The Russians are coming! Or maybe the media's just crying wolf...
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There is a fine line between respecting the media for the good job they do holding our leaders accountable … and criticizing it for the deplorable gossip column it has become. Somewhere along that line, journalistic integrity and show-business celebrity have combined to form an unholy alliance.

Primarily, this applies to 24-hour commercial-laden broadcast television news, where most of America gets its information. But all the other forms of news and entertainment media are susceptible to human failings.

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As a politician, you don’t want to bite the hand that feeds you. You want that air-time. As a media star, you hold all the cards, an incredible power. As as an American citizen, you are caught in the middle, and you just want the truth.

 

President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Democrat slams Donald Trump Jr. for ‘serious case of amnesia’ after testimony Skier Lindsey Vonn: I don’t want to represent Trump at Olympics Poll: 4 in 10 Republicans think senior Trump advisers had improper dealings with Russia MORE took a CNN reporter to task at a recent press conference for his network’s irresponsible reporting and broadcasting of an “unconfirmed” report that the Russian’s had some compromising information on Trump. I couldn’t have been more pleased to see this reporter shut down by Trump and nearly asked to leave the room.

“But — the Russians?” Which Russians? “Unconfirmed … compromising information?” That’s all you have? Then why even bother to report it? Come back when you have something to report. Why take the lead on chancing something like this?  

Ratings, baby! That’s why. Celebrity. Or perhaps there are other, politically motivated, corporate reasons.

Either way, when you report something, everyone hears it and draws an instant conclusion from those first impressions. No matter what happens afterwards, that first impression is what sticks. You would think a responsible, professional news service would know and understand this toward reporting the truth. But so would an irresponsible, unprofessional news service know and understand this for their own deceiving reasons.

Seemingly, we can no longer depend on our standard news services to be honest and truthful as we have trusted them to be. They are shameful in their quest for ratings and celebrity. The American public must now work harder and smarter to know the truth, and that is a losing proposition.  

For some reason, we are now consumed with Russia. The news media shouts, “The Russians are coming; the Russians are coming!” What happened to ISIS? The mistreatment of African Americans? Standing Rock?

Well, right at the moment, the Russians are laughing out loud at us.

Are the Russians responsible for Donald Trump winning the election? No, of course they’re not.

The American people elected Donald Trump, not the Russians. They just voted for him like everyone else did. Kind of like in a fantasy football scenario. As a world power, of course they would have a vested interest and wishful thinking for who is president of the United States, just like every other country does.

In Russia, the government controls the media. We hate that. We have “freedom of speech” over here.

However, in America we’ve taken it to the absurd where the media seemingly controls the government. The First Amendment and America’s freedoms aside, the responsibility and integrity of our news media is critically in question. They’re out of control.

They will twist, feature and broadcast any stray thought for ratings, then refer to their journalistic integrity and dubious fact-checking credibility.

The First Amendment is not a license to misrepresent, and it says nothing about entertainment, the 24-hour news cycle or network ratings.       

In our entertainment oriented cake and circuses society, the celebrity of our media personalities diminishes the credibility of our leaders. That’s the price we pay for First Amendment freedoms.

And although many of our elected and appointed leaders are substandard and deserve criticism, transparency should not be confused with vulnerability. Our government leaders are just actors in the media’s show. The media hides behind “fair and balanced” … “keeping them honest” … “holding them accountable.”

But who’s holding the media accountable?

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, recently testified to a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. He said he is confident “the Russians” breached our cyber security. He said it looks like it came from the top, from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

I wonder if anyone was actually listening at the hearing?

This says two things:

1. We are admitting, to the world, that Russia can affect our democratic system by potentially changing the outcome of an American election.

2. Our cyber security system, and our leaders’ communication practices, are so weak and careless that a 10th grader can affect our national security.

By the way, Clapper is the same guy who said the NSA wasn’t tapping into Americans’ phones and email accounts. But they were.

When the Bush administration rolled out Colin Powell to mislead us in front of the UN Council and the entire world about the weapons of mass destruction cached in the Iraqi desert, we all believed him. What a disgrace that was. To Powell, to the office of the president, to America, to the world.

If we can’t trust our government, and if we can’t trust the media, what are the alternative ways to the truth? Do we believe the Russians ... our intelligence agencies ... Donald Trump?  They’ve all fumbled the ball.  

All the American public knows is what the media and our leaders conclude to tell us. As a result, the confidence level in both the media and our political leaders has hit an all time low.

So, you can look at this whole thing several ways. Perhaps the sky is falling, and the Russians are coming, because the media says so. Perhaps our leadership and America’s position in the world are critically questionable, because the media says so. Or perhaps our news media is like the little boy who cried Wolf.

And we know what happened to him. Wolf Blitzer notwithstanding.  

Meanwhile, the Russians are laughing.     

John Kushma is a communication consultant and lives in Logan, Utah.


The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.