Many people still get their news from television, at home and in public spaces like bars and airports. While CNN is not the most watched news here in America, it is regarded as the American news station of record overseas. What they know about us in Europe, for example, they know from CNN. Not the facts, mind you, but the spin. International viewers know that our news reporting is strongly influenced by government PR efforts, and so they watch to learn what those are.
Amber Lyon, a correspondent at the network, claimed in 2011 that she had been instructed by CNN to ensure her reports helped sway US opinion towards supporting an attack on Syria, and even Iran.
Imagine two traveling businessmen with CNN playing in the airport lounge. One is an American, the other from Central Europe. While Jeremiah ignores the news and checks his email, Ivan watches American propaganda.
Anita Dunn boasted of having total control over the news media and, of course, retired White House spokesmen invariably end up working for CNN. Russians used to call it the Clinton News Network.
Cynicism about the news media increases as you travel eastward across the continent, maybe due to Eastern Europe’s experience with Soviet propaganda – or maybe due to less material wealth. As long as there is a chicken in every pot, people are willing to believe the party line. This “prosperity theory” of propaganda may explain why modern Russians are losing their edge, and why Americans are so completely obtuse.
Jeremiah regularly coaches you to seek out new sources of opinion, like the blog links at right. If you must watch TV news, here are some suggestions:
- Al-Jazeera – Al Jazeera brings you much broader coverage of the world, and much more intelligent coverage of the Middle East. They have a certain “perspective,” of course, which you must take into account – but so does any other news station. In fact, we found a surprising level of objectivity here, on the Gaza conflict.
- Russia Times – “RT” keeps trying to brand itself as something other than Russia Times. They have a strong anti-American bias, and you will see direct rebuttals of our foreign policy pronouncements – Sergey Lavrov calling John Kerry a liar, for example. We like it for coverage of police and surveillance abuses which, obviously, are hushed up here at home.
- Fox News – We started taking Fox seriously when the administration started bitching about it. This is the voice of the opposition, and the only place on TV where you can hear that. The mainstream has also, foolishly, allowed Fox to acquire a monopoly on libertarians. The schedule is here. We recommend Special Report, which is a traditional news hour format.
As patriotic Americans, we believe in our country. We also want to believe in our government, and hope that its policies are right. Blind faith, however, does not serve our cause. It is our job, as voters and activists, to critique the policies and correct the politicians. We can’t do that job if we allow ourselves to be fed a steady diet of bullshit on the television.
See also: U.S. ranks 46th in press freedom
Update: The Economist directly attacks RT as Russian propaganda. Charlemagne calls for amping up the European side, with government funds, to counter it. Best line: there is truth in reporting, not “just a postmodern potpourri of perspectives.”