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The Media's Objectives, and the Truth.


	Like it or not, the objective of any news or media business is essentially the same as that of any other business; to make money.  To this end, they seek to attract as much attention as possible, so as to gather the largest possible audience.  Therefore, it is in their interest to dramatize and exaggerate everything they present to the greatest extent possible.  The fingerprints of this motive cover virtually everything to be seen on every major media outlet.
	Notice that this motive is in direct conflict of the perceived intention of the media - to tell the truth.  
	In point of fact, nowhere does there exist any mandate for the media to tell the truth, with the isolated and narrow exceptions of slander and libel law.  They can and do present virtually any version of the "truth" that they please, and in most cases there is literally nothing that can be done about the untruthfulness of it.  For any lie or exaggeration that is presented, the defense can be raised that it was parody, or opinion, or "that's the way we saw it", or it was according to "sources", etc. etc..  The worst consequences the media face for the rare occasions they are  caught at lying, is being forced to print a retraction (which itself can be a virtually unnoticable statement on page 11 or a ten-second spot).  
	The bottom line is - they can say whatever the heck they want.  It hardly matters who they hurt, how they twist the facts, or what the political, economic, or social consequences will be.  It is in effect their prerogative to create their own addictive, dramatic, fantastic, emotionally wrenching, bizarre reality.  It may or may not have any connection with the truth.

EXAMPLES

- The so-called "exploding truck" story, where miniature rocket engines were strapped to the gas tanks of a pickup truck, so as to guarantee a dramatic explosion in a videotaped staged accident.  The resulting story was presented as fact on prime-time national television "news" show.  The obvious intent was that the audience should feel threatened by the "evil" truck manufacturer, while feeling protected by the vigilant and righteous news network.  This was supposed to form an emotional connection for the audience, and feeling of dependence on the news network.  The whole thing was exposed as a fraud.

- The "nerve gas in Vietnam" story on CNN, where the United States military was supposed to have deliberately used deadly nerve gas on defecting American soldiers.  This was originally presented as a substantiated legitimate fact by prominent news anchors - obviously an extremely serious allegation.  If it were not challenged, this story would have probably passed into the realm of accepted "fact", simply because it was presented on the mainstream news.  In the end, it was admitted to be an utter fabrication concocted by journalists, and eventually retracted.  The most prominent anchor reporter involved said words to the effect that "he is not responsible for the truth of what he reports."

- The well-known "assault weapon" story, where supposedly cheap and readily available new machine guns were flooding American streets and enabling roving gangs to "outgun police officers."  These guns, which as a result of these stories were eventually outlawed, were not in fact machine guns at all, were not cheap, were just as tightly regulated as any other guns, and had already been in existence for nearly one-hundred years!  To cap it all off, FBI statistics on the criminal misuse of guns indicated that these guns were actually used in only 1% or less of crimes comitted with guns.  By the time the truth came out, the specific guns mentioned in the news storied had already been made illegal to own, in obvious contradiction to the bill of rights.  The news media outlets which hyped the story originally never made any retraction.

	These examples go well beyond neglect or incompetence - they are indicative of a deliberate willingness to distort and misrepresent in order to attract an audience.  It is almost unknowable how many such stories are casually accepted by uncritical viewers or readers of the major media companies, and are never exposed.  hor reporter involved said words to the effect that "he is not responsible for the truth


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This page last updated 11 July 1998.
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