Media literacy is one of the most important factors in our ability to remain free. When news is “fake” and science is junk, only the supreme leader has the truth. It sounds like dystopian fiction, but fiction has a funny way of showing us the truth.
Before we dive into an examination of the widespread use of propaganda in mainstream media today, let’s focus on terms. John Silva, Director of Education at The News Literacy Project, writes:
The most important elements of propaganda are that it speaks to our fears and insecurities, it distorts and manipulates facts and information, it often includes falsehoods and it’s one-sided. Propaganda most commonly uses logical fallacies in its efforts to persuade — especially attacks on opponents and strong emotional appeals.
Propaganda also uses misinformation and disinformation. While students often think of these as synonymous, there is an important distinction: Does the person who is sharing the information believe that it’s true, or does he or she know that it’s false but is sharing it anyway? The former is misinformation, the latter is disinformation. Propaganda uses both.
Once upon a time, you could turn on the nightly news and leave the program more informed than when you sat down. Today, what happens? You click through a series of opinion makers and generally leave angry and upset that there is no news but an over-abundance of misinformation and disinformation to be had.
Local TV News…A Petri Dish for Propaganda
According to the Pew Research Center, fifty percent of Americans get their news from television, down from 57% a year prior in early 2016. But that audience drain varies across the three television sectors: local, network and cable. Local TV has experienced the greatest decline but still garners the largest audience of the three.
Owning just one television station provides the media entrepreneur a lot of influence in the local market. What if you own more than one—what kind of impact, positive or negative, might you have then? It’s not a rhetorical question.
David D. Smith is a conservative whose views combine a suspicion of government, an aversion to political correctness, and strong libertarian leanings, according to New Yorker staff writer, Sheelah Kolhatkar. He’s also the executive chairman of Sinclair Broadcast Group, the largest owner of television stations in the United States, with a hundred and ninety-two stations in eighty-nine markets. Sinclair reaches thirty-nine percent of American viewers.
Sinclair’s stations—there are often several in the same broadcast area, branded as local ABC, CBS, NBC, or Fox affiliates—enjoy the trust of viewers because they appear independent, even though much of the content is dictated at a national level. Kolhatkar explains the impact that Smith and his TV stations have had on the American public’s thinking.
At a time when President Trump has undermined trust in the national media, and online platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have spread misinformation created by Russian agents, seventy-six percent of Americans say that they still trust their local news stations—more than the percentage professing to trust their family or friends.
In the 2016 election, voters in areas with a high concentration of Sinclair stations chose Trump over Hillary Clinton by an average of nineteen points.
How to Identify and Reject the B.S.
See this list to identify the Sinclair-owned stations in your area, then turn that shit off.
Does this look like unbiased reporting to you?
Here’s a more accurate headline: FBI Names “Proud Boys” A Domestic Terrorist Organization, Warns Public of Growing Danger
And another: After Several Violent Encounters, FBI Places “Proud Boys” On Extremist Group Watch List
Media Planners Have Immense Power To Do the Right Thing
Outlays on TV ads will slip 0.5% in 2018 to $69.87 billion. Seventy billion dollars a year—that’s how much the ad revenue is at stake on TV today. It’s a big number.
What is Sinclair’s portion of this generous pie? The company reported $2.7B in revenue for 2017, according to Statista. That is $2.7B in advertising-based revenue from many of America’s most popular brands. It’s also leverage for the opposition, provided brands and their media planners are willing to take a stand for freedom.
Sadly, we’ve reached the point in America where deregulation of industries is taking a heavy toll. Sinclair has been free to move about the country, engaging in a buying spree that now gives its owners more power than any firm has a right to. While political tides rise and fall, business carries on.
Brand managers may feel it’s not their battle to starve Sinclair. I guess it comes down to the individuals involved. I’d like to see someone hold them accountable.
Denying Reality Doesn’t Change Reality
Despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, Smith said he has “zero tolerance” for “political spin.” He also said he has “no interest in politics.”
“Sinclair is well-known for its history of abusing public trust to air right-wing spin and promote xenophobia on local news shows,” says Media Matters for America.
The group says it found at least 66 Sinclair stations reaching 29 states and the District of Columbia that have broadcast their own versions of the scripted segment shown above.