Perception wars


Last updated 8/16/2022 at Noon

The moon landings were staged; the earth is flat; Hitler escaped to Argentina.

Learning “the news” each day while growing up in a city within the heartland of America during the ’60s and ’70s occurred in one of two ways: At 6 p.m. the local news came on followed by the national news of CBS, NBC, or ABC. The other possibility for news came with the city’s morning newspaper or its afternoon edition.

The news industry of the day investigated events on the ground with field reporters, who attempted to find out or uncover facts that were coherently compiled and reported.

On rare occasions, a titan figure of the news industry might offer a personal perspective, much like the local newspaper’s daily editorial opinion column would do. But that was rare.

Edward R. Murrow’s stance against the Red Scare tactics of Senator Joe McCarthy in the 1950s and Walter Cronkite’s 1968 pronouncement that the Vietnam War had become unwinnable were exceptions to then-abided-by rules of responsible journalism.

A third type of media existed, one that understood its place and didn’t try to feign dignity. It was located at the grocery store checkout line. That’s where we learned how Aliens Kidnap Babies and Elvis’s Twin Survives, Long Live King II.

A type of “alternate” news also occurred — over the backyard fence, where you discovered what the neighbor’s pet groomer’s cousin’s girlfriend had recently “found out.” It was something most folks weren’t aware of and that made it privileged information.

Cable television eventually came along, with a plethora of corporate media opportunities, each claiming they best represented the hallowed ‘press’ of our founding fathers. In reality, they were concerned with viewership, which translated into more advertising dollars. Yellow journalism had found its greenhouse.

The Internet came next, ushering in The Age of Cyber-Information. Peculiarly, what dominates the cyber realm and gets labeled as “newsworthy” oftentimes seems strikingly similar to the grocery store checkout line or what was passed across the backyard fence.

The preponderance of pseudo informational tidbits in the cyber realm has created an overarching dependency — in peoples’ homes, conversations, and minds. Many now eschew the standard-bearing news industry entities that have existed for decades and still have reporters gathering factual information on the ground from reliable sources. Watching the 6 p.m. news hour or reading the daily newspaper isn’t alluring enough and takes too long.

A few adherents of cyber information have developed a powerful need to be volunteer proponents of The Truth and let the world know about their privileged information.

Listening to those proselytizing adherents, one might think that this “news” had field reporter research and verification behind it, as had occurred with stories regarding frontline fighting during the ’68 Tet Offensive of the Vietnam War.

Perhaps now it’s the case that one’s veracity for argumentation can be substituted for validity of evidence.

As a result of such zealotry, things like small-town newspapers can be dedicated to pages of these “experts” writing their perceptions about what the true nascent reality has become, so that it is understood over opposing individuals’ mere inept opinions.

Each week I read the Nugget News hoping for, well, nuggets of news. Lo and behold, regional facts, stories, and legitimate concerns are getting harder to mine. What I’m inundated with are perception wars, much like high school pep rallies — our team’s great, yer team stinks.

This apparently includes column space, where opportunities for salient community matters seem to have been displaced.

There’s no questions, discussions, or information regarding matters such as, “Since the Forest Service refuses to enforce the two-week camping-in-one-place regulation, thus allowing long-term encampments, will prescribed burns no longer occur in areas that need it due to those settlements?” or “What type and level of atypical behaviors and ideations must a person, who has access to weapons and ammunition, need to exhibit before one should consider responsibly reporting it … and just who should be told?”

Then again, maybe these matters aren’t in need of attention and discussion. Perhaps, there are more pressing things to discuss. After all, it just might be the case that the moon landings were staged; the earth is flat; and Hitler did escape to Argentina.


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