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 Media Responsibility in the Modern Era

 Author:  Topic:  Posted:
Mar 31, 2002
Some place the origins of April Fool's Day with the Romans and their festival of Hilaria. Others fault the failure of certain Frenchmen to negotiate the calendar reforms proclaimed by Pope Gregory, which moved the start of the new year from April 1 to January 1.

But whatever its origins, April Fool's Day is a cultural fixture even in the secularism of the twenty-first Century. And on this day, the world is awash in lies.


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The tradition seems innocent enough: on April Fool's Day, those "in the know" pit themselves against the "fools" by perpetrating hoaxes against the latter group. These hoaxes can take many forms, ranging from the mundane (unscrewing the tops of a sugar container so the contents spill when the "fool" tries to sweeten his morning coffee) to the elaborate (dangling a Volkswagen Beetle off the Golden Gate Bridge). But though shenanigans like these appear innocent enough when perpetrated by mere individuals against other individuals, they take on an entirely more sinister meaning when perpetrated by the Media against the entire world.

The Media occupy a privileged position in modern society. But more than simply seeking out truth and reporting it to an otherwise ignorant populace, the Media themselves have an active role in influencing and shaping public opinion. That is why it is so very disturbing that any Media, much less the entire aggregation of Media, might choose deliberately to mislead their consumers in full knowledge of the ramifications of that decision.

When the Media lie to consumers, they undermine a fundamental trust. This is not to say consumers and readers should be free to forego critical thinking and swallow whatever opinion the Media generate, but there is a fundamental difference between opinion mongering of the sort that goes on in the Op/Ed pages of every daily newspaper and the sort of abject lies that pass for "news" on April 1st.

The tradition is unfortunately as old as it is misguided. Alex Boese for the self-proclaimed Museum of Hoaxes has compiled an list of all-time best April 1st hoaxes, a list containing examples as old as the eighteenth century and all the more compelling for being a "Top Ten" list and therefore excluding numerous hoaxes that did not make the cut. And though it should come as no surprise, the ten "best" April Fool's Day hoaxes Boese has selected have nearly uniformly been perpetrated by Media organizations, since it is necessarily only mass Media who possess the reach to perpetrate these hoaxes on such a grand scale.

And in the age of the Internet, the excesses of twentieth-century chicanery have multiplied, as the decentralization of information proliferation has lowered the bar for journalistic integrity. With Media accountability at an all-time low and the urge to pander to marketable demographics all in the name of "humor", even "respected" Internet news sites have found it too hard to resist proffering their own hoaxes, stooping to levels that make even self-proclaimed satire sites blush.

Unfortunately, the risk is real that real news might slip through the cracks amidst the April-Fool's-themed pablum. World events do not cease while the Media frolic about, and the problem is doubly true in light of recent terrorist events. (One need only ask himself whether anyone would have paid heed if the World Trade Center attacks had been scheduled not for September 11 but for April 1.)

On September 5, 1983, speaking before the Sixth World Media Conference, Dr Bo Hi Pak of the Unification Church defined the role of the Media as this:

We seek to know the truth and to communicate it. Our God-given mission is to uncover it and shout it to the world-not a double-standard truth, not a distorted truth, not a self-serving, perverted truth. Just the truth.
Today, you can count on seeing dozens of hoaxes pronounced by otherwise trustworthy Media who have forgotten their proper role in society. The hypocrisy would be laughable if it weren't so pervasive.

Today is a dark day indeed. We at mourn for the truth.


lie to me once; (none / 0) (#1)
by gNinja on Sun Mar 31st, 2002 at 05:58:47 PM PST
Lie to me once; shame on you. Lie to me twice; shame on me.

It's all about credibility. Your reputation is the most valuable thing you own.

lol (1.00 / 1) (#2)
by Anonymous Reader on Sun Mar 31st, 2002 at 11:09:05 PM PST
Today is a dark day indeed. We at mourn for the truth.

That is the biggest April fool's joke yet.
Truth and do not belong in the same sentence.

please take your prejudice else where (none / 0) (#8)
by Anonymous Reader on Mon Apr 1st, 2002 at 04:47:35 PM PST points out the truth that the mainstream media prefers to ignore.

There is a reason why the slogan is "News for Grown-ups." If you can't handle dificult truths you should read a different and less contreversial website.

Where else can you get honest statistics about drunk driving? Not just sentimental sob stories designed to appeal to the mob instinct, but cold hard facts. Nowhere.

The mainstream media would prefer that you were a mindless sheep, but Adequacy cares enough to be honest even though it's tough. Tough love. loves you and if you don't have the decency to recognize that, then you don't deserve to be reading this website.

Please leave.

Ha! I chortle mirthfully! (none / 0) (#12)
by DeepOmega on Mon Apr 8th, 2002 at 03:47:17 PM PST
Going against the mainstream? Pointing out the truth? Don't make me laugh. It's obvious that you really don't know what the mainstream is. Either that, or you turn a blind eye to all of the painfully uninformed views portrayed on this site. Just because you disagree with what is commonly held as true does not mean you are revealing some hidden truth, nor does it make you somehow better than anyone else. And if you're going to try to claim some sort of counter-mainstream, at least try not to plunge over the cliff of stupidity in a lemming-like march of doom when following the people who use big words and can spell. I realize that this may make them seem rather knowledgable, and their grasp of basic grammer is impressive compared to yours, but you should at least make an effort.

Peace and much love...

"Unification church"? (none / 0) (#3)
by tkatchev on Sun Mar 31st, 2002 at 11:21:33 PM PST
So, when are you getting your barcode tatoo?

Peace and much love...

A shame media outlets forget the 8th commandment (5.00 / 1) (#4)
by Adam Rightmann on Mon Apr 1st, 2002 at 10:32:13 AM PST
you know, "Thou shalt not bear false witness". I see no caveat there for April first, too bad the editors of Godless technophiles and whinging liberalists disagree.

A. Rightmann

You christian facisist (1.00 / 1) (#11)
by RandomAction on Tue Apr 2nd, 2002 at 03:59:34 PM PST
Thou shall not have a laugh at your mates expense.

You are one boring, moranic suckwipe. [I made that last one up :@) ].

AFD saved me from thinking that: "Thou shalt not bear false witness" actually means anything to most people.

Media Responsibility in the Modern Era (1.00 / 1) (#5)
by Anonymous Reader on Mon Apr 1st, 2002 at 12:40:45 PM PST
I'm hoping this bit of sanctimonious pap is an April Fool's joke. What would have changed had the events of Sept. 11 happened if it had been April 1. Nobody who could have done anything about it would have doubted the need to act. Had someone been skeptical about the news they would have quickly been informed of its veracity rather than having the prank exposed as is custom. The media is so bloody full of itself the other 364 days of the year, so I for one applaud the day that there is a pause in news sources taking themselves seriously. Long live April Fool's day!

AFD jokes (3.00 / 1) (#6)
by Anonymous Reader on Mon Apr 1st, 2002 at 02:45:57 PM PST
the only way media/consumer AFD jokes could be considered a violation of trust is if one of the parties was so self-deluded as to beleive it was functioning as a vital element in a two way relationship. now there's a joke.

It's not trust; it's a contractual relationship. (5.00 / 1) (#9)
by Ernest Bludger on Mon Apr 1st, 2002 at 08:09:32 PM PST
I thought that my relationship with the media would be covered by the Social Contract that we've all signed. The media is also a signatory to this Contract. From what I remember of the Contract the media has to report in a truthful, accurate and entertaining manner to us. Media outlets can lose their media licences if they breach the Contract.

Sure (1.00 / 1) (#10)
by manux on Tue Apr 2nd, 2002 at 05:46:08 AM PST
Sure it is inadmissible for the media to spread out lies deliberately, and it must be punished. But, on April's Fool Day, it is a cultural habit to spread jokes. And what characterizes jokes from lies is that the media never hide that these facts are fake. Better still, as soon as April 2nd, the same media make it clear they were jokes. Recognizing and practicing humor is one of the attributes of intelligence.

Oh for *ucks sake.. shut up. (1.00 / 1) (#7)
by RandomAction on Mon Apr 1st, 2002 at 04:14:14 PM PST
Exactly how far up your own arse are you?<br><br>On a more serious note: AFD may actually encourage some of our more gullible friends to critically evaluate what they read; day to day. AFD news stories normally contain a factual error, which with a little analysis can be found. AFD changed my view of the 'media' forever at age 9. So maybe some good can come of it. Oh yeah, that and a perhaps a good laugh.<br><br>In any case chill out. Take a toke.


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