Monday, March 11, 2013

Bait and Switch

I guess we don’t usually associate the bait and switch technique with the news, but it happens there all the time. Headlines do not always reflect what you will find in the article that follows. An interesting example of this is a headline that appeared today on the internet (I forget exactly where), “Why is President Obama taking orders from a Billionaire?” The article goes on to describe billionaire Peter Peterson’s attempt to do away with Social Security and his willingness to spend millions to try to bring this about . There is nothing in the article that suggests President Obama is “taking orders” from him. It seems to be true that Peterson and/or his operatives have some kind of access to the White House, but this is a far cry from the claim he is giving orders to our President.
Similarly, there is another headline that reads, “Why do Boxer and Wyden want to bomb Iran?” If you read the article carefully it does not suggest that either of these individuals “want to bomb Iran,” although it is true they are supporting some measure that would allow such a thing if the circumstances were to warrant it, a far cry from the claim they actually want to bomb Iran. Headlines often suggest things that do not appear in what follows. I guess this is a kind of bait and switch technique that is commonplace in the news as it occurs with regularity both in print and on the internet. This is a rather insidious means to lead people to believe things that are just not true, to bias their information in ways to their advantage whichever way they desire. You cannot, I have learned over time, depend upon the headlines to tell you the actual content of the article or essay or whatever.
I suppose most readers are aware of this problem and are not always duped by the duplicity involved. There is another somewhat similar problem that also seems to occur with regularity although it cannot be termed bait and switch. Maybe it should be called something like “Stuff and Nonsense.” The most recent case in point is Paul Ryan’s budget proposal that is to be released tomorrow. This proposal involves doing away with the Affordable Care Act and converting Medicare to a voucher system. It is common knowledge that these proposals, which Ryan already proposed before, have absolutely no chance of happening. They are not only dead on arrival they have already been decisively declared dead previously (doing away with Obamacare has already been defeated some 32 or more times). So why does Ryan propose them once more when there is no chance whatsoever they will ever fly? I suggest there are at least two main reasons: (l) Ryan wants to appeal to the Tea Party base because he might  want to run for President in 2016 (an absurd pipe dream), and (2) he is an absolute phony when it comes to having any serious understanding of national budgets. His much touted budget proposals are far more for the sake of publicity than serious attempts at budgeting.
It is far too common for individuals to utter completely ridiculous ideas and proposals for the sake of publicity, but for reasons I do not completely understand the news people seem always eager and willing to announce and promote them as if they are worthy of attention. Thus it is we are bombarded with comments from people like Palin, Trump, Cain, and others of that ilk who should rightly not even be acknowledged. It is as if editors are a thing of the past so that anything goes whether it has merit or not. I can see no reason whatsoever why we should ever have to pay any attention to the obviously absurd rantings of someone like Donald Trump or Herman Cain. Not only that, not everything that comes out  of the mouths of even more respectable spokespersons is necessarily worthy of being “news” and would often be better off ignored. Comments by Santorum, Robertson, Huckabee, and others come readily to mind.
And then, of course, there are the disgusting hate merchants like Limbaugh and Coulter with nothing to say but whatever will shock and make them money. O’Reilly, Hannity, Malkin, and others are not much better. It seems that “news” nowadays consists of anything with shock value or anything said by someone who is a celebrity or aspires to become one by “shooting off their mouth” about  anything and everything whether they know anything about  it or not. What used to be the Fourth Estate has become  Skid row, and what was once champagne and caviar has now become pig tails and beans (with a few rare exceptions). We have now reached a point where you literally cannot believe anything you read or hear. This does not bode well for the future.

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