APPALLING SPREAD OF FALSE INFORMATION REQUIRES STRONGER MEDIA ACCOUNTABILITY
[SOURCE: AlterNet, AUTHOR: Mark Weisbrot]
[Commentary] "A free press is supposed to function as our democracy's immune system against . . . gross errors of fact and understanding," wrote Al Gore in his book, The Assault on Reason. But it doesn't - as Gore explains -- and that is what makes the mass media one of the most important obstacles to social and economic progress in the 21st century. Here in Washington, when one raises the issue of media responsibility, a common response - from policy analysts, political operatives, and journalists - is that the problem is with the American people, that they are just stupid. Interestingly, however, when one strays a bit from their own area of expertise or concentration, it appears that these professionals also believe a number of falsehoods on important issues -- apparently from having heard these things repeated in the media. Of course the best counterweight to the media's transgressions is an informed and active citizenry. Part of the reason that the media treats Barack Obama more fairly than it treats Social Security is that Obama has millions of active supporters who would raise hell if the media were to engage in serious abuses of him or his candidacy. Over the long run, we will need to subject the privately owned mass media to more competition. This will come increasingly from the Internet, but real competition will also require an expanded and better quality public media sector. But until this competition gets a lot bigger, it will be up to the citizenry to hold our highly concentrated media accountable as best we can.
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