Following the third presidential debate, I keep thinking about the word truth. It’s swirling around in my head like a single-ingredient word stew simmered in the propagandistic broth of politics. But this stew is not fit for human consumption as evidenced by the debate. No longer can the American diet stomach what is called truth in the media. The admixture of financial greed and political misogyny has poisoned truth. From corporate greed, government’s corporate welfare programs especially for media conglomerates and corporate donations to politicians, there is little to no incentive to worry about truth. Idealistic journalists intent on investigating wrong doing find their interests ignored by editors who worry that the report will offend their viewers and their advertisers.
So, here are a few examples of what poisoned truth looks like in the corporate-owned, profit-driven, media.
- When legislators, aligned with the anti abortion movement, pass targeted regulations of abortion providers (TRAP)laws, the news media will recast the story as a bill advocating for women’s health. For example, the recent spate of laws requiring abortion clinics to meet surgical suite standards does not apply to plastic surgeons, dermatologists, periodontists or family physicians who dabble in minor surgery. TRAP laws are designed to make access to abortion difficult if not impossible. There’s no real truth in their desire to protect women.
- Nearly two years ago, Republican Reps. John Boehner, Paul Ryan and tea party adherents took control of Congress, promising to fix the economy. Instead, they attacked women’s health and have continued to this day. Yet, the mainstream media promotes absurd sound bytes from radicals instead of speaking to the obvious truth about the war on women’s health. Those sound bytes about using aspirin between the knees as birth control or special hormones to prevent pregnancy during a violent rape help sell stories but they do absolutely nothing to speak the truth about overwhelmingly obvious religiously motivated battle against women and their reproductive rights.
- Promiscuity police like Rick Santorum and others in the Republican party promote abstinence education programs in public schools, fearing any comprehensive sex education would only encourage sexual promiscuity. But the research proves otherwise. Studies about condom availability programs, designed to decrease unwanted pregnancy and HIV infections, found no increased rate of sexual activity. Sexuality education programs do not increase sexual behavior but, in fact, tend to delay initiation of sexual activity. But where is the hard-hitting news media when reports are released about the alarming teen STI infection rates where one out of four teens (50% among African Americans) have at least one infection?
- The availability of emergency contraception, according to the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at the University of California San Francisco conducted a review of 16 studies on the impact of providing EC to adult and adolescent women. The review found no evidence that access increased sexual risk taking. It found that women did not abandon their regular method of contraception when they had access to EC; did not engage in increased sexual activity; and did not have increased incidences of STIs. Instead of reporting on the value of EC, the news media focuses on a myth about high schools who give out emergency contraception without the consent or even knowledge of the parents or stories about religiously affiliated pharmacists who believe that they have the right to refuse to administer EC to women.
- And the ruckus created by the introduction of the HPV vaccine among sex-phobic parents and politicians, lead to comments about the vaccine encouraging young women to become sexually active. But the facts from research of medical records of young women under age 16 for indications of sexual activity found no difference between those who had been vaccinated and those who had not. This adds to an earlier study of young women ages 15 to 24, which also found no association between the HPV vaccine and risky sexual behavior. But when Governor Rick Perry (R) demanded that young girls in Texas be required to have the vaccination at the parents’ expense, mainstream media failed the public. It failed to mention that Perry had a cozy financial relationship with the pharmaceutical company that makes the vaccine.
It’s evident that mainstream media loves sound bytes. Featuring gratuitous video of Todd Aiken speaking about rape or Joe Walsh saying that abortion is unnecessary because the life of a mother is never at risk may be good for business but it’s not good for our democracy which depends on an informed citizenry. Promoting Republican poppycock makes a mockery of the myth of the liberal media. Women deserve facts based on medical evidence not drivel from God-deluded bishops. Young women deserve age-appropriate, comprehensive sex education in schools and not shame-mongering tactics of abstinence only programs or blasts from shock jocks calling women sluts when all they want and deserve is contraception.
We count on the media to provide a well-reasoned voice against power and money but it’s nearly impossible when corporations who support politicians and influence government, own the media.