It's hard to miss just how much the media environment around us has changed in a fairly short time. Bias is nothing new as far as the media is concerned. Most of the major media outlets are run and staffed by people whose own views run left of center.
The barriers to bias in journalism depended on old school codes, such as sticking to the facts and not inserting your own viewpoint into the story. Those codes are virtually gone today in major media outlets, as even news stories on the front pages of major newspapers such as the New York Times can be indistinguishable from its editorials. The facts have ceased to matter, instead an upscale suit and tie version of tabloid sensationalism heavily colored by liberal bias and projected through the prism of first person egotism has become the typical mode of reporting.
When the cinematic versions of Woodward and Bernstein became the image of the reporter, the beginning of the end was already here. The ideal now became the young college educated progressive reporter bringing down the reactionary power structure. It still is the ideal today.
But where for the past few decades the media was simply biased, that is stories distorted or colored certain key issues and personalities, we have gone well beyond bias into outright propaganda.
The difference between bias and propaganda is the same as the difference between a Dan Rather anchored newscast and one broadcast out of Saddam's Iraq, or Putin's Russia or Kim Jong Il's North Korea.
Bias colors the reporting of an existing story, propaganda is concerned solely with talking up the talking points of the regime. Propaganda newscasts do not "report" anything, they exist only to indoctrinate. They come in two flavors, fluff pieces on the government and the people, and harsh criticisms of the enemies of the people. Accordingly propaganda newscasts and newspapers make for very boring viewing and reading. You can only read so many times that everything is fine, that the government is doing great and that the Beloved Leader loves small children and puppies before you go out and look for something more interesting. Even if you do support the government and the Beloved Leader.
No wonder FOX News is beating CNN, MSNBC and co in the ratings. Agree or disagree, FOX News gives you an interesting story. The only story CNN and MSNBC have to offer you involves pictures of the Obama's new dog. Propaganda media only works when government authority silences any independent papers and stations. Without that iron glove of the nanny state in action, people quickly turn the channel.
It's the same reason conservative talk radio is seeing booming ratings, while the producer of Air America is looking for ways to stay out of jail over embezzling money from the Boys and Girls Club to keep his ratings deprived operation going. The White House may have declared war on Rush Limbaugh, but the only way Obama can beat him in the ratings is by preempting prime time programming on every channel.
Everywhere you look major chain newspapers are folding, their readerships evaporating, not because the public has turned into illiterate digital savages (as many overwrought columnists would like you to believe) but because major newspapers long ago stopped investigating and reporting the news, instead they kept churning out the same human interest stories spiked with lifestyle coverage creep. Newspapers could not compete with radio or cable news in reporting breaking stories, but in turn they gave up on serious investigative reporting and became generic.
The constant omnipresent coverage of every single one of Obama's "historic" sneezes, with optional photo calendar, postcard and commemorative coin sets for only 9.95, has done nothing to save newspapers. No more than every magazine sticking the Obamas on the cover has done anything to arrest their inevitable fate. Propaganda doesn't sell, at least not widely enough to matter. There are only so many people who will buy their 20th magazine with Obama on the cover months after the election. Most people will just glance over the same stories on the internet and move on.
But it is not just the media conglomerates who are suffering a terrible loss, but it is Americans in general who have been betrayed, shortchanged and deprived of a Constitutional right, a free press.
The media syndicates turned newspapers, radio stations and TV stations into sausage. They ground each one out the same, standardized the viewpoints, with the occasional flavoring of a dissenting viewpoint. And then in 2008 they slipped the bounds of bias, and got in line to kiss the posterior of Barack. And with that the American free press ended and what had been bias became shameless sycophanty for the regime and frenzied attacks on the political opposition. With the political opposition seemingly demolished and the crown resting on King Hussein's unlined and hollow brow, the propaganda became tedious.
By abandoning any pretense at journalistic objectivity and defending their liberal bias as good journalism, the media itself destroyed not only their own credibility, but the very notion of a free press. The internet is simply completing the job of transforming the media environment into a partisan mud throwing competition dominated by eyeballs, rather than by corporate ownership. And while most will not mourn what we have lost, a free press is an essential element in a free republic. The middle ground of truth has fallen away and with that fall, the intellectual environment, the ability to maintain a dialogue on common terms and any objective truths have fallen away with it as well.