August 30, 2007

WHEN DID IT MATTER? (via Gene Brown):

Media Showers: Why would the public lose trust? (DANIEL HENNINGER, August 30, 2007, Opinion Journal)

[F]or the media ponderers there's a more troubling issue than the restoration of trust. It's the possibility that too many people now simply don't much care about the major media anymore. Normally the great media combines would overcome periods of lassitude by forming up focus groups to tell them what to do next. Hah! They want "Survivor"! Alas, living as we do now in a world of seemingly infinite choice, it is possible not to care for a seeming infinity of reasons, which is why the established media are having such a hard time knowing what to do.

Mr. Paxman identified one reason not to care: "In the last quarter century we've gone from three channels to hundreds. . . . The truth is this: the more television there is, the less any of it matters." Once there was a time when TV announcers used to say, "Stay with us." Now no one stays. They go surfing, endlessly seeking a five-minute wave of TV that will take them just a little higher than the five minutes they just watched.

More difficult are the I-don't-care revolutionaries, who argue that digitization has reversed the media world's authority and power. The old aristocracy of programmers and editors has been overthrown by average people who now blog new political priorities, download media and form themselves into clickable communities. The Snowman wins. Get over it.

One part of me likes this scenario. Some say we're living out Marshall McLuhan's long-ago forecasts, such as, "The circuited city of the future . . . will be an information megalopolis." Could be. If it is so that these new technologies are redistributing power into millions of liberated hands accessing "what I want, when I want it," then we are also cruising toward what another seer predicted in three words: "Free to choose." That seer, of course, was Milton Friedman.

Has anyone ever presented evidence for the proposition that the citizenry ever either cared about or trusted the media?

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 30, 2007 6:59 PM

The Federalist Papers worked. War of the Worlds scared people into thinking there was an invasion.

Now, it is said that 25% of people under 30 get their political news from John Stewart.

If you extrapolate your view of libertarianism out to "free to choose," the only result can be complete atomization, leading to some form of Eurostyle tyranny of the consensus.

We don't need to trust them for them to rule. As Ayn Rand pointed out, produce enough swill and make it impossible to distinguish the swill from art, and it really doesn't matter.

Producing a society that "didn't care" was their goal. C.S. Lewis made a similar point. The Devil's most powerful tool was convincing people he didn't exist.

Truth doesn't exist (36% of people polled believe that Bush was involved in 9/11) if the population can't distinguish fact from fiction.

Posted by: Bruno at August 31, 2007 12:16 AM

The media does matter because it provides affirmation for the stupidity and selfishness of the majority of people; but truth doesn't sell because truth has never sold.

A friend of mine just had her seventh child. They don't have a T.V. When would they find the time? Between homeschooling the kids, tending the animals on their ten acre farm, music lessons, cooking, laundry... well, you get the idea.

She does, however, know the truth and has discovered that it costs her all and provides her everything God promised.

Posted by: Randall Voth at August 31, 2007 12:45 AM

If it mattered media opinion wouldn't be at such variance with majority.

Posted by: oj at August 31, 2007 6:15 AM

Stewart is a "better" source of news than the papers owned by Hamilton and Jefferson, if some sort of impartiality is the goal. Though it oughtn't be.

Posted by: oj at August 31, 2007 6:17 AM