What’s happened to the media? Something, that’s for sure. Yesterday over at Velociriot!, the brilliant Sam gave us all the lowdown on just how idiotic the coverage of the Boston Bombings really was. Sadly, she make a good case that because “the entire country sought information about what had happened” the normal process of confirming information and general values of skepticism disintegrated. Islamophobic attitudes went wild because the normal process of filtering at least a good chunk of them out went out the window – whether we’re talking about print, televised, or online media. It’s the phenomenon that gave us a stampede to call Florida for Bush in 2000 on steroids, and with numerous information networks now competing to instantly inform their audiences, it’s only going to get worse.
Today over there, the equally insightful Amanda pointed to a success story of sorts, where the Associated Press’s twitter account was hacked but was quickly called out as such. As much hope as there is in this reminder that even US media consumers aren’t as docile as we might sometimes think, it’s also a warning. The conditions in which modern media operate in the US aren’t conducive to the best reporting, but there’s also the various risks still posed by those that want to deliberately spread false information (in this case, that the White House had been attacked – following last week’s bombings, the intent to cause panic seems pretty transparent).
Of course, any such conversation about efforts to intentionally misinform the public has to acknowledge that it’s not just criminals. Sometimes these attempts are openly admitted to, and with perfect legality. Look no further than the Koch brothers’ interest in buying up the newspaper market.
(Of course, News Corporation owner Robert Murdoch proves you can have a hand in both of those cookie jars at the same time, from here.)
In this day and age, we can’t afford to not be skeptical of everything. Remember that.