Opinion

Media manipulation

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

"Social media isn't a tool that's just waiting to be used. It has its own goals, and it has its own means of pursuing them." - The Social Dilemma

The media has proven to be both unreliable in its reporting and, in a few instances, complicit in the reporting against or for their interests. The media should provide a fair and balanced reporting system, and unfortunately, we no longer have that. Local news is often the closest to fair and honest reporting that we can get. To further my point, the Georgia voting law that was signed a few weeks ago is a perfect example of the media skewing viewpoints and opinions.

Georgia, like Iowa, saw issues with its voting system and felt these issues needed to be addressed through legislation. Constitutionally, the state legislatures are responsible for the election laws in each of the 50 states. It is the legislature’s duty to address issues seen within the state, so since Georgia saw an issue, the legislature has a civic duty to attempt to fix it. Iowa and Georgia's election laws took a remarkably similar path in how they went about correcting these issues, how the problem was identified and how the solution was proposed.

However, the media has employed a narrative that this new law in Georgia is somehow racist and cruel. Well, when you compare the new Georgia law to other states, it is more restrictive in some ways than the Iowa law, but in comparison to New York State, is less restrictive.

For example, the Georgia law allocates 17 days of early voting, allows voters to vote by mail for any reason, requires a valid I.D. to vote by mail or in-person and bans passing out food and water when the voter is in the voting line by a politically affiliated group or person.

New York State’s voting laws, being the more restrictive of the two, include nine days of early voting, require an excuse to vote by mail, do not require an I.D. to vote by mail or in person and ban passing out food and water unless it is under $1 in value.

So how did the Georgia voting law become a media sensation that prompted businesses and Major League Baseball to cancel events and limit what they do in Georgia? Well, that is where the media came into the picture. The media promoted a vision of the bill that was not accurate and was possibly a direct falsification of the facts. The narrative from the media is that the Georgia law prevents people from being humane and passing out water and food to people who have been standing in line for hours waiting for their turn to vote.

When in reality the law prevents individuals, who are affiliated with campaigns from passing out the food or water and saying this comes from the “xyz” campaign we would sure like your vote. The law eliminates the potential for someone to buy a vote or influence a vote.

The media’s false reporting about new election legislation in Georgia whipped up a controversy that left millions of people grossly misinformed, frightened voters, mired major corporations in high-stakes public relations frenzies, distracted the political discourse and furthered the country’s divisions. In short, it’s a perfect example of how the media is fueling our national conflict.

Nowadays we have a choice in media consumption, and many people get their news from the media that best fits their personal narrative. So, people who are liberal tend to watch CNN or MSNBC and conservative people tend to watch Fox News. Many people also get their news and information from social media, and that media form is even more altered to the type of information you agree with.

The result is most people receiving a skewed news source positioned toward their beliefs and opinions.

To get a better sense of the technology behind this, I would recommend the documentary called "The Social Dilemma" which describes in detail how social media works to get you to “click” more, create an addiction, manipulate its use in politics and spread conspiracy theories.

The bottom line is that we must always question our news source and, if we are watching one source or getting our news through social media, we have to understand it is biased and reporting in a way that appeals to their viewers' ideologies. If you understand this concept, then you can move forward and make more intelligent and informed decisions on what to believe and what to not believe.

I want to thank you for allowing me to serve you and to bring our northwest Iowa values to the concrete of Des Moines.