Before “Fake News,” America Invented “Pseudo Events”

Wednesday, August 16, 2017
By Paul Martin

by Ryan McMaken via The Mises Institute,
Aug 16, 2017

n the wake of the Chalottesville riot, it’s been interesting how quickly the focus has shifted away from the actual events in Charlottesville and toward the public pundits and intellectuals are expressing opinions about the events.

Already, the media has lost interest in analyzing the details of the event itself, and are instead primarily reporting on what Donald Trump, his allies, and his enemies have to say about it.

This is an important distinction in coverage. Rather than attempt to supply a detailed look at who was at the event, what was done, and what the participants – from both sides – have to say about it, we are instead exposed primarily to what people in Washington, DC, and the political class in general, think about the events in which they were not directly involved.

This focus illustrates what has long been a bias among the reporters and pundits in the national media: a bias toward focus on the national intellectual class rather than on events that take place outside the halls of official power.

Note, however, that those quoted rarely have any special knowledge about the events themselves. Their opinions are covered not because they are knowledgeable, but because their quotations fit easily into a narrative that the media wishes to perpetuate.

In a March 2017 column, Peter Klein noted this bias and what economist F.A. Hayek had to say about it:

The intellectual, according to Hayek, is not an expert or deep thinker; “he need not possess special knowledge of anything in particular, nor need he even be particularly intelligent, to perform his role as intermediary in the spreading of ideas. What qualifies him for his job is the wide range of subjects on which he can readily talk and write … Such people wield enormous influence because most us learn about world events and ideas through them. “It is the intellectuals in this sense who decide what views and opinions are to reach us, which facts are important enough to be told to us, and in what form and from what angle they are to be presented” (pp. 372–73).
Klein then quotes Hayek at length:

It is perhaps the most characteristic feature of the intellectual that he judges new ideas not by their specific merits but by the readiness with which they fit into his general conceptions, into the picture of the world which he regards as modern or advanced. . . . As he knows little about the particular issues, his criterion must be consistency with his other views and suitability for combining into a coherent picture of the world. Yet this selection from the multitude of new ideas presenting themselves at every moment creates the characteristic climate of opinion, the dominant Weltanschauung of a period, which will be favorable to the reception of some opinions and unfavorable to others and which will make the intellectual readily accept one conclusion and reject another without a real understanding of the issues.

Consequently, the media’s focus is not on relating the specifics of a particular event, and then allowing the reader to come to his own conclusions. Instead, the focus is on appealing to the opinions of those in position of power, and filtering all events through this lens, as to let the consumers of media know how they should think.

Bias is not the only factor at work here, though. The excessive reliance on reliable and predictable “expert” sources stems from a need to constantly invent new news stories for broadcast and publication – and from a general laziness among publishers, editors, and journalists themselves. Traditional journalism requires true investigation and compilation of a variety of messy and disorganized facts. It’s much easier, however, to simply call up a politician or an expert and create the facts by eliciting a “newsworthy” opinion from an important person. This approach becomes especially lucrative in a world of the 24-hour news cycle where considerations of time and money entice news organizations to create their own news rather than report on the events created by others.

The Rest…HERE

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