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Biased Media and the Toll It Has on Society

From Fox News to CNN, BBC, or RT and down to the hundreds of others that follow, what is the difference? If all the stories they report are the same, why are there so many media outlets? Although there is some truth behind the stories they report, it is the angle in which it is covered that is different. All while discarding those important marginalized topics that they deliberately choose to throw away as it is of insignificance to them and their advertiser’s agendas. Every news outlet has its own political agenda to push. As they have their own political agenda, they also decide where they want you to look at and where they want you to turn your head away from.

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You may belittle the work of reporters but do not know the power it has to influence conflict, protest, and maybe even war. With the right audience, they can back anything up. Along with the outpouring of emotions that the Black Lives Matter movement has brought upon the Western world, we also see the astonishing support that comes with it. We see the streets flooding up with people and news reporters getting a record number of views. How long does it stay that way? A week? A couple of days? Do topics no longer seem relevant if it is not a “trend”? As soon as the posts come down and the news turns to another topic, do we turn a blind eye as well? 

As long as we have known, African countries were low-income countries experiencing health risks, and Middle Eastern countries were experiencing wars and disagreements. However, these topics have been so excessively covered in the media that they now choose not to give focus. Nevertheless, that is the point. In regards to coverage, you may be watching the news on CNN criticizing what former President Donald Trump tweeted, in the same country, Fox News is defending what he has to say. The same thing in France. Many are angered by what President Emmanuel Macron had to say about Muslims; the same place reporting the story is empowering what he has to say, declaring it under the freedom of speech. However, both outlets will withhold another side of the story and continue being politically biased for their agenda. 

Every news outlet has its own political agenda to push. As they have their own political agenda, they also decide where they want you to look at and where they want to turn your head away from. Just because the media stops talking about it and a topic is no longer a trend, does the problem fade into thin air and become resolved? Media outlets choose not to speak of such normalized topics such as the famine in Africa and conflicts in the Middle East because, sadly, not all tragedies are the same. Since not all are the same, then not all will receive the same amount of media coverage. If we were to turn our attention to the Black Lives Matter movement, we could see the overwhelming support they received financially and politically. However, the media here played a crucial role by providing them with airtime, hosting debates on their cause, and stirring the public into a frenzy of support. These achievements of mass mobilization of public support go to show how powerful and influential these mass media outlets can be. Hence, when media outlets do not cover such normalized topics, it is not because they cannot; it is because they do not want to. They choose how to portray such stories in angles, which provides them with the support they need from you. They choose to focus and only report on the “lows” in many regions, most prominent examples being countries in the Middle East and Africa. Covering and broadcasting their low points and turning a blind eye to their achievements and progress goes to show how polarized these news outlets can be. Hence, the global perception of such regions will continuously only be connected with war or human rights violations, which is what these mass media outlets have chosen to feed us. When in reality, many countries in such regions are far more developed than what has been portrayed by such outlets to us. Sadly they will not show that. Your focus on such regions and seeking out the truth about such countries and their achievements that have not been given prime airtime in mainstream media means a loss for those media outlets and their agendas. 

Money and power are two of the biggest supporters in the world of news and social media. The financial support is given by those in power to push their personal and political agendas onto various companies and individuals. Picking out those outlets and influencers who have a plan that aligns the most with their own. These investments are made through advertisements, sponsorships, and public PR. Hence, these mass media outlets will cater to their advertisers. Their financial support does not go unthanked for, of course. It is shown in the company’s coverage, commentary, and opinions, knowing very well those words will have a massive influence on society. To put those they oppose in such a negative light, ensuring their plans run smoothly, with the support of the people. The more money you have, the more power that comes with it, and the more influence you have onto what goes out to the people through stories and posts that are of high advantage to you. This is mostly seen in Western news outlets to influence votes on parties, congress members, and senators.  Democratic or Republican, conservative or liberal, the coverage is given based on how much you are willing to invest in advertising or into hiring public PR. Which explains the need for different outlets as not all have and wish to push the same political agenda. Once these agendas that such outlets are pushing are aligned and similar to that of their advertisers, they start with their plan. Although they are different, they are a profit-based mass media industry where they aim to be biased enough to hopefully influence your judgment. If you were to listen to different political leaders and what they have to say, you may not see much that is wrong. Sure, you have your opinions and support one over the other as you should. However, as soon as you turn on the news, that may change from their biased commentary to interviews with proclaimed “Political Experts” to false allegations. Sure, sometimes the news can give you some insight to help you form your opinion, but we need to ensure the judgment that comes with it is not based on the media and their advertiser’s advantages rather than your own.

Desensitization, to take all your focus and put it onto their political agenda to gain your support. Before that, they will need to take away your focus from topics that will be non-beneficial to them. They will report onto it for their advantage and safety of not being called out but will not give it the same coverage and airtime as the other important topics. Not the important topics in the world, but those that are important to their agendas. So, you will no longer hear about those suffering from war and poverty in need of urgent care and aid. It will be treated as background noise. The thousands of viewers may be able to assist, but these media outlets want you to focus and assist them alone. So, their objective is to desensitize you from these topics. Exposing you to such violence, footage of human misery, and aggressive behaviour making the viewers immune to the cause and tragedy to the point where anything reported on such cause or conflict is discarded to the viewer and will not be seen as a serious topic in need of immediate attention. Hence, once viewers sense such topics are not important and grow accustomed to such tragedies, their objective has been achieved, and slowly they start to stop covering such stories and continue onto their own political plan. Watching those in South Sudan, Yemen, and Syria suffer from famine, diseases, and war should have a higher effect on people and in the news than the brush off coverage it is currently being given. However, because such tragedies are not crucial to them or their advertiser’s agenda, such topics will always be marginalized. In both ways, it is not beneficial to you or those in need of such aid, and instead, it is only for them and their supporters. 

Next time you check out the news, be sure to remember that bombing you heard about in Lebanon; what is it like there now? Do they not know about the thousands who have fled Ethiopia to Sudan? Many of us are victims of biased media coverage, and only when we spot mass media manipulation and seek the truth can we then help such societies in need. From having an influence on your views of different regions, influencing the way you think about a particular party, and finally desensitizing you from truly critical topics. Media will always be biased for their advantage, not the people or the thousands dying someplace you are unaware of, thanks to their biased coverage. Whether it be one individual in distress or 25,000, all is a cry for help in search of immediate care and help. Such issues and tragedies should not be discarded in the world of media. Hence, such biases should not play a role in our aim of aid and assistance for such societies in need or our perspective of such a region or country and their low points without searching for their highs. We should aim higher in search of truth and the cries of those in need.

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The IAS Gazette is a news site run by undergraduates from the Singapore Institute of Management’s International Affairs Society (IAS). Founded in 2018, it traces its roots to The Capital, a now defunct bimonthly magazine previously under the IAS.

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