Staying informed is crucial, but the purpose of mainstream media is not to inform. The primary purpose of MSM is to maintain the status quo by manufacturing consent for war and keeping us in fear of our neighbors.
Rather than subjecting yourself to the propaganda of corporate-owned, legacy media – a plethora of independent media exists which does not depend on corporate sponsorship! Which is not to say that it’s all good. Some mislead because they are working toward a big contract with a corporate news outfit. Some mislead to attain/maintain access to the powerful. Some mislead because they are operatives of the state, seeking to divide.
At least with independent media, they could be telling the truth. In contrast, every word of corporate media is a lie. It’s not that the stories they are telling are completely fabricated (though some are), it’s that the framing is always dishonest. They always tell their stories from the perspective of the elites, of the corporation and the government. As Chomsky said, it’s not that journalists and analysts are purposely misleading, it’s that they wouldn’t have gotten there if they didn’t think that way.
Corporate media has been consolidated thanks to Bill Clinton’s Telecommunications Act of 1996. It used to be illegal to own a newspaper and television station in the same market. Now, all media – television, movies, newspapers, books – all of it is owned by five corporations. The role of those corporations is not to educate, but to profit, and to maintain the status quo for the wealthy shareholders. The owner class is capitalist, first and foremost. The hosts of the shows may be socially liberal, but they and their bosses are 100% fiscally conservative capitalists. And war is good for ratings, so every network act as stenographers of the imperialist propaganda of State Department.
The Sunday news shows are meant to convey the weekly messaging of the elites. The only pushback provided by the hosts against the powerful guests they interview, is when demanding they be more militaristic.
The role of cable news is to maintain the status quo by dividing us politically. Cable news drive culture wars meant to keep workers divided. They play up the tiny, often performative areas where the major political parties disagree. They want viewers to believe that they are participants on one of the political teams, that they share in the success of the team, and must defend their mutual honor. Cable news minimize, and take for granted, the radical agenda of the nihilistic elites who keep us at war and in poverty. As Chomsky notes in Manufacturing Consent, they allow a robust & often vicious debate, but within a tiny & constrained ideological framework.
We are all familiar with the formulaic local news: weather, traffic, sports and crime. Weather & traffic are self-explanatory. Sports is (great fun, but it’s) meant primarily to distract us from our shitty capitalist experiment, and secondarily to have us hating rival cities & states over trivial sports ball.
And, ohhh is there crime. So much crime. Right around the corner crime. Just outside my door crime. Murders. Rapes. It’s everywhere. And it’s rampant. It must be worse than ever before. The neighbors are a deadly threat. The kids aren’t safe!
It is true that there was a small spike in crime when the rulers shut down the economy and caused widespread economic uncertainty in response to the covid pandemic. But overall, violent crime has been on a steady & steep decline for decades on end. Crime was high from the mid-1960s to the early-1990s (lead in the water & paint is the leading theory). It’s dramatically decreased since then. It was far more dangerous for latchkey kids of yore. Yet they’ve become the paranoid helicopter parents who are petrified of the neighbors because of what the nice newsman said on the tv.
The only way to stand up to the rulers is by organizing locally. You can’t change the system by voting for a Democrat or Republican. The local news pushes the crime narrative because they want us afraid. They don’t want us to organize with our neighbors on any level, for anything. They don’t want us to build grassroots political power of any means. They don’t want us to realize that we have more in common than differences, and that we can sort those out once we get past the rulers who are keeping us divided and distracted while they exploit our labor and extract our wealth. They want us busy slaving away at work, too busy to educate ourselves and organize with our neighbors.
In the down time, they want us sitting on the couch watching the bad news about our scary neighbors. Or some copaganda about law enforcement who are so cool & hot, who break all the rules to catch the bad guys, if it weren’t for those frumpy, rule-pushing bureaucrats always getting in their way.
Or a movie about a superhero who will one day miraculously swoop in & save us all from the Bad Guys™, so we needn’t ever worry about organizing with our neighbors and doing it for ourselves. Perhaps a rogue, billionaire cop who gets his jollies by harassing petty street criminals rather than using his wealth to actually decrease crime by increasing economic opportunity for the people of the city, so turning to crime isn’t necessary in the first place…