Rather than expect The Press (much less the Mainstream News) to serve a central roll in preserving an open Democracy, it’s instead become the accepted norm to essentially absolve the News Media of any true social responsibilities by simply presuming that by being a reflector of Society, that the News Media is just providing us what we expect as Consumers. A more pragmatic view is that, aside from the bone fide Journalism that we count on from trusted sources, and the alternative programming from a handful of Public Broadcasters or Specialty Channels, the Mainstream News Media really isn’t developing or investigating many genuinely new issues or ideas. Instead the mandate appears to be simply stoking the stories that already exist into a biased point of view that caters to a chosen demographic, and thus pandering to base audience desires to gather as large an audience as possible in order to drive its Ad revenues.
As purveyors of packaged info (-tainment?), most Media outlets are simply taking breaking stories from their various central news agencies, and presenting them in terms that will appeal to us, on a variety of levels, all packaged with adoptable meanings, in digestible formats. This general approach continues to serve as a reminder that the News Media is often playing on our need to form “personal” opinion (for better or worse), and inadvertently reminding us how easily swayed we are by the powers of the underlying Government/Public Affairs and Public Relations campaigns that are being run in the background of these “news stories”. These stories rarely conflict with the more visibly apparent forms social engineering such as Advertising and Entertainment, that we can more clearly appreciate for what they more openly seem to be.
As savvy Media Consumers, who know full well that our collective desires are being played by the audience gathering methods of the old broadcast Media model, we can just presume upon our own good sense at this point. Our inherent ability to be able to see past the obvious commercial games, and possibly still looking for new channels to circumvent the broadcast mentality of Mass Media, and network ourselves together as Peers. Without needing to fall back on the vertical communications hierarchies that pillar around the Corporate and Political interests that support Mainstream Media. The same ‘Interests’ that clearly control these mainstream channels, and which to date have effectively dominated our perceptions of the world around us. Take for example how some of the most progressive subjects that we can consider as an Urban Society still wind up getting pre-digested, simplified into base instincts, and thus dividing us all into opposing camps.
Perhaps this general trend towards pre-packaged opinion continues (even in the leveled playing field of Internet-based Media) so that people can more easily identify those who are ‘with’ or ‘against’ them, as they either individually self-define their personal opinions, or simply auto-subscribe to pandering forms of GroupThink when forming their own personal views. Of course this type of social-engineering doesn’t have to be a permanent feature of Modern Civilization, and we can continue to see all sorts of examples of people breaking out of their pre-fabricated molds around key issues. Especially those issues where it’s quite clear that our emotions and latent frustrations are being played upon by those with deeper agenda’s to fulfill.
We recently looked at this phenomenon under the title “Us and Them” which pondered why we’re constantly having to contend with the seemingly opposing positions of Cyclists vs. Motorists vs. Pedestrians that Politicians and the Media seem intent to foist upon us. The recent dismissal of charges against Micheal Bryant in Toronto, as they related to his role in the death of Darcy Sheppard, has only served to emphasize the polar extremes represented by these two very opposite individuals. Although this case is now history, you can consider the ongoing destructive effects that this event has had on our Social psyche HERE.
That infamously violent and tragic event represented alot of key issues to the Public, but unfortunately the storylines that were prepared in the Press and Mainstream media chose to focus on the polarizing effects of ‘wealth and power’ versus ‘a dangerous and dispossessed Cyclist. As a result, what was squandered was a golden opportunity to take a closer look at the destructive effects of road rage (both the 2 and 4 wheeled variety), abuses of drugs, alcohol, and perhaps even ‘power’, and possibly even looking at the risks of a slanted legal system, and the Media that is clearly at it’s beck and cal via the PR industries that are in the supply chain where the Media draws it’s story materials. Instead we got to see just how effectively a PR company can manufacture consent around events to create public opinion to suppress information, and support any desired outcome. Ultimately, the lessor of two immediate evils won over the other, even if the other was unable to speak for themself. Yet we’re no closer to solving the social and ecological problems created by traffic, and the human weaknesses that present themselves as we all try to steer around the surface effects of congestion, and self-centered actions on the road.
Rather than wading back into that sociological quagmire, to try and construct something constructive out of that messy mud, let’s climb to higher ground instead, and try to take a more Pluralistic approach to solving traffic problems. Rather than trying to find ways to accommodate more single occupancy automobiles, let’s widen the scope dramatically and consider multiple options which address a longer term viability for all, rather than trying to create short-term solutions that satisfy the needs of some, at the expense of others. For a superb example of leadership in the field of Mass Transportation and Transit, let’s look at the homegrown initiatives that have been spearheaded by our local authorities here in Southern Ontario. Truly progressive initiatives that are either proposed or that have already been implemented to better integrate walking and cycling into the future plans for GO Transit and the Toronto Transit Commission.
So from a more wide-angle view of our worsening traffic congestion problems, let’s put aside our assumed right to drive around crowded urban roadways in mostly empty automobiles. Let’s also presume that the higher costs of driving that would be required to force us to re-think our current habits are still economically unacceptable, or at least politically unpopular. Instead let’s look at how Multi-Modal Transportation could still be the best groundwork to lay in the present, for a much more smoothly running and sustainable Society in the near Future.