Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Mass Media And Truth

There is no one on the face of the earth who asked to be born in a certain year and in a certain country. Our appearance on earth was a completely gratuitous event, putting aside for the moment the providence of God, writes a priest in his column in the Peace Weekly.

Letting his imagination roam, he wonders what his life would have been like if he were born in a tribal culture thousands of years ago, or born in a culture ruled over by a king, or even born into a relatively similar culture to his own but born a hundred years ago. Preposterous, he admits, as the thoughts are, he came to the conclusion that his life would have been as simple and uneventful, or as complicated and difficult, as the society he lived in.

If living a simple life, there would have been no need to doubt the information being received; no need to question how information is packaged and routinely distorted when trying to discern the true from the false. This, however, has all changed for those living in the 21st century, he says. We are overwhelmed with information from all over the world. What is happening in another part of the world will often affect us. The president elected in a country on the other side of the pacific will influence, for good or ill, what happens in Korea or in any other country. And it will, the priest claims, have an influence on our personal lives. 

Without  our approval and without our knowledge, events no matter where they occur will commonly cause changes not only where the events originally occurred but throughout the world. The mass media brings us news about G2, the group of two, the United States and China, which caused us to adjust our thinking from what we believed, just a few years ago, that the two super powers were Russia and the United States. These two powers brought us close to World War III, and led to the so-called cold war. Now, with the change to G2 China and the United States they are trying to keep the peace by increasing their military resources. Korea is no doubt being influenced by this increase in the military might of these two nations by  the  naval base on the island of Chejudo. The columnist wonders if Korea is an expendable pawn in the confrontation between the two superpowers.  

The mass media should be giving us the objective facts but only those who are able to go 'behind the scenes' will have a chance to know what is happening.This is of course difficult, if not impossible, for the ordinary citizen. Mass media reporting about the state of the world often ends up providing confusing and contradictory information, and fostering a general repugnance toward politics with 'no questions need be asked, just vote'. This is easily seen in the excessive slanting of the news, making it difficult to see objectivity, and to believe that any information is being reported impartially.

Are the citizens living in a democracy the masters of their own political fate, as they are led to believe, or are they the unenlightened masses that can be used and discarded at will?

"Political parties have the task of fostering widespread participation and making public responsibilities accessible to all. Political parties are called to interpret the aspirations of civil society, orienting them towards the common good, offering citizens the effective possibility of contributing to the formulation of political choices. They must be democratic in their internal structure, and capable of political synthesis and planning. (Compedium of the Social Gospel#413)

"Information is among the principal instruments of democratic participation. Participation without an understanding of the situation of the political community, the facts and the proposed solutions to problems is unthinkable. It is necessary to guarantee a real pluralism in this delicate area of social life, ensuring that there are many forms and instruments of information and communications. It is likewise necessary to facilitate conditions of equality in the possession and use of these instruments by means of appropriate laws. Among the obstacles that hinder the full exercise of the right to objectivity in information, special attention must be given to the phenomenon of the news media being controlled by just a few people or groups. This has dangerous effects for the entire democratic system when this phenomenon is accompanied by ever closer ties between governmental activity and the financial and information establishments." (#414)

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