The press bubble is real, present and dangerous

April 30, 2017

On January 28, 1961, the CIA gave President Kennedy and his inner circle the latest update on a plan to overthrow Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. The decision making process that would follow we now refer to as “group-think”. Whereby individual members of a group, each more worried about consensus over critical thinking, suppress their own thoughts and worries in favor of the prevailing “group” analysis.

The result of that episode in the earliest days of the Kennedy administration was the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. A foreign policy disaster and the polar opposite of what the young President needed to portray to the bombastic Soviet Premier of the time, Nikita Khrushchev. The very same Khrushchev who would send the world to the brink of nuclear war a year and a half later during the Cuban missile crisis.

What most likely saved the world from nuclear destruction in that fall of 1962 was the fact that Kennedy had learned from his mistake. Encouraging after that failure in the spring of ’61 a dialogue going forward that included all options, all thoughts, pro or con, from each and every member of his cabinet. And it was that open, honest debate that gave the President the information he needed to override the prevailing military “group-think” of that crisis to bomb Cuba and risk starting a nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

Over a half century later Americans are once again in the thralls of another group-think fiasco.

For years those of us living “off coast” and “out cities” have watched and read as our nation’s mass media has slid further and further into the abyss of editorial posing as news. A narrative gets born and it, in and of itself becomes the “news”. Kennedy’s “group-think” morphed into our “press bubble” of today.

And for those same years, we’ve had to endure the ridicule of our betters that there was no “bubble”, that whatever the personal bias journalists may have, their reporting remained purely objective. Never mind that with each passing year such claims became more laughable and less believable, it was a narrative unbroken. Until now.

Writing in the anything but conservative publication Politico Magazine, Jack Shafer and Tucker Doherty use Bureau of Labor statistics, industry geographical data, and plain old fashion common sense to report what millions of Americans have known for years: “Not only is the bubble real, but it’s more extreme than you might realize.”

Driven by the downturn in the newspaper and a surge in internet publishing their bubble map shows that 78 percent of internet/new media positions cluster along the coasts and in the Chicago metro area.

Shafer and Doherty explain: “…you don’t need to be a Republican campaign strategist to grasp just how far the “media bubble” has drifted from the average American experience. Newspaper jobs are far more evenly scattered across the country,…….But as those vanish, it’s internet jobs that are driving whatever growth there is in media—and those fall almost entirely in places that are dense, blue and right in the bubble.”

And it’s that bubble that is directing and editing the news American’s absorb into their national psyche. A daily dose of one mindedness more akin to shaping of opinion than reporting of fact. Using the New York Time’s as but one example they note: “The Times thinks of itself as a centrist national newspaper, but it’s more accurate to say its politics are perfectly centered on the slices of America that look and think the most like Manhattan.”

So no, you millions of American’s in “flyover” country, that sameness you see in your news is not a figment of your imagination. It is sadly all too real. It’s JFK’s group-think on steroids.

And can you blame them? What reporter is going to burst the bubble from whence their career is made, their self-worth is molded, their awards are received? A few brave souls are trying but their numbers are fewer than few and dwindling fast.

Whether the tide will turn before the profession is completely destroyed is still anyone’s guess. In the mean time all we can do is use the same internet that is growing the bubble to pop it.

The truth is still out there, we just have to look harder to find it.

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