Government Gossip

Is the media really the altruistic protector of public interest that we think it is?

The pick ‘n’ mix stories available to the media allows papers to favour political stances; the Telegraph is notorious for leaning right, The Guardian left and the BBC (supposedly) stays unbiased in the middle.

However, the publications still address key issues in current affairs in order to keep the public informed. It may not be the political stance that distorts the information but instead the creation of prominent figures within the media.

A crucial example was the MMR scare in 1998, illustrating how a media façade around a government baby changed a science concern into government gossip. This frenzy of media speculation was fuelled by the question of whether or not Leo Blair received the MMR vaccination; this generated 32% of the MMR reports compared to 25% on the MMR research published by Doctor Andrew Wakefield.

This example emphasizes how government stature formulated by the media was seen to rebuff empirical evidence. The effect on the public might not be immediately obvious, but instead exposed in the future: for example the MMR scare triggered a pandemic of measles this year.

The media protects our interest by informing the public but it is evident that the government can influence reports. This influence is executed either directly through favouring a political stance or indirectly through government gossip, both of which can distort critical judgements.

In the words of Jim Morrison, whoever controls the media, controls the mind.

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