What is a journalist?
Pinocchio, a Korean TV drama from 2014-15, seeks to answer this question. It follows the story of a boy whose family has been irrevocably wronged by reporters, and a girl who has an unusual syndrome called “Pinocchio” syndrome. The fictional syndrome doesn’t refer to a wooden puppet with a long nose, but a person who is unable to lie without hiccuping. Tailor-made for a show about reporters, being a “Pinocchio” means one also hiccups when withholding the truth and even when one merely has doubts. In the real world, a person plagued with Pinocchio syndrome would be hiccuping nonstop. In the show, Park Shin-Hye and the writers make it fairly believable.
Choi Dal-Po is the main character and played by Lee Jong-Suk. Lee adds such heart to his acting, making it easy to connect with his character, who balances between being the scared and angry little boy that he was, and the brave and thoughtful young man he has become. Park Shin-Hye plays his best friend Choi In-Ha. The first few episodes deal with a lot of back story and their time in high school and then the show launches into high gear when both decide to be reporters, In-Ha because her estranged mother is a famous reporter, and Dal-Po, because he wants to answer the question of what a journalist is.
Pinocchio is real and surreal at the same time. It’s a story attempting to get at real truths while highlighting its own fairytale aspects, from the slightly exaggerated characters to the episode titles, to the magical winter setting. As a person who has read countless books and watched an embarrassingly large number of movies and TV shows, I can tell you that in my view it is a near-perfect story. If there is a misstep it is only in the beginning episodes in which it first appears to be a high school knock off of Slumdog Millionaire. The cast is huge, due to the number of reporters and journalists from the fictional broadcasting stations, MSC and YGN, but a few of the smaller players manage to steal all of their scenes, especially Lee Yoo-Bi as feisty rookie Yoon Yoo-Rae, and Min Sung-Wook (No Tears for the Dead) as veteran “stick-it-to-the-man” reporter Jang Hyun-Gyu. Other standouts are Lee Joo-Seung, who rocks as a young world-worn police detective, Kim Hae-Sook (The Thieves) as business chaebol Park Ro-Sa, and especially Jin Kyung, whose deadpanned expression is vital to reporter Song Cha-Ok.
Pinocchio is not so much the story of all reporters, but that of reporter Song Cha-Ok. Song is a successful reporter who has sold her soul to get where she is. Throughout the show, the question changes from, “What is a journalist?” to “Can dishonest journalist Song Cha-Ok be redeemed?” The Pinocchio angle comes into play when Song’s estranged daughter, In-Ha, a Pinocchio, decides she wants to be a reporter. This is not possible, in Song’s opinion, because the very nature of the job requires her to lie from time to time, even if the lies are lily white (as in needing to be undercover for a story).
Choi Dal-Po, who has been very, very wronged by Song’s irresponsible past reporting and by another “Pinocchio,” has a more scathing view of not only journalists, but also Pinocchios unable to lie: In one early scene he excoriates both as not comprehending the enormous duty they have to the public. By default people will always assume that both are telling them the truth, and that is not a status to be flippant about. Throughout the series both Dal-Po and In-Ha learn just how complicated it can be to tell the truth with no agenda.
Although the show delves only shallowly into the full political ramifications of what the News media’s lies do to society, it is a relevant story in our time of constant media spin, obfuscation, and outright falsehood. These days more and more people are waking up to the fact that the media as a whole has its own agendas apart from just giving us the truth or facts. They exaggerate and make false claims in order to get more viewers or readers, they outright campaign for certain candidates while at the same time proclaiming that they are not biased, they insert themselves into the story where it is not pertinent, and so on and so forth.
My Take on the Media
The second time I watch Pinocchio, this time in order to review it, it struck me how timely the stories is in this age of news media, mass media, social media and new media. Truth and lies are simultaneously rampant.
Sometimes I wish I could go back to being a kid when I thought the reporters I saw on TV every night were giving me facts and truth. I wish I could go back to a time when I had no idea I was being lied to, but I can’t. Once you see the media’s lies and bias, you can’t un-see them. I now know that a lot of the American news media not-so-secretly (anymore) detests the regular, hardworking people of this country. I now know that many, if not most, reporters are in it for the fame or the money or to further an agenda, but not in it for sharing the truth. The news sources I read and listen to now, openly share their biases and their agendas. I like that honesty and I think its better than media pretending a false neutrality they do not possess.
This U.S. Presidential Election cycle has been interesting largely due to Donald Trump. Had he not run, it would have been same old-same old, and the Republicans would have folded to the media’s lies as usual. He’s done a great service highlighting (for those who have eyes to see) just how untruthful and agenda driven most of our news is. In addition, he brilliantly decided to run as a Republican, effectively showcasing those who claim to care about conservative ideals and the country, but really are only concerned with their own power and sphere of influence. He’s also laid a death blow to political correctness, the media’s biggest weapon in their agenda against anyone who, well, disagrees with them.
Over the years I’ve found some news sources or interesting perspectives that cover a different view of the world than the MSM, or mainstream media. More importantly, these sources point out the inherent, usually Leftist bias in most of the MSM. The sources I go to are biased, but openly so, and I respect them for that. They don’t pretend objectivity, like CNN, or Fox News, or any of the other major cable networks. The truth is that all news sources and all reporters and journalists have bias. A good consumer of the news should gauge to what degree bias affects what stories the news source covers and how the story is related or “spun.” Each person has to decide for themselves whether a news source is trustworthy—and often this takes time to tell—and whether the spin is helping to accurately understand the stories shared, or whether it is promoting a narrative (Hillary must be elected! for example) only.
Today, because of political correctness, the greatest danger in any reporting is what people have coined as “virtue signaling,” that is claiming to care about something only for the sake of those in earshot. It’s a quick ego boost that we are all guilty of from time to time, but lately, is running rampant, especially in the news media. We can see it everywhere from the push to continue bad, expensive programs to “save the poor!” or “save the planet!” despite factual evidence that the programs are not realistic and often harm those they intend to help. Pushing on despite the reality is virtue signaling, not actual virtue. This is a big reason the current presidential campaign has been so torn and bitter. People care more about a “nice” tone than the facts a candidate is presenting. Vice-versa, if a candidate is well-mannered, for many that covers over any multitude of sins and I can’t help but think of all those people who knew serial killers and say, “Oh, but he was such a nice young man.” What does it take to wake up from this? How do we get back to substance?
Here’s my story:
In 2006 I was living and teaching English in China and went to friend’s house in Hong Kong for a few days. They had cable, which I hadn’t watched in a few years. During breakfast Headline News (at least I think it was that) was on with a guy named Glenn Beck. I always assumed (because of past experience) that any MSM outlet was liberal or Leftist in bias (thought I still didn’t know how much it affected their reporting), so I was surprised to find him saying and talking bout things that I was interested in and agreed with. Beck became a hit on talk radio and eventually landed a show on Fox News. His popularity largely stemmed from discussions and facts on history, things that put into perspective the upheavals in tradition that still are being overthrown in America and around the world. The great political struggle of the world was presented not so much as Right vs. Left, but Liberty vs. Tyranny.
For the first time, I really contemplated that the Nazis were national socialists, what that meant, and, why for so many years they had been painted as right wingers. And then I couldn’t stop seeing it, I, and many others. We couldn’t stop seeing the obvious Leftist bias in nearly all of the mainstream media’s reporting. This is something we intrinsically knew, but had never really faced head-on. I give Beck much credit for sharing a lot of these things and also promoting the American ideal, the American dream, and so on. For the first time, I understood why everyone in college was obsessed with Che Guevara, why by default, most college student were perceived Socialism as good, why everyone had a desire to show how “multicultural” they were, and why everyone seemed so concerned with the sins of America, their own country. I finally understood that all of the media was lying every single day, and that their lies slanted sharply to the Left because that’s where the power is.
The kicker was, it wouldn’t have been such an big failing if the media had simply been willing to self-evaluate and be honest about their views and how it affected their reporting. I also saw a bigger issue behind that: culture. American pop culture is now almost always for big government and always, again, slanted to the Left.
If the news media has a problem with virtue signaling, don’t get me started on pop singers, Hollywood stars, artists, and the like. (So many Christians in the early 00’s near-worshipped U2’s Bono due to cultural virtue signaling. I was floored to find out that he’s only give 1% – one percent!! – to charity. This, for me, is Leftism in a nutshell, it sounds so moral, so virtuous, but in the end, it’s just a cash grab not much different than selling indulgences for a ticket to heaven.
Back to Beck. I don’t listen to Beck now, and it’s same for a lot of former listeners. It wasn’t just that he betrayed his message, he fell prey to virtue signaling of the worst kind. And I’m left having to consider that he never really cared at all. People who never liked him to begin with will probably snicker and say, “see, told ya,” but they likely never listened to him anyway, only swallowed the articles and stories biased against him. I don’t say this to be mean or bitter, I say it because it’s the truth. Few people (largely on the Left, some on the Right) who disliked Beck and his message a few years ago actually took the time to listen to him and to understand why people thought his show was appealing. Many who did like him found his show informative and entertaining. I can’t go back in time, to see, knowing what I know now, if I would have that same opinion. I have to say his constant crying first started to turn me off. It’s not that men should never cry, it’s just rare that anyone, male or female, would regularly cry on a cable news TV show. I had hoped the tears were evidence of his sincerity. That hope proved false.
So how did Beck fall? I, along with many of his former listeners, would say it was back in 2014, the summer we had the big crisis of children arriving at our Southern border from Central America. They came by the thousands and it was at this same time that I began to see friends and acquaintances post that they cared so much about those kids. They cared more for those kids than their own families and countrymen, more than their neighbors’ welfare and safety, more than the rule of law, and more than our national sovereignty. It was a great time of PC rearing its ugly head. If any of us had forgotten that PC dictated our daily lives, bleeding-heart virtue signaling brought us back to remembrance with a jolt. It was surreal to see people I thought I knew fail to critically consider our open border situation. I think they just wanted to sound like nice, caring people, the trouble is, it was just a veneer, but they couldn’t seem to see it, and were untroubled by their flippant disregard for the very real and serious safety concerns of their fellows citizens. And anyone who called them out on it was not playing “nice.” I began to recall that the original meaning of “nice” was “foolish,” and since then have become increasingly suspicious of calls for “niceness” or criticisms that people who are telling truths people don’t want to hear are not “nice” enough in manner or tone.
At first Beck stuck to his previous line. America’s sovereignty and the safety of its citizens is more important than letting anyone and everyone in across the border. He indicated to have disregard for our borders was not kindness, but reckless both regarding our safety and the safety of those trying to get in illegally. And then something switched and he was all of a sudden concerned that he was encouraging all of his viewers to hate these kids, or something. Maybe he read too many troll internet comments? Who knows. At any rate, it became his mission to show that conservatives were not heartless (giving in to Leftist claims that we were heartless), that we cared about these kids, and that caring meant letting them stay at the border instead of sending them home.
This was such an about-face it left people baffled. Just a few weeks, perhaps even a few days earlier (I don’t really remember) he’d been proclaiming that we needed to have a realistic view of the situation. That simply letting the kids in would only mean more would come, etc., and so on. That we shouldn’t let our emotions overcome the facts in the situation. Then he jumpstarted a plan to bring soccer balls and teddy bears to the kids being held at the detention centers along the border. This was to show the Left that, see, conservatives care. Although the detention centers were a bit overwhelmed, none of the kids or people held there were being treated inhumanely, yet suddenly Beck seemed to think they were. Even more troubling was that he started to turn on his listeners, saying that those who disagreed with what he was doing didn’t care about the children. He started using Leftist arguments against his own followers and even crowed about those Leftist celebrities and journalists who gave him a shoutout for appearing so nice and caring (I stress “appearing”).
Beck had stepped up into the self-labeled cool club and, I think, never looked back. Even more alarming, was the fact that Ted Cruz joined him on his gift-giving trip. This was a big judgement fail on the part of Cruz, and it was the first time I questioned how smart of a politician he really was. It also made Beck’s early professions early in the 2015 primaries that he hadn’t yet chosen a candidate to back, ring a bit hollow. I doubt few were surprised that he ended up becoming a spokesperson for Cruz. That Cruz allowed him to become so despite his increasingly erratic behavior, was another glaring error in judgement. After that incident, I didn’t listen to Beck quite as much, though I did still follow him on Facebook and also read his news site The Blaze from time to time, because they often had stories no one else did.
Enter Donald J. Trump. Still mostly a fan of Cruz, I rolled my eyes when I heard Trump was running. But, what I knew of Trump up to that point, was what the MSM had told me. He wasn’t something the more right-sided news sources I’d started listening to had covered much, save for his strange quest to weed out Obama’s long-form birth certificate. Even today, I’m not really sure what was going on there. Was Trump already beginning to run for president at that point? Did he truly have insider information the rest of us did not? It ended with no revelation from Trump, but in Obama releasing a document some say is forged. Who knows? It was strange, and that was my opinion of Trump. He was strange.
And then I listened to his speech on the border and immigration, and I was fascinated that he seemed to get it. That he seemed to get that something was really wrong with the U.S. not securing their southern border. And he also offended Mexicans and virtue signalers, most of whom did not take the time to examine what he actually said or why he said it. Suddenly Trump wasn’t “nice” and that was the same (for many) as being Adolf Hitler. Trump also, interestingly, refused to go on Glenn Beck’s show, and thus began months and months and months of Beck tearing down Trump every chance he got. For some reason, Trump made him lose his mind. Beck lost any and all objectivity when it came to Trump, as did many, many others. And it lost them readers, viewers, and followers in droves.
Their anger of those against Trump seemed not fact-based so much as it was virtue signaling. People who had, say, a basic understanding of business, seemed to lose that understanding when Trump’s bankruptcies were mentioned. It was as if no one in business had ever failed, and one failure was a terminal failure of a person for the rest of their life. Okay, not “a person,” Trump. Beck began to bleed, and bleed, and bleed viewers, and in response he doubled and tripled down on how nasty Trump was.
At this time Beck and others, formerly pretty decent to their fellow man, turned with an onslaught of hate, spite, and anger directed not at Trump, but at his supporters. This was because Trump supporters were not being good little children and doing as they were told, to support Cruz or Rubio or anyone on the ticket but Trump. That Trump was fulfilling all of their hopes and dreams at bringing more people to the Right, that for the first time someone running actually seemed to care about the country and its citizens, vs. the rest of the world, didn’t seem to matter. And suddenly, for a lot people, figurative scales fell from their eyes.
The conservatives nearly spitting mad didn’t really care about their country, and they had no respect for someone choosing a different candidate, instead painting them as “angry” and “crazy,” not necessarily in that order. These Never Trumpers preferred virtue signaling and pretending that everything would continue as normal when our country was hurting and wounded on multiple fronts. That people didn’t agree on Trump being a candidate wasn’t really a problem (that happens all the time in politics), what was unusual is the outright anger against those who supported him. Gone was the previous “nice” ideal that even though people supported different candidates for the Republican ticket, they were generally on the same side as far as concern for the country. For some baffling reason it became important to many not only that Trump say the right things, but that he say it a certain way. A “nice” spin was wanted where brutal truth is what we needed.
And Beck could not be trusted.
These days he’s spending his time still targeting Trump and encouraging people to “vote their conscience” (code for not-Trump) in a race where if Clinton wins, it really could be the end of liberty in this country. We’ve seen fact after fact after fact of her dishonesty, her treason, and her disregard for anything but her own power and wealth. But we mustn’t vote for the man who could stop her, oh no, we must vote for “nice” people, people who will continue to sell out this country’s wealth and sovereignty for political correctness and money for themselves. I now doubt Beck’s sincerity. I doubt his trustworthiness, and I really doubt his claims to moral superiority (being “nicer” than Trump) because in the next moment he plasters Cheetos on his face trying to turn his skin as orange as Trump’s. Because that’s what “nice” people do, I guess.
The relaying of this is not to bash Beck, but to show how extreme bias prevented him from looking at Trump critically, but fairly. I tell it also as a way of explaining how trust in a media source is lost. It happens in a variety of ways and is different for everyone, but that’s one way it happened for me. The rest of the media lost me largely during the Bush years when I realized they just didn’t care about the truth. They cared about putting Democrats in power. No quarter was shown to Bush, while people on the Democrat side were given endless benefits of the doubt. All while the media pretended it was objective.
Bush himself didn’t impress me in the fact that he seemed to think if he never addressed their attacks, they would just go away. He did this even when it gave the Left more and more fuel for the next presidential race. McCain and Romney ran, neither of them putting up much of a fight, though, making sure to appear “nice.”
This, I think, is the big reason Trump ran as a Republican. A lot of people knew that something was wrong with the party, we just didn’t know what. It took Trump to show us what we couldn’t see: Many Republican politicians will not fight even with the country’s welfare at stake. They are too happy to go along to get along, too happy to think that the gravy train will never end for them, too happy to continue to believe their fellow Republicans are suckers, too happy to believe that nothing is worth rocking the boat for, too happy to believe that nothing is worth ticking off the media for, and too happy to believe that “nice” lies are more important than the “offensive” truth. Trump is a fighter and he knows that America is something worth fighting for and that is why he is winning the support of millions of his fellow citizens.
If you’ve read this far, my hat’s off to you, and if you’ve read this far and are not a Trump supporter, double thumbs up for at least reading a different perspective. I can’t ultimately tell you who to trust, either in the media or in politics. I can, however, tell you with certainty that both the media and politicians lie to you all the time, and they do it on purpose. Pinocchio plumbs some of the depths of deception, but not all. It considers that news reporting can be redeemed, but the reality is, it can only be redeemed if reporters and journalists are dedicated to telling the truth, and first and foremost, the truth of their own biases and agendas. It can only be redeemed if journalists begin to consider that the truth is more important than the political correctness of the day. It can only be redeemed if journalists consider the real power allotted to them. By default, people believe journalists and reporters are presenting them with facts and truth. The internet is rapidly shattering this default, as insta-news from fellow citizens now showcases the constant spin and obfuscation the media puts on everything. People are getting new narratives, and starting to question the old ones, like why, CNN, for example, should have any claim on their trust at all.
To end, here is a list of some of the sources I follow. They are nearly all Right Wing and/or Libertarian, but they give different perspectives on things than the MSM, and can be a good place to start in comparing sources. I trust them for the time being, but it’s always possible they will do something to break that trust. Some I used to trust, like Beck, lost me because they couldn’t report fairly on Trump. Their anger against him clouded their judgement. If they are critical, but fair, they are still on my list. The general media is, by default, on the side of the Left. I don’t know if this is because Leftists are currently in power or if it has always been so. I think the best shift for news media would be for both sides to be represented more equally. This shift is happening, not by force of government, but by the blessings (and curses) of the internet, by Youtube channels, and blogs. Because New Media threatens government power, be on the lookout for calls to suppress many of these people and the views they hold.
One final rule of thumb in deciding who to trust: Follow the money. Monetary gain is the first order of business in the news business.
In no particular order:
breitbart.com – One of their heads has now joined Trump’s campaign, so I will be checking to see that their bias for Trump doesn’t take over in holding him account if he does become president.
Breitbart writers I like:
Rush Limbaugh – Great at highlighting MSM bias, has been more or less fair to Trump, even though he doesn’t appear to be a huge supporter. Realizes it’s more important to defeat Clinton.
Michelle Malkin – Twitchy
Thomas Sowell – Okay, he lost his mind a bit over Trump, too, but is still good on other matters.
Charlotte Iserbyt – Eye-opening research into government-run education — see YouTube
Dennis Prager – Prager University – thought-provoking videos.
Stefan Molyneux – “Not an Argument!” – Educating on how to debate – big on the facts.
Sargon of Akkad – This Week in Stupid
Paul Joseph Watson – Infowars
Alex Jones – Infowars
Vox Day – Alt-right – also, fantasy writer
Rebel Media – Canadians! – free speech!
Dave Rubin – The Rubin Report
American Thinker – offers a variety of articles from different writers. Pro-Tump or Anti-Trump depending on the day
The Conservative Treehouse – This site is unabashedly for Trump, thus they have very enlightening articles on media bias against him and for Clinton.