The media is like any other commodity: it must give people what they want, or it will remain unsold and the business it represents will fail. While this might upset educated men such as E.M. Forster, who revealed his contempt for the media by stating in 1917: “The waves of edifying bilge rolled off me, the newspapers ebbed.” (The Pelican Guide to Modern Literature, p.21)—it is a fact of life.
John Swinton, former chief of staff, New York Times, when called upon to give a toast before the New York Press Club (1953) said this:
“There is no such thing, at this date of the worldʼs history, in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you who dares write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out in the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before 24 hours my occupation would be gone.
The business of the journalist is to destroy the truth; to lie outright; to pervert; to vilify; to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it, so what folly is this toasting an independent press. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings, we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes”
Unless the articles purveyed by the various media outlets pander to the prejudices of their customers—readers, listeners, viewers—they will be ignored; so the tastes of the audience control the media. The media does not present both sides of an argument, it cheats; and this is no where better demonstrated than the reporting of the Hindmarsh Island development, where the main news outlets, including the ABC and The Australian Financial Review, deliberately ignored the truth and promoted popular lies. This resulted in libel actions being taken against these organisations, with twenty levelled at the ABC alone. The media is the source and reminder of all public delusions with most recent (1999) being the hysterical exaggerations about events in Kosovo and East Timor. Naturally there are exceptions with some notable attempts being:
— all to no avail.
Contemporary media is full of sensational lies and half-truths because this is what the public demand. The character of our media, which disregards truth and is obsessed by hysterical fears and fancies, can only be a reflection of the general character of our citizens.