Distraction: The Unreliability of the News

DistractionAnybody who has ever tried their hand at magic knows that the most important part of the whole trick is how well you distract your audience. It’s the same with pickpocketry, if you should ever wish to fall back on that profession when you find yourself unsuccessful at conjuring coins out of thin air. Distraction, and its twin sibling Misdirection, are essential tools of any successful magician’s act. Done right, you’ll never even know you’ve been fooled.

Sound familiar?

If it doesn’t, you likely need to pay attention to the world around you a whole lot more than you currently do. Distraction and misdirection are the calling cards of our entire political process in the States, and no more so than at the highest level: the race for the Presidency. If you’re still not sure what I’m talking about, take a look at the most recent righteous indignation over the Starbucks red cup decision and Trump’s heightened renunciation of it, and then get back to me.

Who is most at fault for this? Well, in our house we blame the Murdochization of the American media. Doug and I both remember a time when the news seemed like, well, news. There were shows and tabloids that were clearly NOT news, but they didn’t pretend to be. The line between news and frivolous, entertaining distraction was pretty clear. When you looked at your feet, you knew where you were standing in relation to one or the other. These days, that line no longer exists and you can find yourself standing knee-deep in the muck just by following a few links on a news site.

Today, there’s real news and then there’s manufactured news. Red cups, “celebrity” fights and any reporting on the results of a manufactured television show from the night before? Manufactured news. And then there’s the news that happens and we just don’t hear about it on mainstream media outlets. Sometimes I’ll go search it out, using various news channels originating in other countries, but sometimes it’s just too much effort. I have no doubt somebody’s counting on that.

Of course, everybody has their own preferred news source these days: The one that expresses their own viewpoint. Liberals read the New York Times; conservatives read the Wall Street Journal. Liberals watch CNN and conservatives watch FOX. But news isn’t supposed to have a viewpoint or an opinion: There’s a reason that the OpEd page exists in newspapers, after all. News is supposed to be the facts. Because–get this–you’re supposed to come to your own opinion once you’re presented with facts. (Oh, and here’s a little helpful tidbit from an editor–facts don’t need adjectives. Think about it.)

If you’re already being told what to think and how to think it, what’s left for you to do?

I had somebody say to me once, at the conclusion of a discussion on this topic, that at least we weren’t being fed propaganda like the governments feed to their citizens in other countries like Russia and China. Really? How would you even know? The beauty of propaganda is that you’re blissfully unaware of it being done.

Distraction is the bane of our time. And people are counting on our inability to focus to fulfill their own agendas. Don’t let them.

©2015 Rachel L. MacAulay. All Rights Reserved.

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One thought on “Distraction: The Unreliability of the News

  1. Excellent, well written! I know you know how I feel. Thank you for expressing my feelings. And for those who don’t know, I teach video journalism (which I hate). The only examples we use in class are from CBS Sunday morning and Steve Hartmann. Once again, well done!

    Like

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