Media Ethics Epic Fail

Flattering art by The Puppeteer

Flattering art by The Puppeteer

‘The Media and the Government is Bigger than you or me’ is a ridiculously defeatist statement. A budding journalist once told me this. Are they all this brainwashed? What is our worth as human beings if we continuously bow down to the way things are and never question accepted norms and their irrationality?

Some of you out there may be system puppets, dancing on the strings of ‘everything they tell you’; but I believe most people, when mentally able, are free thinkers; capable of removing themselves from the bog of the present and looking at humanity’s historical footprint.

The world has always been doing only one thing; consolidating. And what have they been consolidating? Power. Democracy as a concept is insanely awesome. Democracy as a practice is a shit pile. Yes, even in the US of A. its home.

Media ethics, at a fundamental level, ties itself down to the side of the government. The truth will not be told if a country’s ‘defence’ is compromised. The truth will always bow down to the primal human instinct of consolidation. The truth will always be biased to power and not to the people. That would be fine if in reality the people were in power, but the modern nature of democracy largely makes that impossible. Therefore This fundamental media ethic mostly serves the purpose of the subversiveness of governments.

The truth will not be told if the media deems it sensitive to taste (the WTF ethic). Like images of human flesh blown into pieces and blood splattered walls are ‘sensitive’. In other words, the media imagines the public to be wussies. The war reporter has balls, because he’s a foreign correspondent, but they’ll be strung up beneath the butt hole of Great A’tuin if the average Joe can take it.

Saying; ‘a few people died..’ is less impactful than showing the full brunt of war; the dying and screaming and horribly deformed children etc. The public may start feeling slightly differently about the war if such was the case. But screw public opinion; this is a democracy. The public can’t think. The masses are asses.

The media reserves the right to decide what fantasy is and what it’s not. If they percieve that some neo radical thinker will create turmoil by messing up the norms and by endangering the interests of their stakeholders, this ethic gives them room to deem it ‘fantasy’ and call the guy who said the world was a ball an ignoramus.

The media shall not invade privacy, even though it may conflict strongly with freedom of expression.

The overriding absurdity should be plainly obvious to anyone reading these sets of ethics. On what moral background do they base concepts like ‘sensitivity’, ‘taste’, ‘privacy’ and ‘public interest’? Is the media the apostle of God to know what is Right for its Fellow Man?

Nope. The concepts that Media Ethics are based on are subjective beyond belief. For example, something that is ‘sensitive’ for an American voter will be exactly what the father of the suffering kid with no leg and a ripped off midsection breathing his last breaths in Iraq will want them to see. Confronted with this ‘dilemma’, the media takes a side; objectivity goes into the dustbin.

These are the core values of the media. Every journalist gets them drilled into their brains when they train. From such subjective and hazy guidelines, can an objective truth ever arise? Can the ‘media’ in its current form ever not fail epically or otherwise? The media and journalism isn’t about truth. Its ethics have let it make the truth anything it wants it to be. The danger of media ethics is that it leaves ample room for non ethical activity.

Think.

Moving on to Better Things

And on to what the morphology (yes, do look it up) of the media is; it is that branch of journalism that is governed by this set of easily adaptable ethics. It is like a fill in the blanks bible (and there aint no saints out there to save you), it is that industry that sells ‘truth’ influenced by external interest making it nothing much more than propaganda and advertising.

The media needs a makeover, it is good to see new media coming in ever more strongly to take its place. I hope this is the beginning of a change for the better. The old establishment media is failing as an industry. Its myopic view of itself as the pinnacle of integrity cannot last much longer. It must change and yeild to a new wave of creative destruction* hitting it (and its set of wtf ethics). Or die and let the world move on to better things.

*A good paper on creative destruction from an industry point of view is Theodore Levitt’s Marketing Myopia (a very interesting read no matter what your background). Also check out the work of Joseph Schumpeter.

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7 comments
  1. St. Fallen said:

    "The world has always been doing only one thing; consolidating. And what have they been consolidating? Power. Democracy as a concept is insanely awesome. Democracy as a practice is a shit pile." Amen

    and yes, the masses are asses. 😀

  2. PseudoRandom said:

    I think the country's defence does have to be taken into account when reporting the truth: there's a fine line between reporting the truth because the people need to know, and reporting it because you need an exposé. The Drudge Report's exposé of Prince Harry being in Afghanistan for instance put his entire regiment at risk – was it really necessary? I don't think so. Of course who gets to decide where the line is drawn is up for debate, as you say.

  3. TheWhacksteR said:

    Good point. All idealistic arguments of 'truth' aside interests of power groups or governments will always be considered. Like I said, media is tied down to the goal of consolidation of power at a fundamental level.

    This ethic is also very ambiguous as news that must be revealed for the sake of public interest or safety can be ordained as sensitive to national defense by unscrupulous governments; embedding the media in a bog of uncertainty again. Therefore it serves no ultimate purpose except to leave to judgment what to reveal or conceal.

  4. The Puppeteer said:

    Let me correct that quote. My exact words were "The media and the government is bigger than you" (I did not include 'me' in there). Not only did you misquote me but you made your own assumption of what I meant.

    When I said that the media was bigger than you, I meant it merely in size. As in you are one person while the government and media consist of several people, at no point did I mean that a single person isn't as strong or important as the media or the government.

    And by misquoting me you just proved the evils of new media. Yes, your saviour the 'new media' is not infallible as you think.

    Give untrained people the tools to reach the public and I shudder to think of the damage that can be caused.

    Misquoting can lead to sensationalising. Slurring of people and so much more.

    Imagine this tool being utilised by the corrupt.

    Imagine people being bombarded with information false and real. From say a mere 1000 bloggers posting on the same subject. Imagine the confusion readers will be faced with.

    Also don't you think that bloggers should be ethical/responsible reporting about what they post? I'm sorry, but I don't think you're fit to to be a citizen journalist if you are going to disregard basic ethics followed by the media on this blog.

    Do you think it's ethical to publish the name of a rape victim? Do you think it's ethical to post images of the women soldiers who were stripped naked and shot dead? What I've mentioned are actual instances where the media has not been ethical when reporting.

    Your view is that the public is not sensitive to this. When in fact they are. But that aside, consider the families of those women soldiers or the rape victim. What if one of those women soldiers was your daughter? Would you want the whole nation to see her mauled naked body?

    Yes the code of ethics can be arbitrary but the damage that can be caused if it was not adhered to is far greater.

    The code that we follow as been carefully considered world over, not just in Sri Lanka. If you think it needs to be revised, please do write a post about how the code can be improved.

    In the meantime, read this http://media.www.mediaethicsmagazine.com/media/storage/paper655/news/2009/07/01/AnalysesCommentary/Moderation.In.Moderating.Comments-3746269.shtml

  5. TheWhacksteR said:

    If you meant it was just bigger in terms of physical size then it was a statement of no consequence. The only implication of ur statement is that; being bigger in physical size, they are bigger in terms of power. i had no idea u inject random statements of absolutely no meaning into conversations.

    New media will give out information on a free market basis. The establishment corrupts the set of 'ethics' that we are discussing. You have conveniently ignored the 'war' example and replaced it with 'rape'; a crime involving an impact only on a few individuals and rather easier to justify in this 'ethical' foreground.

    the code can go on existing. New media will let individuals all over the world draw on their own ethics to release news. Letting the people decide who to listen to. The public may not be as stupid as the powerful think. But to the powerful, the truth is dangerous. Hence all the control.

    As for sensationalism, let’s not be absurd. If any stream of media is accused of sensationalism its the establishment. News needs to make money.

    Journalists are either in the business of delivering the raw truth or they are not. There should not be an in-between.

    Thanks for the link, very informative. Hate comments have their own source of value. Helps to know that the world isn’t as sweet and round as most people seem to think. They are a pinch of reality into the anger and bigotry still present in what the public have mostly been led to believe is an 'ethical' world

  6. The Puppeteer said:

    Yes dear WhacksteR that was indeed a statement of no consequence which you chose to post on your blog to slur the ‘budding journalist’. I’d never have figured you were a 'Rita Skeeter' sort of reporter.

    You'd have to be a little dimwitted to have quoted me out of context unknowingly, considering the chat conversation that it was mentioned in. If I recall correctly, you said that I had drawn you smaller in proportion to the caricatures representing the media and the government. To which I replied they were bigger than you.

    If you really didn't get that I meant it merely in size, I'll make sure to be simplify and break things down for you in future.

    Okay, off with the trivial matters that you enjoy harping on to distract people from your preposterous arguments.

    The rape victim was an actual incident that of which I was reminded. Ergo I included it in my comment. But I guess you would need it all explained explicitly.

    So let's take a look at this 'war' example shall we. I think I’ve address the issue of sensitivity of images with the example of the women soldiers and Pseud0random has covered it as well.

    What you need to understand is that the code of ethic is actually a fence around the media to keep it from running wild. Having gotten pictures or a juicy story a journalist would rush to have it publish as the information will kick up agency’s popularity. It is the code of ethics that stops journalists in their tracks and makes them think first before publishing that news piece. How will this affect the subject? How will this new piece affect the people? What are the dangers of publishing this? More can be found here- http://www.spj.org/ethicswartime.asp. A lot must be considered before publishing a story. This is not something simple or should be taken lightly.

    The media is a powerful tool. It has the power to sway the public and control their thoughts. In that light the media must be responsible when reporting.

    And yes, media ethics in itself would be subjective if journalists were to choose what is sensitive and what isn’t. Having established the code of ethics, those who’ve studied journalism are given a rough idea as to how to differentiate between what is sensitive material and what isn’t. But if you still think that this is arbitrary, just imagine the media without a code of ethics. Do you see how chaotic the nation would be? Oh wait, would you need me to provide you with examples to help your thought process beyond its tight confines? Ok, sorry let’s be amicable about this. Fact is this is the system in which the media has been functioning. These gray areas are debated by journalists themselves.

    However, you are suggesting that we dispose of them all together. When considering the damage that can be caused in the absence of the code it can only be catastrophic. Also, new media too will have to adhere to this code. If you don’t like it, it would be more productive of you to come up with ways of how it can be improved instead of picking at its faults of which we are all aware.

  7. TheWhacksteR said:

    The new media like i said, will be ruled by the individual ethics of its users. i am arguing against the need of a 'code' of imperfect ethics when journalists will usually bend them around to suit their needs anyway.

    you are stuck in a paradigm that tells you that the current model is the best possible and any radical change would be disastrous; as such i think that it is your mind rather than mine that is 'stuck within tight confines'.

    The media was a powerful tool. Now its power has waned. At least the established media's power has. Now there is huge input from new media in making the whole of what the world sees. There is mistrust attached to complete monopoly of established media because of the obvious governmental and corporate interests that are inherently attached to it. This is far greater than you may suppose.

    Your cartoon simply succeeds in portraying the media as a weakling; smaller in power, leave alone size, than me. Maybe you should have asked me what i meant before jumping to conclusions when you answered.

    As for the war argument, you have taken sensationalism out of context again. I was talking of human interest, and you are telling me that your very same ethic goes against it. Granted, it works accurately sometimes but not always, so it’s unreliable.

    The truth as a concept stands independently of any sort of ‘ethic’. My argument is that to be truly objective the truth should be set free as much as possible. You are saying that it needs to be ‘fenced down’ and controlled. Controlling the truth will alter it. It’s absurd to argue that an altered truth is a complete truth. I’m sure you will agree.

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