PBS's little white lie

Updated: 21 May 2008, 23:02

Originally written: 25 February 2005

Some people, it seems, believe that socialists are way off the mark when we say that the press cannot be trusted. We say that the press presents an interpretation of reality, not reality itself. Of course, everyone does that, depending upon their social conditioning. Socialists cannot magically escape their upbringing. Socialists do, however, attempt to provide an honest perspective, which highlights the reasons for the flaws people see in society. Compared to the propaganda power of the mainstream media, even if we were to radically skew reality in our analysis, the overall picture would still be very lopsided in its support of the status quo.

We challenge everyone to show that we come even close to presenting an unrealistic interpretation of reality.

PBS (Public Broadcasting System) is a television network in the United States. PBS is often considered to be politically neutral and accurate in its programming. It has recently been criticized for its censored version of a documentary including soldiers in Iraq. According to the Capital Times:
The absurdity to which the public discourse has degenerated in the United States could not be better illustrated than by the debate over whether to air a PBS documentary that includes foul language used by soldiers in Iraq.

Unfortunately, much of America will see only a “clean” version of the program in which 13 expletives spoken by soldiers in combat are edited out. Amazingly, PBS executives decided to send the “clean” version to the network’s 170 stations while offering the station managers the option of obtaining the so-called “raw” version.

The editing of the program is an absurd act of deference to the yahoo crowd.

The affiliates that broadcast a soft-focus picture of the war in Iraq are deceiving their viewers.
It may seem petty to consider this an issue.

If the media is willing to deceive its viewers about 13 vulgarities, producing a somewhat idealized image of war, what else is being edited out? What else has the media decided that people should not see? Who decides how to massage the message? Can it possibly be in the interests of democracy to consciously present a sanitized view of “reality?” How can anyone make reasoned decisions about the world we live in, if we are “protected” from uncomfortable bits of reality?

How does making war appear nicer than it is, benefit those who are killed or maimed in wars? It convinces us that war is really not all that bad. These deceptions convince us that war is not a disgusting concept, but something to, at least, tolerate. It works. Despite all of the statements that war is awful, the same people believe it is not awful enough to end war. People believe that war is the best we can get. People believe that a world without war is impossible, so we have to tolerate war. And because it is at least a little bit offensive, most people do not want to talk about it, or want to glorify a phony unreality of war.

So to avoid offending anyone, soldiers do not swear — according the war image preferred by the PBS. Maybe it is just a little white lie. It is one little white lie which creates an illusion of reality for millions of people. How can one make intelligent decisions based upon illusions?

It is not just one little white lie. It is one or two today, and a few yesterday, and some more tomorrow. It does not take very many little white lies to produce an illusion which is a huge black hole of a lie. The truth is sucked in and lies are spewed out. It is an attack on democracy — even if you believe that the media does not lie consciously.

But you might say that even so, the media does not consciously mislead us. It is very difficult to believe that. What happened to the slaughter in Darfur in Sudan? Nothing. It is ongoing, but the media got bored, so it does not tell us about it much any more. That creates the illusion of a more peaceful, calm and decent world. It is an illusion so far from reality that it allows us to believe that the way things are today is acceptable. And that means we do nothing to address the problems.
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