Monday, March 6, 2017

Yellow Journalism, Truth Decay, and the Cult of Ignorance

Joseph Pulitzer II
Yellow journalism was a term coined during the newspaper circulation wars of William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer II at the end of the nineteenth century. Rather than relying on mere facts, their newspaper articles featured sensationalism, crude exaggeration, scandal-mongering, and mud-slinging.

William Randolph Hearst
Competition between Hurst's New York Journal and Pulitzer's New York World to sell newspapers lead to the saber-rattling which helped ignite the Spanish-American War and guide Theodore Roosevelt into the White House on a "bully pulpit."

In today's Internet world, yellow journalism is served up as click-bait--otherwise known as the quest for eyeballs and dollars. The politics of division play out daily on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Headlines of these political posts are written for their shock value with reactionary wording and a sense of urgency to attract and hold their target audience.

Sensationalism, scandal-mongering, innuendo, biased opinions, malicious rumors, and misinformation masquerading as truth are the tools of the yellow journalist's trade. Once their tightly controlled alternative facts become dogma, their followers adopt these beliefs as elemental certitudes immune to facts. 



Manufactured news stories by hyper-partisan propaganda machines systematically cater to powerful political and social movements. These stories display a strong ideological and journalistic bias to suppress or distort the news with a reckless disregard for the facts. Fake news on both sides of the political spectrum tries to manipulate public opinion. Truth is the first casualty, then goes the public's faith in its free press and media outlets. Distrust of factual news results in truth decay.

"Don't confuse me with the facts" has become an anthem for too many people in America. When journalistic ethics and professionalism are cast aside, the public is the ultimate loser. The average person does not know who or what to believe any longer and cynicism sets in.

I came across a Psychology Today article from 2014 that is a snapshot of America from our recent past. It has a prophetic quality in light of this nation's recent change of stewardship. "The Cult of Ignorance... Anti-Intellectualism and the Dumbing Down of America" https://sott.net/en313177