American media: Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear

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By Vernon A. Williams

In the Marvin Gaye hit record “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” the soul singer admonishes music lovers to be skeptical about what appears to be easily-drawn truths or conclusions – to always look beneath the surface, beyond the obvious. The lyric echoes the caveat: “Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.”

It literally gives me the creeps to agree in part with any portion of the beliefs espoused by the most irreverent and corrupt president ever. But on this one matter, I have to take refuge in the irrefutable adage that even a broke clock is right twice a day.

Agent Orange goes way too far in dismissing every story that he considers negative as “fake news.” And [for] the Teflon Don, it shows both his ignorance and his dire need for distractions in finding conspiracy theories under every rock.

Nonetheless, as we approach the November election, it is critical that we all stay on guard relative to anything reported by conventional or social media. Neither the networks nor cable news are our heroes above reproach. They are driven by a common motive – profit. And their news comes from their own perspective.

That having been said, there are degrees of evil and contempt. There is no comparison between Fox News and the other networks. Despite occasional departures from the misguided logic of their supreme leader, Fox is virtually guaranteed to offer the most ultra conservative report and opinions. Seldom are the two distinguishable.

While the other stations [show] an admittedly anti-Trump bias, they are far more aligned with the belief system and lifestyle of the overwhelming majority of Americans.

These networks are more likely to show both sides of a given story – no matter how ludicrous, false or incendiary that jaded perspective may be. They try much harder than Fox to avoid the appearance of evil.

So what, then, is my beef with the non-Fox networks?

Let’s slow walk through this topic. First of all, these outlets seem much more liberal than they are, primarily because a white nationalist despot is running the country. You virtually need a robe, hood, confederate flag or swastika for membership in this ungodly union.

So everyone not driven to that extent of extremism almost seems, by comparison, centrist or leaning somewhat left. In other words, 45 is so conspicuously narrow minded, bigoted and hateful that he is causing collaborations between constituencies that otherwise might have been considered polar opposites.

The strength of these alliances will rely heavily on communication; not just with one another but through what they read, hear or watch on broadcast or print media. That creates a level of fragility that should be concerning for those familiar with the intricacies of news reporting.

Consider that for the greater part of March, there was no story comparable in dominance to the coronavirus crisis. For the most part, that made sense in the midst of a pandemic the likes of which no man or woman had ever witnessed. But the coverage was so intense and pervasive, that virtually no other national stories were aired.

Despite unprecedented levels of saturation for any ongoing topic, every journalist, anchor and commentator focused on COVID-19 morning, noon and night – pursuing every conceivable angle, sparing not even the most minute details.

When George Floyd captured the minds and hearts of people around the world, the shift was made to generate around the clock coverage on a social justice phenomena that sparked daily massive protests in 380 cities and towns across all 50 states as well as at least 48 countries. Again, it was news of a scope never witnessed.

The point is, those making the decisions were able to stop on a dime. Coronavirus coverage was miniscule if noticeable at all for three to four weeks. What had seemed uncompromisingly essential was suddenly not only off the front burner but removed from the kitchen entirely. The public did not yearn for COVID-19 news in its absence. Viewers accepted that what network bosses thought was most important must be reliable.

Then as the advances made during isolation, testing and safety practices took a dramatic turn for the worse, the cameras ran away from the inner-city picket lines to the emergency rooms and intensive care units of hospitals again. Again, it is not that it did not make good sense, it is just the question of who notices this power of the press and how often does it prevail when the choices are far less obvious?

You’ve been patient, so here is the bottom line The Marvin Gaye lyrics are right. Stay aware of what is going on and exercise common sense in how you live, how you treat others and how you care for your family. The media represents too many different people with too many divergent views to reflect a consensus. And their primary motive, again, is profit. So, what is the average American to do when it comes to trustworthy information?

Stop being so lazy. Cross check facts. Ignore sensational social media and refuse to become part of the problem by reckless, untruthful posting and unverified retweeting of intentional misinformation. After all, we have a man in the Oval Office responsible for that.

Be resourceful in your search for the truth, Prioritize Black media and traditionally reliable sources. We already know that in addition to the bogus sites and media pretenders domestically, we have a plethora of Russian and other foreign intervention. There is too much at stake to get off track before the election. Don’t lose focus. Keep your eyes on the prize.

CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: vernonawilliams@yahoo.com.

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