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28.2.17

The Big Lie

The cultural trope of the dogged reporter in rumpled suit with a large view camera and fedora with a press card tucked in the hat band is an illusion that many of us still labor under.  Somewhere in our subconscious, we link this trope to the blow-dried puffballs that read teleprompters and who haven't been in the field researching for years, if ever.

In recent months, there has been somewhat of a backlash against this kind of "news" reading, with more and more folks realizing just how manipulated the audience is.  Our perceptions of the world at large are completely controlled by massive "information" corporations, many of which share board members and shareholders.

These corporations spend little or nothing on actual research.  They depend almost entirely on wire feeds like AP or Reuters that "gather" the news and distribute "stories" to paid accounts like FOX, CNN, and any of the other alphabet outlets.  One might notice the occasional difference in which "stories" lead off the broadcasts, but overall, there is almost zero difference in content between any of the outlets.

The local affiliates do some news gathering.  They have "reporters" and cameramen who run around in satellite trucks beaming news conferences from city hall, or images of chalk outlines and crime-scene tape.  This is hardly news, but it keeps the rubes happy and buying advertisers' products.  Pays well, too, if you're a puffball.

Few people stop to consider that ALL news is fake, though.  All of it at all times in all places.  It may be reporting actual events, but there is a catch:

The second a cameraman starts recording, you are only seeing what the cameraman (and his producer/reporter) what you to see.  He cannot possibly, nor does he try, to record the entire context of the scene.  He is busily getting interesting pictures and "coverage" of the scene, but it is only his perspective - influenced by his desire to get noticed and advance up the food chain - further influenced by the producer/reporter's orders to "get this".

The producer/reporter, in turn, is looking for a certain angle that will get him or her noticed so they can move up the food chain - perhaps go to national.  So they are looking for the most sensational aspects of the "story", a hook that will get attention.

So far, two people have had direct influence over what we the audience can see and learn about the "story".

Back at the news room, the Executive Producer and Assignments Editor are using corporate guidelines to decide what stories get aired, and which angle of the story they want to show.  They give direct orders to the producer/reporter - in many cases even before they arrive at the scene - on what the Management wants to see.  Is it a crime involving drugs that would support the official narrative of the Drug War?  What races are involved in the story and can that be spun into narrative support?  What genders are involved, and can that be spun?  Even the section of town - poor vs. rich areas - influence whether and how a story gets reported.

By now, dozens of people have influenced a story, and it hasn't even gotten to editing.  At this point, the producer/reporter will scribble a few notes, being sure to get all of Management's agenda points in, and then record a stand-up.  Even for live reports, this is not necessarily done at the scene, and can even be separated by large amounts of time from the actual footage at the scene.  In some cases (that I have actually been involved with) the cameraman is the only person on the scene and the stand-up is done much later after Management decides what angle they want to show.  The producer/reporter was not even at the scene and can be manufacturing a story out of whole cloth, choosing pictures that roughly match the "story".

At this point, the editor takes over.  The footage and producer/reporter's stand-up are assembled by someone making additional choices about what looks good, cuts together well and adds to the narrative.  The "story" is given a time slop of, say, thirty seconds, so the editor must figure out how to cram as much (or little) information in the slot given.

The finished story is reviewed by the producer/reporter, who may make changes.  It is then passed by the Executive Producer, who checks the story for "relevance" and ensures that it does not violate any of the political dictates of Management.

The finished video is cured for air and a "wrap-around" narrative is written for the puffballs to read off the teleprompters.  Occasionally, the anchor puffballs may kill a story, usually just to exert their authority, because they are considered part of the Editorial Staff.

By now, clearly a great many people have influenced a "story" before we even get to the Advertisers, who exert an inordinate amount of influence over content.  Certainly, any stories that are detrimental to their products or company are killed, but they are known to influence stories touch on the corporations' political agendas, as well.

If a story has passed what is now hundreds of influencing forces, it gets aired, where the audience decides how much importance and credibility they place on the "story".  The audience reaction - whether tongue-clucking or rioting - has been carefully contrived through multiple layers of "gate-keeping". It is a science of manipulation.

Clearly, it is ALL fake news.  Any given "story" may have varying degrees of "truth" in it, but from the moment the camera starts recording until the light and sound impedes on our senses, the process of "reporting" news is designed to remove "truth" and insert "agenda".  The news we watch is no more "real" than a blockbuster superhero movie.

If we all approached the media with the understanding that it is ALL FAKE NEWS, we would be a long way down the road to protecting ourselves from manipulation science.  Of course, the best option is to turn it all off completely, but this is a rather difficult option, since the media has infused vast amounts of our lives.

Being aware of the vast pressure of agendas on every frame of video and every word of narrative will erect a wall of defense against manipulation.  Additionally, being aware that manipulation is coming from every direction all the time is another line of defense.  Even a 24/7, live-streaming webcam cannot show us truth, since it can never show what is behind the camera.

IT IS ALL FAKE NEWS.  The image at the head of this column of an ABC report faking a crime scene report is not the exception, it is the rule.

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