Most of us grow up trusting what comes out of the mouths of our parents until we reach puberty. Along about that point in our young lives, we begin to wonder about things. Hearing the voices of others, we raise questions. The other voices start to make sense, some of our teachers, our classmates and friends, their parents. We begin to form our own views as we weigh the reliability of these other sources.
As adults we gravitate to particular sources when we seek out information. Depending on the power and longevity of the influence of our parents, religious leaders, teachers and others in our formative years, we grow to trust some sources and distrust others.
He or she who controls our information controls the way we see our world and the way we think. This truth has guided dictators for centuries. Dictators know that control of the source of their people’s information means control of the people’s thinking.
In our time, the signs are unmistakable. Our political leader trumpets his distrust of sources of information we trust and have found reliable and promotes the sources that praise him and support his causes. His recent tweets:
“So funny to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased,” he wrote on Twitter.
Earlier today, our leader wrote: “The Fake News Networks, those that knowingly have a sick and biased AGENDA, are worried about the competition and quality of Sinclair Broadcast. The ‘Fakers’ at CNN, NBC, ABC & CBS have done so much dishonest reporting that they should only be allowed to get awards for fiction!”
Who, we wonder, is Sinclair Broadcasting?
In The Washington Post, we read: “Interest in Sinclair picked up recently after reports exposed a seemingly Trump-friendly script the company ordered its anchors nationwide to read, lambasting ‘irresponsible, one-sided’ and ‘fake’ news stories. The one-minute-long script, which appeared to echo Trump’s efforts to attack the reporting he has disagreed with as ‘fake news,’ brought to the fore long-standing critiques about what many view as the company’s rightward tilt.”
Sinclair, The Post reports, is our nation’s largest owner of local television stations, with 173 stations in 81 broadcast markets from coast to coast, “at a time when local news outpaces national news outlets both in overall viewership and trust. About 85 percent of Americans trust local news outlets more than the 77 percent for family or friends, according to the Pew Research Center.” As we read this, Sinclair is awaiting federal approval of a proposed $3.9 billion buyout of Tribune Media, which would add 42 more local television stations to its group, including stations in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.
As discriminating adults, we have learned not to trust all sources of information. Social media is full of phony material. So we carefully choose our sources and rely on those we have come to trust to give us the facts, and leave it to us to form our own conclusions. We are grateful for such sources.
A nation’s people need information they can trust and the freedom to choose its sources. I can imagine nothing more dangerous than a leader who aims to control, or even influence, our choices.