Mark Twain once observed: “If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed. If you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed.” Of course, today our sources for news and information extend well beyond newspapers and other media, mainstream and “social.” Are you aware of the extent to which your view of the world is being manipulated or even controlled?
Setting Donald Trump aside, as we must if America is to re-unite, let us assess the issues and descriptives being attributed to the January 6, 2021 debacle. Just so you know a little bit of my own bias, it is my hope that Donald J. Trump never sets foot back in the White House. I base this not so much on his words that preceded the assault on our Nation’s Capitol, but his inaction during the most violent acts – especially against the various security personnel from a variety of federal and local agencies. As a veteran of both the military and law enforcement, in my opinion, this was not only a lapse in judgment, but a serious dereliction of his duty to those being assaulted, to all Americans, and to the aggressors, many of whom thought they were following his wishes.
Let’s move on. It is clear that the White House, Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Schumer see the January 6 “Insurrection” as their greatest weapon against what appears to be an inept and confused Republican party. They have parlayed this preventable event where there are still more questions than answers into political advantage that puts their tribe’s interests above the interests and welfare of the American people. Whomever you have trusted as a reliable source in the past, I submit that anyone who is continuing to insist on referring to this dark day as an “Insurrection” is doing so with the specific intent to deceive and manipulate – you.
USLegal.com says, “Insurrection refers to an act or instance of revolting against civil authority or an established government. It is a violent revolt against an oppressive authority. Insurrection is different from riots and offenses connected with mob violence. In insurrection there is an organized and armed uprising against authority or operations of government whereas riots and offenses connected with mob violence are simply unlawful acts in disturbance of the peace which do not threaten the stability of the government or the existence of political society…”
Who and what to trust? There is a term for all of the misinformation and disinformation that is coming at us from all sides today: Psychological Operations, also known as PSYOPS.
Wikipedia says, “Psychological operations (PSYOPS) are operations to convey selected information and indicators to audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of governments, organizations, groups, and individuals. The purpose of United States psychological operations is to induce or reinforce behavior favorable to U.S. objectives. They are an important part of the range of diplomatic, informational, military and economic activities available to the U.S. They can be utilized during both peacetime and conflict. There are three main types: strategic, operational and tactical. Strategic PSYOPS include informational activities conducted by the U.S. government agencies outside of the military arena, though many utilize Department of Defense (DOD) assets. Operational PSYOPS are conducted across the range of military operations, including during peacetime, in a defined operational area to promote the effectiveness of the joint force commander’s (JFC) campaigns and strategies. Tactical PSYOPS are conducted in the area assigned to a tactical commander across the range of military operations to support the tactical mission against opposing forces. PSYOPS can encourage popular discontent with the opposition’s leadership and by combining persuasion with a credible threat, degrade an adversary’s ability to conduct or sustain military operations. They can also disrupt, confuse, and protract the adversary’s decision-making process, undermining command and control. When properly employed, PSYOPS have the potential to save the lives of friendly or enemy forces by reducing the adversary’s will to fight. By lowering the adversary’s morale and then its efficiency, PSYOPS can also discourage aggressive actions by creating disaffection within their ranks, ultimately leading to surrender. The integrated employment of the core capabilities of electronic warfare, computer network operations, psychological operations, military deception, and operations security, in concert with specified supporting and related capabilities, to influence, disrupt, corrupt or usurp adversarial human and automated decision making while protecting our own.
So, what can we do? The media, certainly what has long been the mainstream, or so-called “legacy” sources such as the New York Times, Washington Post, etc., – if only their readership, and online “followship,” can take the lead in reviving and demonstrating the foundational principles of ethical journalism… We must implore them to abandon their historical habits of sensationalizing every story that arises in the 365/24/7 news cycle. “If it bleeds, it leads” has long been the mantra of media conglomerates, their Editors, and certainly the reporters motivated most to make themselves famous, if not legendary. We must encourage the restoration of integrity, transparency, and accountability across the public and private spectrums.In short, as a consuming public, we need to write letters, send emails, and implore our various community, state and federal “Public Servants” to make restoring the public trust of their constituencies their highest priority.
The American Press Association has established the following “Principles of Journalism:”
A STATEMENT OF PURPOSE
… the central purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with accurate and reliable information they need to function in a free society. This encompasses myriad roles helping define community, creating common language and common knowledge, identifying a community’s goals, heroes and villains, and pushing people beyond complacency. This purpose also involves other requirements, such as
- being entertaining,
- serving as watchdog,
- offering voice to the voiceless.
Over time, journalists have developed [ten] core principles to meet the task. They comprise what might be described as the theory of journalism. For brevity, except for goals 8 and 9, I have included only the key goals (more detail at their website):
1. Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth
2. Its first loyalty is to citizens
3. Its essence is a discipline of verification
4. Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover
5. It must serve as an independent monitor of power
6. It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise
7. It must strive to make the significant interesting and relevant
8. It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional – the details underlying this goal are worth sharing here:
Keeping news in proportion and not leaving important things out are also cornerstones of truthfulness. Journalism is a form of cartography: it creates a map for citizens to navigate society. Inflating events for sensation, neglecting others, stereotyping or being disproportionately negative all make a less reliable map. The map also should include news of all our communities, not just those with attractive demographics. This is best achieved by newsrooms with a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives. The map is only an analogy; proportion and comprehensiveness are subjective, yet their elusiveness does not lessen their significance.
9. Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience – also worth including their underlying details:
Every journalist must have a personal sense of ethics and responsibility–a moral compass. Each of us must be willing, if fairness and accuracy require, to voice differences with our colleagues, whether in the newsroom or the executive suite. News organizations do well to nurture this independence by encouraging individuals to speak their minds. This stimulates the intellectual diversity necessary to understand and accurately cover an increasingly diverse society. It is this diversity of minds and voices, not just numbers, that matters.
10. Citizens, too, have rights and responsibilities when it comes to the news… [critical thinking, responsibility to verify, check a variety of sources, opposing perspectives, etc.]
Finally, another important quote from Mark Twain:
“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble.
It’s what you know for sure…
that just ain’t so.”
Ultimately, we must not allow ourselves, and our country, to die in darkness.
Categories: Food for Thought