“You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”William Randolph Hearst to Frederic Remington.
The story goes that upon arrival in Cuba on an assignment from Hearst and the Hearst newspapers, the artist Frederic Remington wired Hearst that he saw no signs of imminent conflict to which Hearst responded with his now famous answer, cited above.
Journalism, as a profession dedicated to an objective and factual observation of events, stood indicted by this statement.
Now, over a century after Hearst’s pronouncement, journalism, whether print, electronic, or digital, is again having its objectivity challenged. When the media carries the same biases as its readers and viewers, it is difficult to discern those biases. “How could someone who thinks as I think be wrong?” is the assumption we all make. We’re never wrong, right?
The Watergate scandal gained traction by a shared fundamental dislike of Nixon by the media and a substantial portion of the public at large. Nixon had to be behind it, right? That’s what the media was looking for, that’s what the media, Congress, and the prosecutors found.
The John F. Kennedy assassination and its subsequent investigation by the Warren Commission, was never critically reported by the media, nor did the media vet the Warren Report at that time. Subsequently, the Kennedy Assassination is a seminal event in the crafting of popular legends. Involve organized crime and the CIA in any alternative examination of the assassination and one immediately has willing and eager believers. While the Warren Report may be specious, any refutation of its findings aren’t therefore true simply because they draw different conclusions.
We come to the present day and we look to the media for further validation of our beliefs around climate change, the global economy, local economies, electoral politics, race relations or the status of women, just to name a few issues.
It is far too unnerving to think that our own prejudices are what manipulate us into thinking and acting in the ways that we do. No one wants to believe that we furnish and tie the strings to our wrists ourselves that the puppeteers jerk.