The recent smackdown delivered by Professor Reza Aslan, Ph.D to CNN’s Don Lemon and Alisyn Camerota reveals a serious problem in American news media. Namely, that we now have an endless cycle of ill-informed talking heads, presented as subject matter authorities, that are feeding the American appetite for information. A problem that serves the interests of powerful influences that lead Americans like sheep to slaughter into war, unnecessary public investments, immoral policies, and other terrible decisions. The irony of this particular exchange on CNN is a homosexual and woman are espousing bigoted views about another group – Muslims. The larger implications cast shadows on news and our collective ability to achieve sanity in an increasingly insane world. This article incorporates broadcasts from The Young Turks which provide commentary about Aslan’s appearance on CNN.
I once believed that apathy is a product of two influences. First, that many people are simply not concerned about conditions, events, and other dynamics of modern life. And second, that for those who do care, there is often a sense of defeatism. A powerlessness to make a meaningful difference.
While I still maintain the above two factors, the reasons for apathy might very well be more nuanced. Indifference and lack of confidence surely factor into the lack of response many of us have to matters of importance in our world. However, increasingly a third factor appears to be at-work.
I call this, “information bloat.”
It’s not a new concept entirely. Books, such as Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, have looked at the sheer explosion of information that fills our public space through new products, services, technologies, formats, and sources on a daily basis.
The amount of information and, more problematic, misinformation that ordinary people must sift through is complicated by perceived subject matter authorities that lack critical understanding of issues. Sources that present information in a way that satisfies some egocentric agenda.
Consider a recent exchange that took place between Professor Reza Aslan, Ph.D and CNN Real Clear Politics news anchors Don Lemon and Alisyn Camerota. The dialogue was prompted by comments made by comedian Bill Mahar on the topic of Islam. The host of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Mahar suggested that Islam promotes violence.
Throughout the interview, Dr. Reza Aslan corrected the CNN hosts’ misunderstanding of Islam. At times, Lemon and Camerota paused and appear to have blank expressions as the flood of Dr. Aslan’s facts consumed the discussion. A number of assertions made by the CNN hosts that were summarily debunked by Dr. Aslan’s counterpoints. Later, Dr. Aslan’s rebuttal to ideological narratives presented by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu underscores the danger of viewers consuming statements by a world leader so inept and/or propagandized on matters of significant global implications.
The CNN segment underscores a serious problem. Namely, that Americans spend an inordinate amount of time consuming comments by entertainers such as Bill Mahar, as if these celebrities have scholastic and vocational backgrounds in international affairs, history, economics, health, and other matters.
We have perfected the art of news-ertainment. All-day news networks recycle stories using made-for-television (and radio) talking-heads that are not necessarily experts in the topics they communicate to the general public. So-called “news rooms” are occupied by beauty pageant queens, preachers, comedians, and various other figures that can light-up a media broadcast – technical background, notwithstanding.
Politicians such as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leverage public trust to propagate messages that are laced more with social, economic, political, and geo-political interests as these messages that fill our media space are authentic, uncut streams of information. These figure heads come together, more often than not, on highly polarizing outlets that convey a certain ideological bent disguised as news.
The only real information exchange tends to occur when a dissenting voice, equipped with formal training and technical experience, upsets the apple cart of dogma with positions steeped in sound reasoning. Hence, the rare treasure of an appearance such as that of Reza Aslan on CNN’s Real Clear Politics. Unfortunately, the more politically-charged programs are often the highest in ratings. PBS, with programming such as Frontline and American Experience, while arguably more substantive, trail commercialized news programming in viewer ratings. Such is also true for C-Span, Link TV, and Al Jazeera.
The Young Turks’ coverage of the CNN interview recognized the unique opportunity Americans received in watching Dr. Aslan bring a critical assessment of these complex issues. And indeed, this was a unique moment in prime-time news.
For much of the day, the public, is caught in the crossfire. Wading through mounds of text, videos, and other formats of hyper-propaganda analysis that lack substance. Just plain bad programming, disseminated on a continuous cycle.
It’s no wonder that many would just assume bury their heads from today’s issues.
What sources do you find most trusting when it comes to objectives of the news? Please leave your response in the article’s Comments area by clicking here.[/important]
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