Media is the nervous system of our democracy – if it’s not functioning well, neither will the democracy.

A wave of disinformation and unreliability that has swept across our national media is the result of a few distinct factors, all interrelated. The first and foremost can be attributed to the nature of corporations and is significant now that we are down to only a handful of very powerful media corporations.

It all comes down to the bottom line, the one at the end of an accountant’s worksheet. The news business is not called a business for nothing. Corners are being cut and expenses are being reduced wherever possible. This means that actual reporting and investments in the newsroom is declining. Journalists are no longer reprimanded if they decide to throw in their own commentary. Reporters have now become the proponents of a particular point of view. There has been a reduction of real journalism. This is, of course, cheaper then actually getting on scene and sticking with real news stories.

The budgetary concerns of corporate media moguls can also be seen in another realm, distinct and dangerous enough to warrant its own self actualization – politics.

While journalism once strode to report on politics, it is now intricately involved. Corporate lobbyists are major political players, and media has more then its fair share of lobbyists, each attempting to carve out ever larger slices of cake.

The partisan nature of media should not come as a surprise to anyone, especially in light of the development of mega media conglomerates, with teams of lobbyists. However, it may be surprising to hear of the extent to which politics have crept into the minds of people the world over, bringing us to the third aspect – propaganda.

Today, news propaganda is remarkably effective because people don’t think they are being subjected to propaganda, they don’t look for it, and so, are much easier to convince. The war in Iraq presents the perfect opportunity to examine the effects of propaganda – for instance, the supposed link between Iraq and al-Qaeda, as well as between Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction. In effect, the more people who consume a specific media, know less about the subject, and are more willing to support government policy. The government is more than aware of this process and how it works – propaganda.

All of these factors have combined to result in some of the worst disinformation ever. Today’s news has passed along through so many hands that we no longer know who the source is.

This also allows amplifications of rumors, distortion, spin, characterization and propaganda, all of which fundamentally undermining democracy. This is not about the left vs. the right, it is a populist issue.

Hollinger can be reached at ahollinger@campustimes.org.



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