(Cross posted here at Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds)
A rather interesting comment was posted in response to a minor point I made about the new media vs. the old media in a post I wrote entitled The Scales of Justice Need Rebalancing. I thought the comment raised some interesting questions that deserved to be answered in a post of its own as opposed to a response to the response on the original post.
My original point had to do with the MSMâ€™s (the old mediaâ€™s) incomplete, sloppy, and biased coverage of the so-called Duke Rape Case and how bloggers and talk radio (the new media) managed to turn the tide against the narrative the MSM was trying to establish. The MSM basically convicted the lacrosse players before they had their day in court. When it comes to accusations of rape or sexual assault, all too often the MSM automatically presumes that women never lie about these sorts of things, therefore; the men who are accused of the act are guilty. Very few in the MSM were even open to the possibility that Crystal Magnum (the stripper who accused the lacrosse players) was lying; few wanted to hear the other side of the story or even ask some very basic questions.
The following is the statement I made in the original post:
Thanks in-part to talk radio, bloggers, and others in the alternative media asking questions the MSM failed to ask, everything seems to be swinging in the defendantsâ€™ favor.
William L. Anderson of LewRockwell.com made a much stronger case for the way the new media exposed the unethical and quite possibly criminal behavior of the District Attorney Michael Nifong. Andersonâ€™s main point is that had it not been for the new alternative media, the other side of the story might not have come to light and Nifong could have gotten away with his framing of the young men in question.
This time, the new media got it right but was this good investigative reporting or just luck? The person who commented on my post who identifies herself as VRB believes it to be the latter:
I found the bloggers to be just as bad as MSN [the MSM?], they just happened to wind up on the right side. They did all their best to vilify the alleged victim before all the facts were in. They looked for every snippet of so called evidence to prove their point. Most seem to be saying if you are a whore you canâ€™t possibly be raped and rapist arenâ€™t smart enough to drug or use a condom. Of course all their arguments were so high minded how dare anyone questioned their motives. I think that bloggers are beginning to think the power they have, gives them truth. They just got lucky, so I wouldnâ€™t pat them on the back. Bloggers are not any more pure than the rest of society.
I am sure that there were bloggers out there who instinctively went the other direction without considering any evidence but there were others who were fair-minded and only wanted to get to the truth. I hadnâ€™t weighed in on the issue up to now but when the story first broke, I was concerned that the MSM wasnâ€™t telling the entire story. I cannot speak for others but I would never be one to say that it would have been impossible for the lacrosse players to have raped Crystal Magnum because she was a â€˜whoreâ€™. I wasnâ€™t there, nor was anyone who commented on the case other than Magnum, the other stripper, and those who were at the party. All any of us can do is ask questions and draw our own conclusions.
When those in the new media started asking the questions, we discovered problems with Magnumâ€™s story (such as the timeline), statements from witnesses (the other stripper, Magnumâ€™s cab driver, etc.), a lack of DNA and other forensic evidence to implicate the accused players (some of which was withheld by Nifong), a report that Magnum had made false rape charges in the past, and other reports that cast doubt on Magnumâ€™s version of events. In the end, all Nifong had to go on was Magnumâ€™s ever-changing statements.
As to the motives, veracity, and â€˜high mindednessâ€™ of bloggers in the new media I just have to say they come in all shapes and sizes and are by no means â€˜any more pure than the rest of society.â€™ Some are not at all concerned about accuracy and shoot from the hip while others do their homework and rival the veracity of MSM reports. Bloggers come from a much more diverse array of backgrounds, opinions, and motivations. Itâ€™s quite proper to question the motives of anyone who presents information (whether in the old media or new media) and VRB is correct in saying that power does not in any way equal truth.
Having said that, those in the new media who did ask the questions and uncovered facts about the case where much of the MSM failed do deserve a â€˜pat on the backâ€™. To avoid embarrassment, the MSM had to start asking the questions that ordinary people with laptops were already asking. If not for the new media, who knows what would have happened in this case?
The only reason the new media is gaining influence is because the old media is no longer adequate. The old media has one agenda and is driven by that agenda. The old media is much easier to censor and control than the new media; this is why some powerful people want to bring the new media down with legal restrictions such as McCain-Feingold and the so-called fairness doctrine.
One of the things that drew me to blogging was when bloggers exposed the forged documents in Dan Ratherâ€™s story on George W. Bushâ€™s National Guard service. At the time I didnâ€™t even know what blogging was. I was already skeptical of much of how the MSM reported the news as if everything they reported was stone cold fact. But when this fraud was exposed, I became even more skeptical. There is usually more than one side of the story but all too often, the MSM only presents the side they like. Now the new media has filled some of the void.
There is one problem no one seems to address when it comes to media of all kinds: the media consumer. Yes, you and I are the main problem. Far too often, we do not think critically about the news and receive it passively.
As consumers of the news, we should ask the same questions journalists are supposed to ask: who, what, when, where, how, and why. These are very simple questions that are rarely explored. For example: Why does the minimum wage need to be raised? Who says it should be raised, politicians or economists? What are the positive and negative consequences of raising the minimum wage? When should it be raised? How should it be raised? How will it affect the economy?
Apply these questions to any problem or issue and you will find that these questions are often not answered in the news story. Always be prepared to question the answers.