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OR: 4 Reasons You're Not Going to Believe Any of These 4 Reasons

According to a recent poll, six out of 10 Americans no longer trust the media to deliver the news fairly or accurately. This certainly got the attention of management at Cracked, where after a heated discussion about whether or not we actually are the media (they eventually concluded that we're basically a kind of weather service), they decided it was important enough an issue to get to the bottom of. Though not that important, they proudly announced when they handed the chore to me.

Widespread distrust of the media is a relatively recent development. When I was growing up, such was my family's respect for the news that I would be mercilessly beaten for daring to interrupt the evening newscast. Upon such a violation, my father would roll up a copy of that day's newspaper (for added symbolic effect), climb up on top of the television hutch and jump down on me, swinging. If I flinched, then we would not get to watch the Muppets.

"Ha! Stupid kid! Ha ha ha!

So I learned to respect the news, and I gather that most other people did as well, although possibly through less horrific means. So how then did we get to the point where every word printed is now immediately cast in doubt, if not dismissed before it's even read? Here's four possible reasons:

Maybe the Media's Simply Less Trustworthy Now?

Cracked has covered this before in detail, discussing obviously fake news stories that were passed off as real, and documenting the variety of ways the media disguises bullshit as fact. There are a number of reasons why the media keeps doing this, ranging from overworked reporters, to deliberately biased reporters, to completely rock stupid reporters.

"Hurricane Katrina caused global warming, you say? What a scoop!"

But although examples of this kind of foul-up are everywhere around us, it's hard to definitively say that this is a new development. Yellow journalism is old news (heh), and the rhetorical tricks used to cover up sloppy research are even older; the Greeks were using those millenniums ago during their boy-fondling debates (spoiler: the boys lost). That said, there are a few other bits of incidental evidence that suggest that journalistic quality has worsened over the past couple decades, the mere fact that the media landscape is a lot more crowded now being the biggest one. With dozens more media outlets all clamoring for the same diminishing audience, that means smaller audiences and smaller revenue streams for each outlet, which means less time and reporters to devote to solid reporting and more to stories that can be written without the reporter leaving his chair.

"Wait a Second. Why Should I Believe You?"

I obviously didn't leave my chair when writing any of this, did I?

You: "I could tell by the fact that the only things you cited were other Cracked articles."

Well fuck you, man. I can leave this chair any time I want. I just happened to be trying to conceal an enormous erection.

Politics Has Ruined Everything

Another obvious explanation for the suddenly low level of trust in media is the simple observation that this is an election year in the U.S., much to everyone's dismay. Dismay, because aside from a small handful of truly undecided voters, most people's opinions on the relative merits of each political party are by now fairly set, and you've all gotten tired of thinking about it. Worse still is seeing anything in the media that doesn't align completely with whatever belief you're sporting; whether it's news critical of your views, or not critical enough of the opposing views, it rankles you because of how obviously wrong it is, and yet there's some perfectly coiffed idiot saying it on the television, goddammit Brian Williams.

"We go now to a story just breaking: Fuck Everything You Believe In."

"Wait a Second. Why Should I Believe You?"

Oh, so you're a satisfied consumer of the existing political process, are you? There's nothing you're tired of about the 24-month election season filled with weekly turdstorms about the pettiest bullshit imaginable? You think that I might be sowing distrust in the media and belittling the two major political parties to somehow create a vacuum in which Cracked's real political masters, the mole people, can slip in and seize control of the means of production?

You: "Well it sounds stupid when you say it all sarcasticy like that, but yeah, I kind of do now."

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Less News, More Opinion

Of course an awful lot of what the media does these days isn't reporting at all, but providing what they call "analysis" and what I would call "ass debris." The problem is that every day there are millions of words and hours of television to be filled, whether anything is happening or not. Which means that when there isn't news, it's got to be made. Again, this is most obvious in the political realm, where every single thing that happens, as well as, oddly, every single thing that doesn't happen, gets analyzed to death to determine what effect it might have on the election "horse race."

An apt comparison for elections, but for the fact that horse races don't take two fucking years, and the ladies wear funnier hats.

Just as an example, Mitt Romney made the news recently for claiming that 47 percent of the population were filthy urchins bent on harvesting organs from the whole-bodied. As a piece of news, that doesn't take long to communicate. Even a discussion of whether or not he has a point has been strangely lacking, brushed aside by heated discussions on what effect this would have on the "horse race," which has caused people who might have been interested in actual news to turn off their televisions in frustration and devise their own metaphors by "shitting their chairs" like a "racehorse."

"Wait a Second. Why Should I Believe You?"

Ahh, you noticed how basically this whole article is opinion, did you? Clever girl. Well, I think it's reasonably permissible in this case, given Cracked's established status not as a vessel for hard news reporting, but as a farcical opinion and poop-joke factory. So whether you believe me or not should depend on what you came here for.

You: "... It actually was the poop jokes. You got lucky."

Nowadays, Everyone's a Critic

There's an awful lot of criticism of the media now, far more than in any other era in history. You do it, bloggers do it, politicians do it, the media does it. "Journalism" is now a slightly less respected career path than "sex tourism." Compare that to 30 years ago, where if you wanted to bitch about the newspaper, your only platform was writing a letter. To the newspaper. And you couldn't expect other media outlets or reporters to pick apart their counterparts' reporting; it was rude, and it limited career options.

Now of course we have an Internet jam-packed full of people who couldn't give two malformed turds about their career options in the media. Criticizing the media is a perennial favorite blog topic, and has even spread to outlying members of the actual media. Like, for example, Cracked itself, as shown by our award-deserving articles on the laughable state of health reporting and bullshit political stories.

And that's fairly innocuous criticism, the kind without any particular agenda other than to educate and entertain. Far more irritating to the general public is the politically motivated criticism, where a blogger or reporter with a specific agenda criticizes something in the media simply to further their own goal or confuse and muddy an issue. Not that there's an easy way to tell the two types of criticism apart; every reporter, blogger and soapbox percher will claim they're acting neutrally. Not that that will stop you from trying to tell them apart, generally by finding the ones you personally disagree with and declaring them to be deceitful shrews.

"Wait a Second. Why Should I Believe You?"

It's quite a pickle, isn't it? An entire article full of criticisms of the media, criticisms of other people's criticisms, defenses of my criticisms and criticisms of others' defenses. I wouldn't know what to believe anymore either. And surely by now you have to be worried about whether I have an agenda that I'm trying to secretly advance with all of this.

You: "This is a Chris Bucholz article, so it's probably 'sex with animals.'"

And I do. My agenda is to make you more critical of the things you read. You're right to be distrustful of the media; there's too much evidence of their laziness and biases and fuck-ups to not be. Heck, they're probably almost as lazy and biased and fucked up as we are.

And there's the second part of the agenda, the part you probably weren't doing yet -- being more critical of the things you think. Every time you dismiss something without reading it, or brush past a story because of its source, at least be aware of the laziness and biases and fuck-ups of your own that led to you making that choice. I trust your judgment; your beliefs and biases probably are right. But if they're so right, they can surely take some critical self-reflection every now and then, right?

You: "God, I hope he's not starting to have doubts about sexing animals."


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