The Darkening Clouds
The public’s mistrust of the media had been growing steadily through much of the 21st century. Whether directly or indirectly, this trend parallels the proliferation of social media globally.
However, the recent spike of mistrust by the public in the media dove tails to that of conflicting and confusing information with respect to the pandemic. Disinformation, misinformation, propaganda and outright lies dominated the news during the lockdown period by a wide of range of media platforms.
Leadership at the highest levels of governments, media, scientific and medical communities came under justifiable scrutiny when their respected colleagues were “gagged”, sometimes ruthlessly, when they began asking the proverbial “too many questions” that challenged the official narrative.
Few professionals who went counter to the adage “go our way or the highway” went unscathed. For most they submitted & obeyed under the threat of license revocation and even unsubstantiated criminal charges, even after they quit voluntarily.
The Emotional Scientific Perspective
Surveys and questionnaires are far from scientific that often feature small samples and whose questions can be deeply flawed whether in structure and/or agenda by a supposed respected and credible survey organization. Survey results are driven more by emotion than by fact. Questions are often structured in such a way that they “lead” the interviewee to provide a pre-established desired answer. To mitigate this, cross-referencing techniques can be applied but which are rarely applied.
Nonetheless, the surveys can provide a general trend as to how the world citizenry increasingly mistrusts official information and its inevitable consequences.
Series of Survey Results
The following chart entitled Where Trust in the Media is Highest & Lowest provided by Reuters Institute Digital News Report indicates the from various countries:
Although the survey was taken in 2022, it is unlikely that there have been a major changes particularly since the outbreak of wars in Ukraine and the Middle East have fueled the hidden agendas of official sources.
Specific to the US, the following chart entitled Trust in Media Reaches New Low in US provided by the Gallup group, supports the aforementioned trend beyond 2022 into 2023.
According to Gallup, results from the period 1972-1974 [a tumultuous period] based on the same questions, 70% of Americans stated that they trusted the media while 4-8% stated that they had no trust.
The following chart entitled How Much Do Americans Trust the Media?, published by Visual Capitalist, 2 December 2023 provides a deeper context to the media’s loss of credibility with the American public.
Media | Manacled or Managing
On the other hand, it begs the question whether the media itself is being manipulated or restricted by the High Table with respect to freedom of the press by tempering, even ignoring, unflattering yet truthful reporting of major news.
In reality Big Media is just that, Big Media, owned by mega-corporations who cleverly use them as de facto public relations tools whose sanitized versions serve the corporate interest ahead ofF the public good.
The link to the following chart by the World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders 2023 report, is an easy to read comprehensive result based on an annual questionnaire among journalists and media workers overview of press freedom based on several categories. Spoiler alert: the US ranked # 45.
How “corporate” is the media globally? The link to the following chart entitled Ranked: The World’s Top 25 Websites in 2023 provided by Visual Capitalist articulates this. Not surprisingly the top websites are Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all of which have de-monetized, banned or censored, as determined by their proprietary-protected black box algorithms and open-to-interpretation community guidelines, content creators with respect to indisputable factual content and politically-incorrect opinions.
The media, financially controlled by big corporations that dominate our economy, more today than ever before, is viewed as the silent partner in perpetuating an ever more questionable perspective of the news that eschews the professionalism of the late Walter Cronkite to the delusional fantasies of Walter Mitty.
The Dystopian Dynamic
The echo chamber of falsehoods is so loud that we’re disoriented and unable to think for ourselves. It deafens anything else offered by the alternative news media.
Big Media selectively promotes emerging critical trends and suddenly discards them when genuine commentary arrives at the scene to debunk the alarmist original reports.
Big Media can be compared to Big Agri in creating its own GMO news, in which they create enormous amounts of news (product) under the illusion of diverse opinions, but whose context (nutrients) have been stripped away leaving us with an unhealthy final product with plenty of entertainment.
For this reason, Big Media is violating the social contract leveraging social media’s high tech that accelerates increasing social and political instability. Big media is weaponizing the Fourth Amendment (freedom of the press) to undermine the First and Second Amendments.
The Fog of Media
Throughout human history there have been huge disasters whether by default or design. If the credibility of the media continues its decline, this sets the stage for mass confusion and lack of compliance among the citizenry as to the legitimacy of government policies to resolve the dilemma which needs community cohesion and cooperation.
Media credibility is critical because it serves as a de facto crowd control mechanism. A well-informed citizenry can take bad news as long as it’s truthful. This means that speculative information during disasters will do more harm than good and can result in violent unrest.
Media is creating a situation making public reaction unpredictable “like a pig on LSD; you don’t know which way it will run,” as explained by the fictitious hedge fund owner Bobby Axelrod (played with aplomb by Damian Lewis) in the TV series “Billions”.
When the gap between the facts and speculative news is too wide, particularly without context, then everything is open to interpretation and each group can justify their own reality. Independent news by the savviest and talented citizen journalists are not sought by the masses to get alternative perspectives in the fog of media.
Nowadays, Big Media cleverly “pre-load” biases into news reports through daily repetition that solidifies like wet concrete. These opinions are now unbreakable and consider “gospel” whenever the next and inevitable crisis occurs.
Conclusion & Takeaways
As I articulated in my 31 August 2023 article 2024 A Vortex of Tumult & Turmoil many of the present-day events are playing out, notably the recent elections in Argentina and Taiwan, and fueling a rapidly cumulative effect leading to the US elections in November.
The media’s job is to create an environment of discussion, not paranoia. Facts with context are journalism’s rebar to support concrete.
Nonetheless as the aforementioned surveys indicate, the public’s trust in the media will not reverse itself nor even slowdown in the short-term. It all comes down to the individual with respect to applying powerful discernment and a high dose of street smarts. More than ever, regardless how credible news sources might be, whether a mega-corporation or highly regarded freelancer, one must “trust but verify.”
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The Cerulean Council is a NYC-based think-tank that provides prescient, beyond-the-horizon, contrarian perspectives and risk assessments on geopolitical dynamics and global urban security.