Filed under: Foreign Policy, National Security, News, Politics | Tags: Information, Media Responsibility, Too Much or Too Little?
Does it seem to anyone else that the media has slipped off the rails? The Japanese earthquake and tsunami has, of course, been an unbelievable disaster. The devastation wrought by the tsunami photographed by people on the scene who were, I guess, trapped there and all they could do was record what was going on before their eyes.
When it came to the nuclear plants damaged by the tsunami, the media descended into Armageddon. It was N-U-C-L-E-A-R!!! There was no discussion of what consisted of dangerous radiation and what was not. News reports said that radiation was detected in West Coast milk. We are surrounded with radiation all the time. We get x-rays at the dentist, and ordered by the doctor and think nothing of it. But radiation detected in the milk, and several million young mothers panic. Any explanation from the talking heads about what is or is not something to worry about? Not that I heard.
From Steven Hayward “History suggests that nuclear power rarely kills and causes little illness. That’s also the conclusion engineers reach when they model scenarios for thousands of potential accidents” Washington Post, front page 4/02/11. See here, and here for more information.
The federal fiscal year budget for 2011 was supposed to have been passed last September. The press didn’t care. Then suddenly, if the House, the Senate and the President didn’t agree by midnight Friday, the government would shut down. Drama. Old people would starve, women would die, children would die, wretched excess all around. Armageddon! Did you hear anyone mention that the government had shut down several times before, and it never lasted more than a day or two?
One event drives all others off the front page. Libya, Egypt, Morocco; earthquake in New Zealand; mosque at ground zero; shooting in Tucson; Madison, Wisconsin; BP oil spill in the Gulf; and on and on. Does the constant excess flow of information enhance your life and your understanding? Or does it drive you to entertainment to escape? Do we all know little bits of many things when we should know a lot about a few big important things? Does the pace of change in technology affect our ability to know?
Things appear on Twitter as they are happening, but the format precludes any depth of information. Scenes of the earthquake and the tsunami were uploaded to the internet only moments after they happened. The capabilities embodied in new technology lead us to think that we can predict the future. How are we misled by an uncontrolled flow of information, and how can we control it for ourselves without having others step in to organize and control information for us? There probably aren’t any real answers, but it is important, I believe, to think about it and try to understand when we are being informed and when we are being manipulated.
We are being manipulated. There are major industries devoted to doing just that—advertising, political organizations, government, environmentalists; most of the flow of information is designed to manipulate your feelings, your attitudes, your politics, your prejudices. Who is winning?
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