Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Passive-Aggressive Media


Is the news media passive aggressive?  I think so.

  • Ambiguity or speaking cryptically: a means of creating a feeling of insecurity in others or of disguising one's own insecurities.
  • Chronically being late and forgetting things: another way to exert control or to punish.
  • Fear of competition
  • Fear of dependency
  • Fear of intimacy as a means to act out anger: The passive–aggressive often cannot trust. Because of this, they guard themselves against becoming intimately attached to someone.
  • Making chaotic situations
  • Making excuses for non-performance in work teams
  • Obstructionism
  • Procrastination
  • Sulking
  • Victimization response: instead of recognizing one's own weaknesses, tendency to blame others for own failures.

It struck me recently that many of these characteristics are quite typical of today's news media.   Ambiguity and speaking cryptically is often the hallmark of network news or newspaper articles, where "the whole story" is often not told, or if told, told poorly.

For example in a recent article about trailer parks, the Guardian words the article so poorly it is hard to figure out what is really going on.   In one sentence that claim the owner has doubled the rents and doubled the utilities (the latter being illegal in most States, as utilities are regulated, and not up to the whim of the park owner).   This ambiguity, of course, is designed to get you all riled up - thinking that he has increased rents by four times.

The reality is, if you parse through the horrific language of the article (and they say the Brits invented English?  I cannot see how) is that the owner raised the rents to $450 a month which is pretty standard for trailer parks across America, particularly in urban or tourist areas, and is now requiring tenants pay their own utilities (to the utility company).  But that doesn't create the ambiguity needed to make the story seem more outrageous than it is.   And in the UK, they love to put up stories about how rotten our "capitalistic" system is how lucky they are to have a benevolent monarch to lord over them, put them on the dole and provide a council flat.

Making Chaotic situations seems to be the hallmark of CNN.   While the Ferguson grand jury was deliberating for a week, rather than get to the bottom of the story and realize there was no story, CNN decided to engage the speculo-tron and speculate endlessly about how many riots there would be, how bad they would be, and whether they would spread to other cities.  They might as well have put up a big sign saying, "Hey everyone, let's riot!"

It is irresponsible journalism at its worst - causing rioting and death by not investigating, but rather by reporting the "story" that generates the most ratings.

The folks at Fox News, of course, specialize in sulking and victimization behavior - even as they themselves decry our "victim mentality" culture.   From the Fox News perspective, they are an embattled minority of right-thinkers who are being circled - like settlers in a doomed wagon train - by the far left and its war on Christmas, Christianity, and of course, marriage.   To hear them tell it, they are the victims here!  And until Obama leaves office, they are just going to sulk about it.

And yet, most people get their "information" from these sources, without thinking as to whether the data presented is reliable, accurate, slanted, or even clear.   Most of us want to fit the data to our preconceived notions, rather than look at the data and draw conclusions.

For a lot of young people today, continual outrage is the norm.   We are told that "Black Lives Matter" as if the Police suddenly went on a killing spree of blacks - and many of the folks protesting this are young white males.   They have a world-view that the police are jack-booted thugs, and thus any news story that fits this narrative is instantly molded to fit the world-view.

Meanwhile, weeks or even months later, we learn that the media has "spun" these stories to boost ratings.  It turns out the jack-booted thugs were the so-called victims in these cases - people with criminal records for robbery and assault that go on for pages.  Which would you rather meet in a dark alley?  The mugger or the cop?

Similarly, there is a sudden "outrage" that something called Civil Forfeiture exists, even though its existence goes back to the dawn of our country, and its use in the so-called "drug wars" has gone on for decades.   People are "outraged" that someone carrying tens of thousands of dollars in cash, on a known drug route, for no explainable legitimate reason (and large amounts of cash are almost always related to illegal activities) has their money confiscated, at least temporarily (you can, of course, go to court and get it back, but few of these drug couriers do so).

The news media, by telling you half the story, wants to get you all riled up - being cryptic and ambiguous on purpose, in order to create chaotic situations.  And most people bite on these stories, hook, line, and sinker - without considering whether there is "another side to the story".

And years, sometimes decades later, we learn the whole story, but it is too late - the story the media "sold" is already out there and has currency.   A lot of people still believe that the robber in Ferguson was shot "with his hands up" despite the reports of the Grand Jury, the Justice Department, and the President himself.   People telling the story the media wanted to report turn out not to have been there - at all.

But this sort of misinformation fuels more misinformation, until every day is a grueling grind of "another police brutality story" when some suspect decides to fight an arrest, with predicable results.

Of course, it is only going to get worse - as political silly-season goes into high gear, and the media hypes on which candidate you'd like to have a beer with, or which one ate his pizza with a fork and knife or whatever nonsense they decide is "important" this time around, because it attracts eyeballs to sell to advertisers.

Is this the media's fault?  In part.  But it is also our fault for watching this shit - uncritically and 24 hours a day.   We obsess about the "news" but rarely critique it or challenge it or assess it.   So in a way, it is our fault the news media is the way it is - we have met the enemy and he is us.

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