Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Swine Flu and the Fearmongering Media

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Snoutbreak '09 - The Last 100 Days
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Beyond making you laugh till you soil yourself, the above depiction of the fearmongering of the media should raise some questions. After seeing it, I got to thinking about the role of the media in our society. Freedom of the press, friends of liberty have always thought (and rightly so), is an essential safeguard against government power. The press helps to keep its people informed and to question authorities and expose their failures. Most contemporary media outlets, however, it seems to me, totally fail to serve this purpose. The media are friends of the government, not a means by which it is kept in check. They nurture the fear that big government feeds upon. And this is just as true of Fox News as it is of CNN. The right has scared us into an unnecessary war, and the left has scared us into unprecedented deficit “stimulus” spending. And it’s easy to laugh when the media overdramatizes the flu, but maybe we should consider that they’ve done the same with much more serious problems.

2 comments:

SuzieD said...

In Revelations it says the Devil will be given a mouth with which to speak. Some people think that is referring to the press and I am not inclined to disagree. They report what they want, how they want, when they want. They can destroy a career or shield someone just enough to get them elected, President Obama case in point. They cause hysteria over nothing. 700 people in the world in the world have been diagnosed with the flu. 700 people in a world of over 6 billion, yet schools are being cancelled and people are isolating themselves just based on the panic the media has caused. The press doesn’t need to be restricted, but this blanket protection they have is not good either. They need to be accountable to someone.

Ben Bryan said...

While I'm not so inclined to speculate about the meaning of complex prophesies whose precise meaning is unclear even to serious theologians, I must admit that sometimes it seems a bit scary how much power the media have. But if you think about it for a second, you realize the power they have is limited. You say they need to be accountable, and rightly so. But I would suggest that they are accountable. They are accountable to their viewers. If we stop paying attention to them they won't be able to sell any ads to make money. In fact, this is precisely what is happening to print media like newspapers. Actually printing papers just doesn't make money and papers are closing down left and right, as television and the internet replace newspapers. If this can happen due to consumer preferences about form it can happen due to consumer preferences about content. If people stop watching the panic on CNN or Fox News, then those news outlets will have to change their approach or lose money. That's the beauty of having alternatives like blogs. You can come to somewhere like the Humble Libertarian and get another perspective on current events. The key to combating the hysteria caused by the media is alternative media.

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