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Academic and Journalistic Integrity Disappear in the Age of One Dimensional Thought

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As both an academic and a writer, I have recently become appalled by the irresponsibility I have seen from both academics and journalists in the main (lame) stream media. Indeed, it seems that integrity in both of these professions has gone out the window, replaced by a desire to shape—and indeed manufacture—one dimensional thought. In this respect, both academics and journalists risk becoming no different from corporate advertisers. Like advertisers, who seek to create an image for consumers through rhetoric, so too do professional academics and journalists seek to create a self-image for the consumers of main (lame) stream media.

On 9 July 2018, CNN ran a piece by the academic Robert M. Sapolsky of Stanford University with the headline “Be alarmed when a leader tries to make you think of humans as vermin”. Mr. Sapolsky took offense to U.S. President Donald Trump’s comment that “Democrats ‘want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13’”, because the word “infest” is generally used in relation to subhuman—and often unwanted—creatures like insects or vermin. In support of his argument, Mr. Sapolsky cites academic research (like this) which claims that

 

social conservatives tend toward lower thresholds for disgust than liberals. They’re more likely to be unsettled by wearing someone else’s (clean) clothes, sitting on a chair still warm from a previous occupant, or thinking of someone spitting into a glass of water and then drinking it; show them a disgusting picture (e.g., a wound teeming with maggots) and their autonomic nervous systems tend to lurch more than a liberal’s would (and as an important control, this lower threshold is not found among economic or geopolitical conservatives).

 

Indeed, this research is similar to earlier academic “findings” which claim that disliking body odor is connected to having “rightwing views”. Now, of course, this is fairly absurd; do we not have a right—as individual humans—to value cleanliness? Perhaps this new interpretation is connected to Sociologist Norbert Elias’ view that as society “civilizes” it begins to take on the qualities of the lower classes since, traditionally, those with less access to adequate housing and bathing facilities are more likely to be “unclean”.

Yet the media skewing of perceptions goes far beyond one academic’s defense of a criminal gang like MS-13. It also involves geopolitics as well. After Mr. Trump said, in response to a journalist’s question regarding the United States’ hypothetical defense of Montenegro under NATO’s Article 5 which sees an attack on one member as an attack on all, that “They’re [Montenegrins] very strong people, they’re very aggressive people. They may get aggressive and, congratulations, you’re in World War Three,” the BBC was beside itself. The BBC’s Balkan correspondent Guy Delauney went so far as to claim that Mr. Trump depicted the Balkan nation as “a nation of conflict-crazy lunatics”. The logical jump here is staggering: While Mr. Trump is merely pointing out the absurdity of connecting the U.S.—through mutual defense treaties—to small nations in geopolitically contentious areas like the Balkans, since it could increase the risk of potentially dangerous conflicts, nowhere does Mr. Trump claim anything about “conflict crazed lunatics”. Unfortunately, the media—these days—will go to great lengths to shape the perceptions of its readers (many of whom are likely grossly uninformed).

Sadly, social media also engages in the same type of opinion formation. Take, for instance, three maps produced on the social media platform Instagram. The first depicts a comparison of voting results in Turkey with the ethnic map of Turkey, the second compares the populations of vast swathes of middle America to New York’s most populous areas, while the third compares the size of various European nations to the size of Ukraine’s ethnic-Russian minority. The subtext of these maps is extremely dangerous.

 

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The Three Maps in Question. Courtesy of Instagram (Specific Accounts at Top).

 

Essentially, the maps of Turkey send viewers the message that Turkey should be divided along ethnic lines—even though we all know that ethnic demarcations based on demographic surveys do not correspond neatly to reality on the ground. One would think that this lesson would have been learned from the disaster of British boundary drawing in the Middle East following World War One. The map of the United States sends the message that Mr. Trump is somehow an illegitimate president, because rural residents in sparsely populated areas voted so differently than urban residents in densely populated areas. According to this logic, it is unimportant that people in such disparate areas as Maine and Texas should think similarly; it is more important that urban residents of New York City think similarly. The map of Europe sends the message that the ethnic Russian minority in Ukraine is a sizable one, implying that—somehow—Russian annexation of Ukrainian territory can be justified. These three maps show the dangers of opinion shaping via social media; it makes the world a more dangerous place.

I will close this short essay with a picture of a Mercedes billboard I saw in Istanbul. It depicts three young people with a Mercedes, along with the caption “Very original. Just like you”. Here, we see a corporate entity—in this case Mercedes—looking to shape the perception of consumers. The message being sent says “if you want to be original, then buy a Mercedes”. Since every human being wants something to set themselves apart in an increasingly homogenized world, the message is clear: If you want to confirm what you already think about yourself, then buy our product. The advertisement plays into the individual’s deepest desires, even though—in reality—conforming to corporate advertising will have the exact opposite effect from the one initially desired by the consumer. Buying a Mercedes will not set you apart in reality, but the emotional affirmation offered by the advertisement is more important. Just like the emotional messages sent by CNN and BBC look to confirm their readers’ own senses of moral superiority and “tolerance” vis-à-vis the masses’ “intolerance”.

 

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“Very Original. Just Like You”. Image Courtesy of the Author.
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Beware Mass Media: The New York Times’s Coverage of Turkish Football and Politics is a Veritable Disaster

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The New York Times Looks to Portray Hakan Sukur as the Aggrieved Victim in His Upscale Cafe. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/03/sports/hakan-sukur.html

 

U.S. President Donald Trump has been much maligned for his criticism of mainstream news outlets like the New York Times; he has indeed repeatedly criticized them for being “fake news” and has described them as “failing”. Of course, as is to be expected, the main (lame)stream media—like CNN—have hit back at Mr. Trump’s criticism with columns like Brian Stelter’s; that this particular column should carry the heading “Reliable Sources” is almost as absurd as the name of the Soviet Union’s main newspaper, Pravda, which was translated as “True”. Interestingly, Mr. Stelter’s claim that the New York Times (NYT) is not failing is based on purely economic concerns; Fortune reports that Mr. Trump’s opposition to the NYT has only served to bolster the periodical, whose stock was trading at a nine year high as of July 2017. Reuters corroborates this claim, as the globalist news outlet reported profits of over 15 million dollars in the second quarter of 2017.

 

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Mr. Trump Tends to Criticize the New York Time’s Poor Reporting. Since Turkish Football is a Subject I Know A lot About, I Have To Agree Here. Image Courtesy Of: http://money.cnn.com/2018/01/02/media/new-york-times-president-trump/index.html

 

What is surprising is that CNN and Fortune do not seem to understand that the “success” of a news outlet is not defined in terms of profit; rather its success is defined by its service to the people. Norwegian-American Sociologist Thorstein Veblen pointed out long ago that the commercialization of both media and education would have negative consequences, since it would mean that both would write for profits and—by extension—for the interests of those who would be providing investment. Taken in these terms, it should be clear that the main (lame)stream media is most certainly failing; they are writing in the interests of the global capitalist elite, but not at all in the interests of the millions of middle and lower class citizens at large.

A recent piece in the New York Times—written by John Branch about famous Turkish footballer Hakan Sukur—is a perfect example of the failing New York Times and, indeed, the failing main(lame) stream media in general. The 3 May 2018 piece makes Mr. Sukur out to be an innocent refugee, escaping an “authoritarian regime”; it is a portrait of an immigrant “trying to build his own American dream for his family”. While this, of course, follows the pro-immigrant and pro-victim narrative of globalism, the truth is a bit more complicated than Mr. Branch admits (or, perhaps, even knows—after all, journalism in the modern era has become a refuge for surface level analyses which often lack knowledge of deeper details). While many of my fellow Sociologists mock “the American Dream”, it is interesting that the NYT is so eager to bring it up—especially when looking to legitimate a famous figure who is being described as an innocent victim.

The reality is that Mr. Sukur was once a close ally of Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan—indeed, he eventually resigned from his position as an MP in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and came under attack from Mr. Erdogan himself, mainly because of his support for the shadowy Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen. While it is likely that Mr. Sukur did not have full knowledge of Mr. Gulen’s plans for Turkey, his support for the cleric is undeniable. He was likely a pawn, whose celebrity status could be used in order to sway public opinion in Turkey (similar to the way Lebron James is used in the U.S.), but that does not excuse the New York Times’ atrocious reporting.

 

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A Bizarre Triangle…Mr. Erdogan (Left), Mr. Sukur (Center), and Mr. Gulen (Right). Image Courtesy Of: http://kaanil.blogcu.com/hakan-sukur-fethullah-gulen-le-ne-konustu/18008146

 

In Mr. Branch’s story, he seems to insinuate that the attempted coup of 15 July 2016 was a good thing (after all, authoritarian regimes are “bad” and need toppling). Please see the passage in question:

It was his [Mr. Sukur’s] first interview since he left Turkey in 2015, nearly a year before the 2016 deadly coup that tried, and failed, to topple the authoritarian regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a former friend and political ally.

This kind of framing—a topic I have written about in the past—would lead the uninformed reader to believe that a coup deposing an “authoritarian” leader would be a “good” thing. Of course, this is far from the truth—a successful Gulenist coup in Turkey would have been disastrous. Still, this is the kind of shoddy reporting that has come to be the norm in the United States, a place where famous political commentators like Bill Maher openly call for coups to depose leaders they don’t like (such as Mr. Trump).

The most insidious passage—indeed, the most repulsive portion—of Mr. Branch’s reporting, however, comes in his description of Mr. Gulen’s Hizmet movement:

Gulen’s Hizmet movement has, for decades, infiltrated Turkey’s institutions with a moderate strain of Islam, trying to nudge the country from the inside toward democracy, education and cultural openness more associated with Europe than much of today’s Middle East.

I have bolded the most important parts since they are, in my mind, absurd. That the New York Times—one of the leading news providers in not only the United States, but the entire world—should describe a movement which attempted to subvert Turkish democracy by attempting a military coup as one which tried to “nudge the country toward democracy” is a gross misrepresentation of reality. The New York Times seems to think that they can shape public opinion by using catch phrases and catch words like “moderate Islam”, “cultural openness”, and “democracy” in order to shape public opinion. This is, very clearly, an egregious example of an attempt by the media to support a very dangerous man in the name of progressive politics.

Observers should be aware of the duplicitous nature of the globalist mass media which prefers to play on emotions rather than report on facts. Mr. Gulen is no democrat, nor is he a champion of any kind of Islam; rather, he is a capitalist who looks to transform Islam into one more amenable to capitalist ideals (as the sociologist Cihan Tugal masterfully explains in his book Passive Revolution: Absorbing the Islamic Challenge to Capitalism). That the New York Times would support a man who quite possibly ordered the bombing of his own nation’s parliament—and whose purported actions killed almost three hundred innocent people—as a supporter of “democracy” is both absurd and extremely troubling. For those of us who expect veracity from our news media—and despite the fact that ABC news thinks “The Colbert Report” is legitimate news (it is not)—this kind of reporting needs to be called out. It has no place in a country which prides itself on “freedom of the press”. We should all strive to take back our countries, and our free press, in the process.