Saturday, December 18, 2010

Opinion, truth and journalists

I was dismayed to read an article about President Sarkozy today which outlined the reasons for his unpopularity.
Apparently, according to this journalist, it is his racist policies that have alienated him from his constituency.
Google search revealed this article dated March 2008,

In France, local elections often turn into referenda on the government's performance. As the French are voting to elect their "maires", 24 per cent of them declared they were going to express their opposition to Nicolas Sarkozy and his team.
After only 10 months at the head of the country, the French president is getting less and less popular as weeks go by. Recent opinion polls show that only 37 per cent of the French approve of his actions, which is the lowest result ever for a president since the 1950s.
President Sarkozy is accused of showing off while the people's mood is gloomy. They blame him for caring more about his private life than about public affairs.
His love story with pop singer and former top model Carla Bruni, as well as their quick marriage which made the tabloid headlines all over the world, made him appear as someone unstable -- perhaps someone without the sang froid thought to be necessary to run a country as large as France.
At the same time, French people are disillusioned about government efficiency. Their purchasing power, which was one of the main themes of candidate Sarkozy's campaign last year, is far from improving.
According to the opposition, Sarkozy does not respect his role of president. This refers to the incident that occurred two weeks ago at the Salon de l'Agriculture held in Paris, where the president violently insulted a visitor who did not want to shake his hand. His behaviour even shocked his followers who failed to understand his lack of self-control.
As a result, local elections are about to get really tough for the president's liberal party UMP.
While the current socialist mayor of Paris Bertrand Delanoe will probably get another mandate, many big cities like Bordeaux or Toulouse could tip from the right to the left. Local UMP candidates, fearing they might suffer from Sarkozy's unpopularity, have done their best to bring the election back to a local size.
So it seems to me that Sarkozy's policies may or may not be the current cause of civil unrest and protest against him.
It's easy to a journalist, you just make up a story and publish it. Journalists these days don't just report events, they interpret social trends. They are the amateur sociologists who have our eyes and ears, who attempt to influence public opinion because whether you like the idea or not, journalists in the media are respected by the public. Respect in the sense that what we read is interpreted as truth. In contrast, a poll recently indicated that blogs were highly suspect and lacked credibility in the mind of the public. 
Or maybe this was just another concocted poll to tell us that we should continue to read and believe what journalists tell us...a conspiracy? Maybe in the wake of information leaked on a blog called Wikileaks...who had heard of it before last week? 
Of course there is a vested interest in the printed media to continue to squeeze us for a dollar or two for providing us with information about what is happening in the world.
The print media and the electronic media, usually owned by the same small group of people-Rupert (Murdoch? et al) do have a financial interest in maintaining their position as primary source of information but also they have an incredibly powerful sway over public opinion. 
In other words there is massive political clout in the hands of media and its moguls, and of course the journalists who practice amateur sociology on their audience.
I don't know how much trust people place in what they read or hear and see on television but I'm sure it's unhealthy. I would advocate a greater degree of cynicism, healthy cynicism rather then a bitter and despondent cynicism. 
The best example would be to raise the bullshit antenna whenever a journalist claims to be reporting the latest trend or development.
Finally, I think blogs are a good thing, they open up the world of opinion that goes beyond what a newspaper editor thinks is appropriate to be published or not in the opinions page.
And when the newspapers and television media use blogs as their primary source of information, as in the case of Wikipedia, we know that the world has changed forever and will never again return to what used to be like, when information was controlled and edited and managed and opinion was manipulated by a few.

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