Pretzel Logic (with apologies to Steely Dan)

If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to watch, does it still make a sound? Of course it does. To think otherwise is silly.

If a man commits a crime and no one catches him, is it still a crime? No doubt.

But what if a politician or bureaucrat (or several of them) commit a crime, break the law, or violate the Constitution and the news media suppresses the story, and does not report on it…is it still newsworthy? I’d say undeniably “YES.” But that’s abstract. The reality is a bit more complicated.

You see, when you’re disconnected from something, especially something complex or not sensational, most people get their news of events second-hand, be it from the evening news, a newspaper, websites, or some other “credible news source.” Now there are things (like plane crashes) that are immediately newsworthy, regardless. But the problem is that most people don’t understand HOW the news works, and therefore conflate the idea that the news media can be trusted, not only to tell us what happened, but by picking stories, implicitly decide for us if a story is newsworthy at all.

Philosophers call it “circular logic.” If you tear up paper and cast the bits into the wind, it must scare away tigers, because there’s no tigers around, since they avoid torn bits of paper that you cast to scare off the tigers…

Circular logic is a misnomer, because there’s nothing really logical about it. From a scientific POV, it is it’s own proof, which is a very UN-scientific way of going about things.

And that, my friends, is why media bias – ANY media bias – is a supremely dangerous thing for our nation. Let’s say an administration (pick one…doesn’t matter if it’s Republican or Democrat) does something that looks as though it’s a clear violation of the Constitution…let’s say the President acts without the Constitutional authority to do so. Bias in the media is a one-two punch to the story, either as they do their job, or they don’t.

If they do their job (i.e.: “Watergate”) They investigate and publish the results of their inquiries. The very fact that it’s published in a major, respected publication gives the story legs – and makes people and politicians take it seriously. In Nixon’s case, Woodward and Bernstein were directly responsible for ending his Presidency.

If they DON’T do their job (i.e.: Fast n’ Furious, IRS scandal, Benghazi, et all) by not reporting on it, the story dies on the vine. And the fact that major news organizations DON’T report it allows people to think (and claim) it must not be a ‘real’ issue, because XXX network isn’t covering it.

But that’s bass-ackwards thinking. Media bias is the culprit, but the result is an uniformed electorate – the quintessential “Low-Information Voter.”

Don’t believe me? Check this out. In George W. Bush’s second term, CBS, NBC, ABC, and the other “major” news outlets ran, literally, HUNDREDS of stories on the midterm elections, and how it was to be a referendum on “the failures of the Bush Administration” and in particular, the failure of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They repeated the message ad infinitum, about how this was a death blow to the Bush agenda. Now, fast forward to today. Unless you watch Fox News, you might be unaware that there even IS an election next week. Oh, sure, you’ve seen ads for candidates, but if you watch the news, how many stories have you seen about how this election looks like bad news for the Democrats, and that it’s a referendum on the policies of Obama? I don’t count these things, but there are groups that do. The Media Research Center reports, for instance, that in the same period of time that preceded the 2006 midterms, ABC ran a total of 33 stories on how the election was to be a disaster for the GOP.

This year, they’ve run exactly ZERO stories on the election.

And ABC is not alone. All the other “mainstream media” outlets have run somewhere in the vicinity of about 1/6th of the number of stories on the mid-terms. Or to put it another way, they covered the 2006 midterms SIX TIMES AS MUCH as they have this one. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

And that’s a problem. A big problem. If you rely on the media to not only give you the news, but sift through all the stories and tell you which ones are important, it’s no different from having a faulty instrument on your car’s dashboard. No way to tell how fast you’re going, if your speedometer lies to you.

I’d love to see the media stop putting ideology ahead of the truth. I don’t think it will happen any time soon. But maybe if people become aware at how they’re being lied to, they’ll stop taking media bias with a grain of salt, and start paying attention – specifically, by seeking out multiple news sources, to try and develop your own perspectives on what’s important and what’s not. Because the alternative looks a lot more like “1984” than it does 2014.

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