What Is Truth?
Our rulers have long used news media to control the masses
Three old men tagging eighty years old, myself included, were in a conference call discussing the State of the Union. It didn’t matter to us what Biden, a fellow geezer, would say Tuesday night. We could guess what he’d talk about: youth drug addiction, failing infrastructure, corporate taxes, COVID, NATO, and Russia’s invasion. He’d skip over a huge problem: the rampant “yellow journalism” of today’s news coverage. He dare not mention how our biased newscasters have stoked civil unrest and violence with their sensationalism and gross exaggerations.
If someone heard us three deliberating, we may have sounded like a Roman Triumvirate debating remedies for the Empire’s many troubles: the deadly plague, hashish addiction, devaluation of the currency, our enemies gathering for war, civil unrest, high taxes, and the thousands of barbarians storming our boundaries.
Astounded by the media’s ability to control the masses, I looked into how long that’s been going on. I discovered that the first newspaper was published in Rome by Julius Caesar in 59 BC. It was called the Acta Diurna (Daily Gazette) and was posted in public forums to report politics, social events, battle campaigns, and street crimes. The ruling elite took advantage of this to mislead and manipulate citizens. They said whatever was needed to keep them in power.
Bias in journalism is nothing new, nor is crude exaggeration and fakery. In fact, it is expected because we humans are prejudiced to do whatever it takes to survive and thrive. No one can claim to be absolutely neutral or honest. I am a Republican because my parents were. I love Italian cuisine from being raised on it. The schools I went to, the books I read, the films I watched in America’s golden age: those are the experiences that molded my views on life. They are like the scars of the accidents I had as a kid: indelible markers of experience that never fade away.
So there really isn’t any cure for my bias or yours. We learn to live with it and confess our sins. Our biases tempt us to avoid, ignore, or reject reality. We see things as we want to see them. Newscasters and social-media influencers do the same, but now at the speed of light. Nothing has changed in human nature, but advanced technology accelerates and magnifies our trespasses.
Malcolm X said, “The media is the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and the guilty innocent…because they control the minds of the masses.” He was right. Richard Salant, former president of CBS News said, “Our job is not to give people what [facts] they want, but what [information] we decide they ought to have.” Corporate media exists “to support corrupt regimes,” says Mollie Hemingway, editor-in-chief of The Federalist. One need not wonder why life-long professional politicians seemingly can do no wrong.
To render just judgment, Pontius Pilate, after his wife’s warning dream, wanted to discern the whole truth about Jesus of Nazareth, the miracle worker attracting massive crowds. But his quest was obstructed by the Sanhedrin’s intentional distortion of Jesus’s words.
The worried Roman governor of Judea cross-examined Him. “You are a king, then?”
Jesus responded, “You rightly say I am a king, but my kingdom is not of this world. I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”
Therein lies the rub. How many of us are willing to seek, suffer, and die for the truth? Because of humanity’s innate bias — call it a feature of Original Sin — we all share in Pilate’s philosophical quandary, asking as he did, “What is truth?” (John 18:38)
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