former factually describes the country’s name. The latter ascribes attributes to that nation. While both may be true, the latter is less objective than the former.
A conditional phrase can be most illuminating. When using the word “if,” a report can argue that damn near anything is possible – including the exact opposite of what is reported. For instance, when reports claimed that “If Trump Colluded with Russia, He Should be Impeached,” the reverse was also possible, specifically that “If Trump Didn’t Collude with Russia, The Special Counsel Is a Seditious Witch Hunt.” Which side of the conditional the report presents its revelatory of its bias.
Being a writer of op-eds, I have a passing acquaintance with loaded terms. One can discuss an event in “China,” or one can use the equally true phrase “communist China” (another mea culpa). While many on the Left will presume that “communist” is used as a compliment rather than a pejorative, it is quite likely the former report will likely be more friendly to that genocidal regime than the latter report – believe you me.
As for appeals to authority, any report that cites only one set of “experts” more often than not does so to imply a unanimity of agreement on an issue, must be dismissed. As with conditionals, there are two sides to the expert coin, and which side is presented typically reveals the report’s bias.
Sifting out adjectives, conditionals, loaded terms, and appeals to authority, ultimately the report’s “protagonist” and its “antagonist” may well become clear, especially if it was written and/or presented by a practitioner of the aforementioned accountability journalism, wherein the reporter/presenter deliberately slants the article to promote the “truth” (i.e., a favored ideological narrative). The media is more than happy to ensure drama transforms their reports into “narratives.” Thus, a story’s slant aims to have the reader root for a politically preferred David over a disfavored Goliath. This holds true even if the politically preferred David is a massive, musclebound bully battering a hapless, tiny Goliath. And for the Left, between accountability journalism, DIE reeducation sessions, and the tenets of their Manichean, cartoonish ideology with its identity politics component that celebrates “victimhood,” there is already a handy sliding scale of “intersectionality” to instruct their writings as to who is the noble protagonist, who is the evil antagonist, and why.
Obviously, the media isn’t serving up War and Peace on a diurnal basis. Rather, the media is mimicking the “Golden Age” of comic books’ Manichean world: heroes versus villains, oppressed versus oppressors, good versus evil, the stakes are the world and elsewhere, characters have no gray areas, and an equivalent amount of gray matter is required for writing such sophomoric stories. It has been said media outlets’ stories are written (and spoken) at an eighth-grade level. Evidently, this applies not only to the vocabulary used, but to such news stories’ emotional and intellectual levels, as well. Nonetheless, identifying within the information the who and/or what its presenter is covertly or overtly rooting for provides a most helpful prism for separating the factual wheat from the narrative chaff.
Even if one follows the above tips for prospecting the media for nuggets of objectivity, today’s media mining forty-niners need to divine which information outlets seek to make you outraged. This applies not only to those media outlets with which you disagree but – in some ways more importantly – to those with which you agree. Because of the internet, if you so choose you can be outraged every waking minute of your existence. You can be “triggered” by political opponents and political allies. The key word is “political.” Politicians have long understood that angry people are more malleable – they vote, donate, protest, etc. Consequently, find out not only if the media outlet is hellbent upon upsetting you; but what they want you to do about it, even if it is just to “Keep on Clicking!” Know when you are being manipulated. If not, your mind will no longer be your own.
In conclusion [for now, anyway], one shouldn’t be consumed with trying to find the “objective” outlet. Rather, today’s forty-niners need to learn to read the news like, in the words of one wag, a “Kremlinologist.” Given the nation’s increasing political polarization and the media’s monetization of confirmation bias, it is sadly a practical necessity. Still, if one knows an outlet’s bias, one can divine not only the underlying objective facts (if any); one can also discern how the outlet seeks to shape the public opinion and, ergo, the political landscape. Doing so, one can practice the vintage adage that “to be forewarned is to be forearmed.”
Wait! Did someone ask, “but what about fact checkers?”
Hold on, I’m still laughing….
Indeed, the fact that so many Americans have become media mining forty-niners and have struck objective gold so repeatedly – Hunter Biden laptop, anyone? – is proven by the Left’s unconstitutional collusion between the Biden administration and its lackey Democratic Congress, Big Tech, and the corporate media to silence dissent, including the aforementioned “fact checkers,” “disinformation boards,” “redefining” words, among other offenses in the Left’s metastasizing cancer of censorship they’ve unleashed upon Americans. For the Left knows something many have forgotten: if the government can determine what information you can receive and contemplate, you are serfs. Thus, when reading the news, you must be the filter or you will cease to be free.
So, get a move on, media mining forty-niners. Granted within the rush of disinformation there’s no mother lode of objectivity to be found. But while we may be up the creek without a paddle, we’re not without a pan. So, grab your pick axes and shovels and load up the mule. It’s high time to sift through the silty “news” for some golden nuggets of truth!