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Welcome to You're Doing It Wrong, a weekly column taking the Powers That Be (PTB), especially the media and talking heads, to task for poor information and poor framing.
Well, this week I’m ruffled by, yes, the Chik-fil-A brouhaha and something the media is doing that is not constructive.
This week marked the big right wing Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, so there were not only prominent people speaking up about it, but the media covered it pretty heavily on Wednesday.
People like Mike Huckabee set the stage by framing the argument as one of defending Dan Cathy’s freedom of speech and stopping him from “being disenfranchised from his citizenship and rights of free speech”. Rick Santorum not only cited the free speech, but also freedom of religion. Pretty soon all their followers were parroting these talking points.
Now, both of these men are politicians who formerly held high offices, both have been candidates for the highest office in the land, and one of them is now a media talk show host. I don’t know about you, but I shudder to think that anyone in their position would have such an incorrect understanding of the Constitution.
In media coverage, platforms were given to not only the luminaries, but to the folks who showed up to take part in the appreciation day. But instead of giving some historical context, most of the media let those statements go unchallenged.
The Constitution is meant to set the rules for government. The First Amendment in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights provides for the exercise of freedom of speech and freedom to practice religion. This DOES NOT MEAN that you are free to say whatever you want without consequence, only that you will not be punished by the law for saying it. This DOES NOT MEAN that you are free to practice your religion without consequence, only that you will not be punished by the law for practicing it. This isn’t rocket science; this is remedial understanding of the Constitution and how government works.
The news is supposed to make you smarter, not just provide simple claims and facts without any factual explanation for the reader/listener. The news is not supposed to just report what a person says, especially when it is false, essentially playing stenographer and contributing to the dumbing down of the masses. The news is supposed to give you the tools to understand what’s going on in the country and the world. How can anyone come to a better understanding when false beliefs are given voice to by the media without any kind of critical challenge or explanation?
Would Walter Cronkite or Edward Murrow give voice to people who so categorically have incorrect information without questioning that information? Would they fail to point out the erroneousness of those statements? I think not.
The Fourth Estate is supposed to be a check on the PTB. So, if you’re a journalist, and you let blatantly incorrect information go out via your platform without correcting it, you’re hurting we the people, not helping we the people. You’re Doing It Wrong!