Preaching to the Choir
Does anybody really know what time it is
Does anybody really care…about time? – Chicago
Marshall McLuhan famously said “The medium is the message,” when speaking of television. If that is indeed the case what is the medium of television in the all-digital, 24 hour cable news cycle, and niche audiences of the 21st century telling us today?
There have always been great repositories of knowledge whether in ancient Alexandria or Timbuktu. It was the invention of the first mass medium the printing press which brought knowledge to anyone who could read. But all knowledge isn’t created equal.
Anyone with an internet connection can browse for all manner of information, but information isn’t knowledge. The linkage made between news and information is erroneous. One will hear the term “newsmakers” used to mean those individuals that are in the public eye and by their actions “make news.” People act in particular ways, but they don’t make news. Reporters, journalists, editors “make,” define what is news by what they report. They’re not called “news stories” for nothing.
A stop sign at a four way intersection provides information to the driver of the vehicle that is approaching. Knowledge comes in the form of the decision to heed that sign or not. And what could be the result from either decision. Blow through the sign (information) and you could end up in the hospital or in jail –knowledge.
Knowledge exists more along the axis closer to truth. But both information and knowledge can be subjective and not necessarily true.
CBS’s 60 Minutes presented information about the events that took place in Benghazi in 2012 that resulted in the death of the U.S Ambassador Chris Stevens. Supposedly that information, in the form of an eye witness account, was designed to provide the viewing audience with knowledge of what happened that fateful night in Libya. Turns out that information was false and so whatever knowledge we gained as an audience was also false.
Recently the New York Times has printed stories corroborating its assertions that while the attack may have been pre-planned the spark which set off the Benghazi tinder box was the anti-Islamic film which had also triggered anti-American rioting in other parts of the Muslim world. But members of Congress are pushing the narrative that “America’s Newspaper” is shilling for Hillary.
What it really comes down to is perspective. There are people, I think particularly on the right, the Fox News watchers, who take the information being presented on that air as gospel, knowledge, or truth. The “conservative” answer to the “lame stream” media as Palin is fond of saying. But agenda matters. And Fox’s agenda isn’t to provide “objective” reporting, just as the supermarket tabloids aren’t providing truth, far from it. Fox and most cable news trundle in “perspective” and “opinion,” which may or may not be truth.
Contrary to what most folks might believe, eyewitness accounts to any event, as in a crime, is the most unreliable, even though jury verdicts are often swayed one way or another based upon that testimony, where other physical evidence is lacking. If you take 12 eyewitnesses to an event each will see something different and when information is lacking will make stuff up. The old adage must always apply when being presented information in whatever form and through whatever medium. “Believe only half of what you see and none of what you hear.” The magician is aware that Magic can only work through misdirection, by what you don’t see. The hand is quicker than the eye –knowledge!
In McLuhan’s “brave new world” of 21st Century media, the message: We make things up, we tell stories, we always have and always will! That is as close to the truth as anyone can get. Caveat Emptor!