If you’ve never seen the film “Network,” do take a look.
It captures perfectly the situation we’re now in – a rattled America itching to scream, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”
Released in the mid-1970s, it was a prophetic piece of work, predicting a world steeped in reality television and pitched at an “us versus them” mentality.
Howard Beale, the messianic anchorman of a nightly newscast, snaps and tells his listeners to shout his mantra out the window. And then? He tells them to turn off their television sets.
While we wouldn’t go that far, we would suggest that the first step toward healing the nation is to quit listening to the pundits who populate cable television.
Those folks who aren’t journalists but masquerade as them have no problem tossing out conspiracy theories, false information and hearsay. They glut the day. And they’re on for one reason – to get ratings.
If you’re a fan of those talk shows, just know they’re entertainment, not news.
They’re getting you riled up so you continue to watch. They’re not interested in disseminating facts. They’re there to nab ratings and preach to whatever party they appear to represent.
A fact checker could work around the clock debunking what they have to say, particularly during an election cycle. The problem? Those fact checkers don’t have access to the people who watch and the show’s producers certainly aren’t going to correct their mistakes.
Case in point: A rumor surfaced last week that voters were given the wrong pens to mark their ballots. This fueled a string of conversations about voter fraud and the desire by one party to “steal” the election.
It wasn’t true – listen to the state officials who debunked it immediately – but that didn’t stop it from having an afterlife on social media.
Like a forest fire that begins with a single tossed match, rumors can turn into bonfires quite quickly.
That’s where social media – something Howard Beale never addressed – makes this even worse. Just by sharing something you hope is true adds fuel to the fire. It doesn’t make it true, but it spreads.
Too often, hardworking journalists across the country are painted with the same brush as those talking heads. Libel laws prevent journalists from sharing lies found on social media. Social media and news “commentators” have no reins.
So if you’re looking for someone to rail against, do a bit of homework and see who deserves your anger.
Is it the reporter who never wrote the story in the first place? Or is it the pundit who wouldn’t check a fact if it hit him on the head?
There’s a difference. The sooner we realize who really has been stirring the pot, the sooner we can start healing – and avoid screaming out the window entirely.
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