Postmodern media needs better regulation, public or self-regulation through corporate responsibility. Defamation and lies must stop.
Nearly four years ago, I wrote a series on the History of Broadcast Radio News. I titled the first article as “A Legacy of Trust” over a century, and warned of the emerging “post-truth” society.
You see, postmodern media is not about truth. It denies an underlying reality. Rather, we are faced with a series of “competing claims” where what we view as the truth is just whatever claim is winning in our cultural group’s discourse.
For centuries under modernity, we lived under grand narratives. Reality was put forward by rulers (kings, governments, strong men) but mostly by religion and later objective media. Our models of truth were always flawed but generally served us well. Postmodernism denies objectivity and, with it, truth. We are left with interpretations and opinions – good and bad – in place of facts.
I remember watching Fox News more than a decade ago as a welcome alterative: objective news accompanied by conservative opinions. Today, these have been replaced by lies and conspiracy theories, with a bit of news tucked in away from prime time. As an educated person, I understand there will always be a subjective element to news reporting. My job should be to apply some sensible filtering and interpretation to get at truth. But today? Simply put, you can’t filter this much sh*t.
Over the past month, Fox News ratings have cratered. What I would call sensible people have fled to CNN and MSNBC. Meanwhile, cult members have fled right to Newsmax and OAN. This is perfectly understandable if you see postmodern media as simply a tool through which we each create our own identity. Oh, how I long for the days of the anal BBC news presenters.
Postmodern Media – Hardly Social
And, of course, let’s not slide by the damage caused by (hardly) social postmodern media, particularly Twitter and Facebook. Last year, a study by Cornell University showed that by far the world’s greatest source of COVID misinformation was Donald Trump. Last week, we learned that the total volume of misinformation on social media dropped by 73% in the week after Trump lost his Twitter feed.
With little doubt, 2021 will be a year of reckoning for social media recklessness. Whether through regulation or corporate responsibility, this is long overdue.
But let’s also apply some rigor to regulating lies on traditional media, whether broadcast or cable news. Private corporations, like Dominion, threatening law suits is a good start. But it should not be the end.