By James Nelson
So if you pay any attention to the news, you’ve probably heard that Ben Carson, the Republican Presidential Candidate, has been called out for possibly stretching the truth in his books about himself, and also for some hilarious beliefs he holds about the pyramids. In return, he lashed out at the media saying, “The burden of proof is not going to be on me to corroborate everything I have ever talked about in my life,” and “The vetting that you all did with President Obama doesn’t even come close.” This reaction has been one that has followed through in social media among Carson supporters. My question is: why are we surprised that the media is digging into his past, and why are we wasting time getting angry about it?
They Call Themselves the Fourth Estate
The job of the media, as it has always been recognized (at least since the middle of the 19th century) is to call the other areas of society into account. That being said, it has been done to varying effect throughout the history of journalism, some of which we would barely call journalism today. Just to give you an idea of how vicious it used to be, in the era of the founding fathers each party had their own papers which spouted incredibly biased opinions. For instance look at this video, which is largely compiled from actual papers at the time:
Yeah, America survived that didn’t it? My point is that the media has always been biased in one way or another for the entirety of our country’s history. People get caught up on the idea of bias when what we really need to discuss is why the media exists.
To help us digest our world
So the media is going to be biased, but what drives it? It’s a complicated question, but there are two things that come to the top: money and respect. On the side of editorial and management is the prospect that almost all areas of journalism are businesses (Even National Geographic now). They have to pay their staff, keep the lights on, buy computers and printers and, oh yeah … make a profit.
The majority of papers and networks are for-profit corporations with names like Gannett, Tribune Publishing, and News Corp. In order to keep making money they rely on subscribers and advertising via visiting the website or printed space in the actual paper. All of those things rely on creating content to get people to read what you print. The dark side of that is to pick a camp and pander content to your specific camp (Fox News and MSNBC, specifically).
The other thing that drives the journalist is the ability to speak truth to power. A journalist is always looking for a scoop (at least in the cartoons), or is trying to find some new angle on a story that no one else has thought about. All the big name journalists; Edward R. Murrow, Carl Bernstien, Bob Woodward, Mike Wallace, etc, are people who made their name going after people in the public spotlight who have lied, cheated, or committed some sort of public moral failing. In a lot of ways they can serve a public good by allowing the nation to reach a catharsis, say like with the Frost/Nixon interview. In others it can rip open wounds, like with the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The point is that the media is driven to hold people, especially those seeking public office, to a light, or in other words, the media is another part of the vetting process.
What Happened with Carson
Now Carson has asserted that he is being vetted more harshly than Obama was in 2008, and that is another one of his hilarious/ridiculous things he says (You’ve heard that the pyramids were made by Joseph to store grain right?). In case people forgot about it, see the video below:
Am I the only person who forgot about this? What about this?
And how can I forget this:
Now I understand that just posting a few videos does not do this justice, but if you think that Fox News (or any other news outlet) didn’t have someone on their staff plow through these people’s books and fact check everything they said to make sure there wasn’t some sort of closet skeleton then you’re crazy. Let’s not forget that we are still talking about Clinton’s emails and people still think Obama is Kenyan (he is, in fact, half-Kenyan, and he could have even been born in Kenya and still be eligible to run for president because his mother is a natural U.S. citizen. You know, like Ted Cruz). This process is probably why Donald Trump is still doing so well. His life is an open book that we have publicly made fun of for a very long time. So next time, before we start yelling about the “liberal media” or “conservative blogosphere” we actually think about why this process is valuable in our political system. Sometimes journalists get it wrong (and they may have with Carson), but that’s not the norm.
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