Media networks are powerful opinion setters. Still, for a reason, most people have deep distrust in newsmakers. Since their outset, press and radio were brought into play for political propaganda.
The first use of the term “mass media” dates back to 1923. It appeared in the columns of the magazine “Advertising and Selling” and referred to the “most economical way” to spread, in no time, its message to all target market groups.
The initial definition had an advertising focus, most likely due to the development that the same year of the first American radio network in Boston. The concept directed to the public was plain and simple – mass communication for mass consumption.
The postulate was further refined by Harold Lasswell. In his book “Propaganda Technique in the World War”, published in 1927, he described his “hypodermic needle model”, known also as the “hypodermic-syringe model”, “transmission-belt model”, or “magic bullet” theory. This is a model of communication suggesting that an intended message is directly received and entirely accepted by the receiver.
The model got rooted in the 1930s behaviorism and had fallen into obsolescence for some time, but big data analytics-based mass customization has led to the revival of the initial idea behind it.
Four decades later, in 1964, the concept was deepened by Marshall McLuhan in his book “Understanding Media.” According to McLuhan, cinema, television, the press and radio are “mass media” because they have the same characteristics: one-way communication, one-sidedness of the message, undifferentiation and linearity of information.
In his views, the mass media – a Marxist concept that globalists and neosocialists will strive to revive after the election of President Biden – would contribute to a happy “global village” by catalyzing a common culture of “micro-societies.”
That credulous reading was opposed by leading intellectuals of the 20th century. In their macro-perception and analysis of mass media, the main fear, fully justified we may say today, was the increased facility to submerge people and nations with propaganda messages. The “global village” turned to be everything but a “happy” one.
The meticulous and systematic application of the “magic bullet theory” transpires from the reporting practices of CNN and the New York Times. By targeting audiences with carefully crafted inaccuracies or half-true messages, they denigrate or enhance, at their ease, in line with their prevailing political inclination and leftist ideology.
CNN and the NYT lost it on the central tenet of journalism: objectivity and reliability of information. It is a false claim to argue that President Trump was the central disrupter in modern media; his presidency coincided with deep and rapid changes in society and technology that reshaped the concept of neutral journalism.
The only profession mentioned in the US Constitution is the press. It has long been seen as essential to democratic governance. Free speech, enshrined in the First Amendment, is one of the bulwarks of individual liberty and equality. This has not always included the perception of impartiality and objectivity. In the 18th and 19th century, in fact, most newspapers were often aggressively partisan.
Today, standards are different and journalism is attacked for not being balanced. At the same time, the idea of nonpartisan journalism is fading away. With the sharp polarization of the American society, news corporations opt for returning to their vigorous and confrontational ways of the past.
Still, in doing so, they must abide to ethical principles and deontological objectivity. The existing legislation must be adapted to the evolving media environment. More than the hackneyed “protecting democracy” pretext, this time it is a question of protecting the freedoms of U.S. citizens from misleading public opinion influencers.
Because of the large erosion of trust in the media, mainstream news corporations face new credibility risks in terms of public opinion. CNN and the NYT handled a wide-ranging backlash for being unprofessional on a number of occasions and in the last five years they just flushed what remained of their reputation down the toilet.
For instance, CNN was forced to retract a story on its website that claimed the Senate was investigating links between a Russian bank and a close ally of Trump. The network apologized and three high-ranking CNN journalists resigned.
The New York Times, too, had to correct an editorial and apologize for incorrectly linking a map produced by Sarah Palin’s political action committee to the 2011 shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords.
The Associated Press has issued corrections as well for its coverage of the Russian election meddling story.
CNN has been the subject of allegations of party bias and disparate treatment of Republican and Democratic candidates during the last two presidential primaries.
In October 2016, WikiLeaks published emails from John Podesta which showed CNN contributor Donna Brazile passing the questions for a CNN-sponsored debate to the Clinton campaign. In the email, Brazile discussed her concern about Clinton’s ability to field a question regarding the death penalty. The following day Clinton received the question about the death penalty, verbatim, from an audience member at the CNN-hosted Town Hall event. According to a CNNMoney investigation, debate moderator and CNN contributor Roland Martin “did not deny sharing information with Brazile”.
During the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries debate moderated by CNN and the Des Moines Register on 14 January 2020, CNN faced controversy and criticism from media pundits and the public alike over what many saw as blatant bias for centrist candidates as well as a CNN article some journalists believe to be a manufactured hit piece intended to depict Bernie Sanders as a misogynist prior to the debate followed by a series of adversarial and loaded questions during the debate itself regarding the anonymously sourced story.
On 10 January 2017, CNN reported on the existence of classified documents that said Russia had compromising personal and financial information about then President-elect Donald Trump. CNN did not publish the dossier, or any specific details of the dossier.
Later that day, BuzzFeed published the entire 35-page dossier with a disclaimer that it was unverified and “includes some clear errors”. The dossier had been read widely by political and media figures in Washington, and had been sent to multiple other journalists who had declined to publish it as it was unsubstantiated.
On 26 June 2017, three network investigative journalists; Thomas Frank, Eric Lichtblau, and Lex Haris, resigned from CNN over a false story, later retracted, that connected Anthony Scaramucci to a US $10 billion Russian investment fund. The network apologized to Scaramucci and stated that the online story did not meet their editorial standards.
The Washington Post fact-checked a CNN report regarding Trump on 8 December 2017: CNN ran a story that claimed two sources told the network that the Trump campaign received an email that gave Trump and his son Don, Jr., early access to WikiLeaks documents on 4 September 2016. The Washington Post, did obtain the email, which showed that the CNN information was wrong and CNN was forced to issue a correction of their story.
What is more, the case of the former UN high official Frank LaRue proves the impossible moral equilibrium for CNN and the NYT of preaching and delivering ethically on the same subject.
Four months ago, the Liberty Sentinel reported that Fundamedios, a human rights organization committed to protecting journalists and combating misinformation, elected as Chairman of its Board of Directors in the United States a sex offender that was sacked from UNESCO in 2018. Yet, Frank La Rue’s biography on its website makes no mention of his previous role at UNESCO or how he lost it.
La Rue was booted out of his senior UN post in February 2018 after the Daily Mail revealed ‘MeToo’-style allegations that he sexually harassed and aggressed a woman working with him. His job at the UN was to promote freedom of expression globally as ‘fundamental’ to democracy. Yet after being marched out of UNESCO’s headquarters, he lodged a formal complaint about the press finding out about it and claimed some US $160,000 in “damages for injury to his reputation” against UNESCO, accusing the UN agency of disclosing information about him. His claim was dismissed.
As also revealed by the Liberty Sentinel, among the Fundamedios Board of US advisors appear two major leftist media duly represented for CNN by Fernando del Rincón and by Boris Muñoz for the New York Times. Working with Frank La Rue did not create any moral discomfort to both. At the same time, a CNN webpage is specifically devoted to allegations of sexual impropriety. You can read there: “Since 2016, dozens of high-profile men have been accused of sexual misconduct, harassment or assault (…).The list of accused men includes key figures across politics, news media and entertainment. (…) Some have lost their jobs. Others have not”.
Frank LaRue is not included in the CNN list. Instead, he is considered as a reliable partner by CNN and the NYT. Demonstrably, the sexual misconduct of LaRue is not a problem for their unethical corporations.
Following the publications in the press revealing the scandal, Fundamedios removed immediately Frank La Rue from his position. The organization kept him however as Director for Advocacy and Human Rights. When he got the Chairmanship, Fundamedios issued a press release announcing his election. We have seen none on his ejection.
Our attempts to obtain a comment from Fundamedios prior to the publication of this article did not bear result. Their email address in the USA is not operational, and neither is the telephone line in Washington DC provided for contact on their webpage.
The main question that remained unanswered was how would Fundamedios describe the reasons for conferring responsibility for Advocacy and Human Rights to a sexual harasser, with proven misconduct that led to his sacking from UNESCO?
Both leftist media CNN and the NYT are still involved with Fundamedios and find no ethical problem to cooperate with an organization in which the responsibility for human rights is conferred to a sexual offender. Once more, CNN and the NYT were caught on the spot preaching for greater morality but doing exactly the opposite.
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With CNN and the NYT irreversibly damaging reporting standards, the main battle for press and media is to remain consequential in the context of increasing public mistrust. Nowadays, too often, cases of corruption and other unlawful deeds disclosed by the press are judiciary ignored, and perpetrators feel free and nonchalantly unaccountable.
The banalization of reporting political scandals and financial scheming represents a serious risk for journalism at a time when thousands of news reports are aired per minute, every single hour of the day. If that continues, journalistic work will become inconsequential and journalism will turn into a business like any other business – profit oriented and money dependent.
The American media ecosystem has become saturated with misinformation and noise because the press remains committed to a set of norms that are ill-adapted to the digital age. That makes it easy for bad-faith actors to get away with pushing falsehoods.
It the digital era, evolvements in the media landscape are unpredictable. The unexpected move by Facebook this week to block news access in Australia was unimaginable only weeks ago. The retaliatory move blocked Australians from sharing news stories, escalating a fight with the government over whether powerful tech companies should have to pay news organizations for content. Facebook acted after the House of Representatives passed legislation that would make it and Google pay for Australian journalism. The decision of Mark Elliot Zuckerberg also blocked some government communications, including messages about emergency services. What’s happening in Australia today may become a precedent for other countries as governments revamp laws to catch up with the fast-changing digital world.
Unmistakably, the “cyberspaced” world is entering a phase where the future of reporting is going to be based on consumers view on whether a story is worth enough to pay for it, by subscribing or subsidizing. The job of reporters will be to a greater extent to provide guideposts for people who have too much information in front of them at every moment of their life.
Because of social media devouring humans’ brains, the viability of journalism is already in a weakened condition. The risk is that journalism can destroy itself from within, if its standards keep being lowered so as to fit the minimal media reading skills of the general public. A new generation of citizens will be formatted according to such new media paradigms and the fundamental freedoms of people will be again at risk.