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march 2023

Trust the media?


by Hans Durrer

Right: Trump's transformation into a comic book superhero on one of his digital trading cards

"I hate him passionately." Tucker Carlson of Fox News said about the Florida golfer from Queens who, when launching his bid for the 2024 Presidential elections, started to sell digital trading cards that portray him as a comic book superhero, an Old West sheriff, an astronaut and other figures. Unsurprisingly, he also claimed his four-year long White House stint was better than the presidency of both Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.

"While releasing the trading cards, the former US president said America needs a superhero. He is known to have been fascinated by the idea of being projected as a Superman. On his 50th birthday, a cake decorated with a skyline had a cutout of a Superman-like figure with his head attached to the body," the Hindustan Times reported.

No, this isn't another piece on a man to whom the media have offered already far too many platforms. Instead, I'd like to share some considerations about whether we can trust the media.

Next It goes without saying that without trust there is no communication, there is no getting along with each other, there is no social life. Trust is not for free, it has to be earned. By actions — for words alone are not enough. We wouldn't trust anybody who says one thing and does another, right? So can we trust Fox News host Carlson who says one thing on TV and quite another to his producer? Of course, we can't for who in their right mind would trust Fox News anyway?
  However, there are other questions that need to be asked: How come we want to believe that people on a screen or on a stage say what they really think? Don't we quite automatically distinguish between private and public opinions? And, last but not least, don't we all act differently when in public?
  Well, yes, up to a point, that is. However, to utter publicly quite the opposite of what one thinks privately seems quite a stretch. So why would anybody do that? Because it sells. And, when it comes to sales, media companies are not different from any other company that is forced to compete in today's market place. The problem that lies at the core is not trust, it is competition.
  When Charles Lindbergh took off to cross the Atlantic, he was glad that he was all by himself and that the crossing hadn't turned into a race for, as he opined, "there are already enough difficulties even without human competition." Too bad that this is not the governing ideology that endlessly praises the benefits of competition.
Next Competition, to start with, results in winners and losers. This is a misunderstanding, we are taught in school, it is not about winning and losing, it is about participating. The lies, quite obviously, begin already at an early age for we all know that it is all about winning. Needless to say, we are all afraid of losing — and this fear is precisely what "our" system is built on. For without us being afraid, the kind of society we have would collapse.
  Fear, of course, is not all that bad for it also hinders us to not act too stupidly. Yet when it has come to dominate all other feelings, when it overrides all other emotions, when it forces us to function regardless of the damage done to our health and social life, then there's clearly something wrong with it.
  As always, a sound balance is required. Lies, as we all know, are somewhat normal; blatant lies as in the case of Fox, the Florida golfer, the Russian regime or the British corona prime minister, to name just a few, are unacceptable. That competition and the markets make these liars possible, suggests that there is something fundamentally askew with the values "our" system is based on.
  These are simply aberrations, some will surely argue, but fundamentaly "we" are on the right path. This rather worn-out point of view of a few bad apples is the domaine of people who pride themselves on having a positive attitude — until they themselves become victims of what they have never given a thought: competition, that is.
  2023 © Hans Durrer / Soundscapes