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Oh, how I yearn for a more innocent time. A time like when a Congressional investigation was convened and conducted to expose the horrible truth about a quiz show: the contestants were given the answers ahead of time. Hang onto your hats! This was a major scandal. Yes, you read that right. A TV quiz show was a big lie and Congress investigated it because the media had an obligation to secure and maintain the public's trust. Can you imagine?
Yes, the year was 1957, and the popular game show was Twenty One. The key player was Charles Van Doren who had a polite style and telegenic appearance. The producers at NBC thought this youthful teacher from Columbia University would be just what they needed to defeat the incumbent Twenty One champion, Herb Stempel. As Stempel's reign continued, ratings dropped, and something had to be done.
I know, to the younger reader this seems like a fantasy on the level of a zombie apocalypse and vampire romance movies of our time. But here's a bit of reality that might make the whole issue seem more understandable to the critical thinker: "The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), introduced in 1949, that required the holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was -- in the Commission's view -- honest, equitable, and balanced. The FCC eliminated the Doctrine in 1987, and in August 2011 the FCC formally removed the language that implemented the Doctrine." In other words, go ahead folks and tell 'em what you need to tell 'em to make lots of money.
Ironically, the quiz show was sponsored by Geritol Tonic. "Geritol was the subject of years of investigation starting in 1959 by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In 1965, the FTC ordered the makers of Geritol to disclose the real effects of Geritol. Geritol's claims were discredited in court findings as "conduct amounted to gross negligence and bordered on recklessness," ruled as a false and misleading claim, and heavily penalized with fines totaling $812,000 ($4,328,435 in 2015 dollars)."
I think of this as quaint. When I think of the horse hockey being sold to us today by every provider of products and services, that's the only word that comes to mind. It's simply quaint that a corporation would be legally bound to honesty in advertising.
So the whole thing was a lie, and that really bothered us in those days. It bothered us to the point where our Congress was willing to spend the money to investigate. Even this fact is amazing. A Congress that represents our interests? Who ever heard of such a thing? Fast forward to today. To me as a consumer of today's media clap trap, there seems to be nothing but lies. Distortions, deflections, denials and disinformation, seem to be the coin of the realm in the media, politics, government, and even in some religious institutions.
And what happens to people who want to tell the truth? Well, let's just say they get in trouble. Because we don't want to be awakened from our slumber. Yes, our trance-like state is so much more comfortable if we selectively tune into those media sources that calm us with the constant delivery of our preferred lullabies. These are the tunes that soothe us by telling us the "facts" we want to hear, re-enforcing what we already believe.
Don't believe me? Track a popular story. Go to the different news sources that represent the polar extremes in our national political narrative. If you're like me, you'll walk away with a headache. So is it any wonder that we are now experiencing the worst presidential election campaign cycle in memory? That the voters are grouped into warring camps convinced their view is the only right one? Who can we believe when we recognize we're being fed the lies we want to hear? Well, maybe the answer is to be found in forgoing the search for truth and staying in the comfort of our existing worldview. But there is a price no matter what our decision. We will get the government we deserve.
(Article changed on October 18, 2016 at 13:45)