According to a recent Gallup Poll, mistrust of news and information sources is at an all-time high. In the U.S., only 9 percent of those surveyed have a “great deal” of trust in mass media. Thirty-three percent have “none at all.”
I lost faith in the veracity of mass media and the evening news many years ago, when it became apparent to me that the Scientology they were covering was some “other” Scientology, not the real-world one I knew so well.
Mass media outlets have continued to create the “other” Scientology. The reality gap between it and my Scientology has grown to the point it’s now a chasm as wide and as deep as the Grand Canyon.
My Scientology is a timely force for good. I’m certain of that, because I’ve lived it for over 50 years, to my great benefit. The media version is an ill-intended mishmash of slander and misrepresentations. Apples and oranges is an understatement. More like apples and hemlock.
It pains me that people whose lives could be bettered using real-world Scientology are being so horribly misinformed. Perhaps the deception is money-motivated. Good news gets fewer clicks and views than sensationalism and slander. Or perhaps there’s a more sinister reason for the overt deception.
I lost faith in the veracity of mass media and the evening news many years ago.
So it’s not surprising another Gallup Poll found that only 28 percent of those surveyed considered journalists to have “high” or “very high” “honesty and ethical standards.” Apparently, it’s not just Scientologists who’ve noticed the current state of ethics in journalism.
Here’s what a man I have enormous respect for wrote on the subject:
“Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. The real extent of this state of misinformation is known only to those who are in situations to confront facts within their knowledge with the lies of the day.”
If you agree with the above, you’re in good company. Those words were penned by Thomas Jefferson in an 1807 letter to newspaper editor John Norvell. Jefferson’s words are as true today as they were in his day. It’s a mistake to blindly accept what’s being presented via newspapers or mass media at face value. We can only know the extent of misinformation in media content if we’ve been in a position to compare our direct knowledge of the facts to their “truth.”
Social media is even less trustworthy. Case in point: last year, as an experiment, I followed up on Facebook memes featuring quotes by our Founding Fathers that appeared to support then-current political candidates or agendas. Out of the 27 memes I researched, 26 were either entirely false, misattributed or grossly out of context. Yet, social media users gleefully hit the “like” button and shared them with their fellows.
But Jefferson also recognized the absolute necessity of a free press. In a 1786 letter, he wrote: “Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.”
Jefferson’s “can’t live with it, can’t live without it” views on the subject are understandable when we consider FREEDOM and RESPONSIBILITY to be two sides of the same coin. You can’t have the former without the latter… at least not for long.
But how do we rein in a free press that doesn’t understand this simple concept or doesn’t seem to care? It’s a conundrum.
Jefferson provided some insight into the problem in this excerpt from his letter to John Norvell: “It seems to escape them that it is not he who prints, but he who pays for printing a slander, who is its real author.”
If we accept Jefferson’s point of view, part of the solution could be as simple as letting company CEOs know when they’re sponsoring slanderous, bigoted or hateful programming, and informing them that, by funding it, they have become its “real author.” Experience has shown that when so informed, many companies do the right thing. They quickly cut ties with the offensive material.
But thinking Jefferson’s thought on the subject all the way through, who pays the sponsors who in turn pay for the slander?
Could it be a case of “we have met the enemy and he is us”?
I, for one, don’t wish to directly or indirectly finance corrupt media reporting. I assume you feel the same way. So join me in standing tall and telling companies who continue to fund disreputable media programming they have a choice—they can continue to sponsor hate and bigotry, or they can continue to enjoy our patronage and support.
They can’t have both.