We have only one reliable source of news during this pandemic: the media. But in this Boomer Opinion piece, BoomerCafé’s publisher and co-founder David Henderson, himself a longtime journalist, says the media are no longer a reliable source of information, because they have forgotten to keep asking a key question: Why?
Legend has it that lemmings join mass movements of their brethren to rush headlong across Alaskan tundra and— with no rhyme or reason— run over cliffs to their destruction. Hence the phrase, “The lemming effect.”
But nowadays, it’s not just those much maligned furry little rodents running to their destruction. It’s the American news media, particularly TV news, running to ours. Because the media behave a lot like lemmings… even when we are not experiencing a nationwide health crisis like this pandemic.
Lemming media chase the most sensational and salacious tidbits and rumors. What we see these days on TV unfortunately is a lemming echo chamber, as on-air “news actors” lean toward the camera, dramatically waving their hands as if to be more convincing during their seven seconds on camera, to excitedly “sell” a snippet of a story that’s not really “Breaking News” at all. The Covid-19 crisis has merely put this dramatic media behavior on steroids.
“TV news is a brainless business, and so easy to manipulate,” a U.S. attorney shared with me. “Give reporters a press release,” she said, laughing, “and still, they have no idea of what to ask in an interview.”
“Why is that?” I asked.
“It’s because reporters either don’t read and don’t take the time to comprehend,” the attorney replied. Hence, they ask fluffy questions during an interview, instead of piercing ones.
No one knows how to play the media better than our reality show president and expert-on-everything Donald Trump. No one.
If, for example, Trump were to claim— as self-proclaimed medical expert— that “many people… good people… the best people” had told him that Tylenol could cure Covid-19, it would consume many reporters and pundits on TV news for days, regardless of how absurd. In other words, the lemmings would run wild. Few if any would ask “why” he made that claim in the first place.
I find it amazing that so-called TV reporters fail to ask that key question, one of the cornerstones of good journalism: “Why?”
Did you hear any news people ask Trump “why” when he asserted in late April that Covid-19 originated in China and that China hid the magnitude of the situation in order to buy huge medical supplies. The answer is, his assertion effectively diverted media attention from all the deaths here in the United States, and from his lack of strategic planning as president to cope with the virus.
Heck, Trump assigned his son-in-law Jared Kushner to do the same thing that he has accused China of doing: hoarding medical supplies.
Trump’s a carnival barker, not a leader. He’s a gut-reaction kind of guy, not someone who understands planning. Other than the odd pundit, he’s rarely been criticized by the White House press corps for showing no national strategy or having no empathy.
The Washington Post recently ran a major story about who is behind the seemingly spontaneous anti-quarantine protests around the country. Don’t you think it curious that those protesters carry professionally printed signs. Why is that? Oops, there’s that “why” word again. Reporters either don’t notice or neglect to ask that necessary question: Why?
Well, according to The Post, the people behind those protests include administration luminaries like Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Ken Cuccinelli, Acting Director of Citizenship and Immigration Services; and Robert Mercer, a billionaire hedge fund manager and Republican patron whose foundation has backed the protestors. They’ve borrowed a chapter from Russia’s playbook, creating a digital network to motivate malcontents nationwide and direct them to so-called spontaneous protests that are planned in advance. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself, how did all those TV news cameras know to show up?
These protestors across the country are just puppets, manipulated by forces they don’t even comprehend. But just as scary is, so are the TV media.
Just think about the scope of that manipulation for a moment. Why? What’s the objective of Carson, Mercer, and the rest… which end up potentially exposing even more Americans, gathered without masks and shoulder to shoulder, to a deadly virus?
Why aren’t the media asking those questions?
We are in the middle — hopefully farther, but maybe not— of a deadly global pandemic, with no light realistically shining yet at the end of the proverbial tunnel, regardless of Trump’s claims.
Medical experts and epidemiologists predict the worst is yet to come. And, a Washington Post/University of Maryland poll indicates a vast majority of Americans oppose reopening the country.
America has been laid bare because our country lacks an overarching strategic plan. The team of experts assembled by the Obama administration to anticipate and plan for such a crisis was shuttered, like other Obama initiatives, for no other logical reason to me than that the fruits of leadership by a black president is not acceptable by this administration.
The residual impact of Covid-19 is not only responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in this country, but for economic hardship nearing the scale of the Great Depression. People cannot afford to buy food, to pay rents and mortgages, or to live a normal life. All signs are for conditions to worsen before we get relief.
TV news in America today contributes, because it allows false narratives on all sides to pass, and rarely provides factual information, like it used to, that has been researched and verified by the journalists themselves.
TV news has become a megaphone for the forces of polarization that troubles so many of us. And it begins with its headlong rush over the cliff, because of its failure to ask, “Why?”