OPINION – Thomas Jefferson used to warn that it was better to be ignorant than to be misinformed. This is true in our day as well.
Our access to information is unparalleled in human history. Still, many Americans get their news from a surprisingly narrow range of media sources. While these sources may not be owned outright by the government, American news media ownership is concentrated in a tiny handful of corporations.
This is why historian Tom E. Woods jokes about how any media discussion rarely strays from the 3×5 index card of acceptable opinion. American news media today serves roughly the same purpose as Ministry of Truth served in George Orwell’s classic “1984.” They promote groupthink.
In Orwell’s novel, the Ministry of Truth was responsible for disseminating propaganda to the people of Oceania. Its purpose was to spin the facts and make them fit the Party line. In the case of blatant contradictions, its job was to literally rewrite history. Only those “truths” that would further the cause of the Party were allowed to emanate from the ministry.
Another purpose of the Ministry of Truth was to keep the public constantly stirred up against the threat of an outside enemy in order to justify the Party’s more inhuman policies.
One day their enemy would be Eurasia; the next day it was Eastasia. With a constant wartime footing, Big Brother could justify his heavy-handed tactics against the people of Oceania.
To further reinforce the loyalty of the people, the Ministry of Truth would broadcast a daily “two minutes hate.” This served to inflame emotions into frenzied hatred toward the regime’s enemies and adoration of party ideals. Worshipful images of the military and Big Brother were incorporated into each broadcast. Their purpose was to lead the viewer to one inescapable conclusion: the party was their sole source of salvation.
By the end of the two minutes hate, the people were emotionally and physically spent and thoroughly brainwashed. To dissent was to commit thought-crime and invite charges of treason. The only safety was found in groupthink.
Such was Orwell’s fictional world.
Looking at what is happening to our society today, it appears that much of “1984” is coming to pass. This can be seen in the ever-increasing surveillance of the citizenry, the agitation for military action against other nations, and especially in the way news is used to shape public opinion.
John Rappaport has written extensively on how our national news media serves to promote an official narrative rather than hard facts.
For instance, when a big story breaks — especially one involving tragedy — the news anchors leave their newsroom and travel to the scene. As Rappaport explains, “The anchors lend gravitas. Their mere presence lets the audience know this story trumps all other news of the moment. The anchor is not only the priest, but also the teacher. He/she shows the audience how to experience the event and what to feel and what to think and how to act.”
Far from uncovering and reporting facts to empower the audience members to make up their own minds, network news seeks to create acceptance.
This is especially true in how politics is covered. Our mass media promotes acceptance of two political parties that differ very little from each other. This coverage creates an illusion of choice where, in fact, there is none.
Talk radio also serves as a contemporary Ministry of Truth in its gleeful indulgence in the “two minutes hate” reserved for those designated enemies of the regime. Though exceptions may be found on the local level, talk radio in general is a highly doctrinaire medium. Everything is divided into the convenient camps of liberal vs. conservative, Republican vs. Democrat, and Left vs. Right.
Under such narrowly constructed thinking, what might have been a bastion of free speech is instead another way of discouraging dissent and protecting the status quo.
The antidote to our modern day Ministries of Truth is found in individuals who prize the ability to think for themselves. But thinking is hard work and requires a lifelong commitment to self-education.
We would be wise to remember the words of Russell Kirk; “It ought not be forgotten, in this mass-age when the state aspired to be all in all, that genuine education is something higher than an instrument of public policy. True education is meant to develop the individual human being, the person, rather than to serve the state.”
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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