The Texas board of education didn’t find anything wrong with a world geography textbook that said slaves from Africa were workers, but that immigrants from northern Europe were indentured servants.
This is the same school board that five years ago demanded that textbooks emphasise that slavery was only a side issue to the cause of the civil war, and that Republican achievements be emphasised in textbooks.
For good measure, the officials also wanted a ‘fair and balanced’ look at evolution versus intelligent design or creationism, and that global warming is only a theory, overlooking substantial and significant scientific evidence. Because Texas adopts textbooks for the entire state, and there is minimal local choice, publishers tend to publish what Texas wants.
Publishers in America, trying to reap the widest possible financial benefit by not offending anyone, especially school boards, often force authors to overlook significant historical and social trends.
Almost all media overlooked significant issues about slavery, the genocide against Native Americans, the real reasons for the Mexican-American War, the seizure of personal property and subsequent incarceration of Japanese-American citizens during World War II, the reasons why the United States went to war in Vietnam, the first Gulf war and, more recent, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Textbook publishers, choosing profits over truth, often glossed over, or completely ignored until years or decades later, the major social movements, including the civil rights, anti-war and peace movements of the 1960s and the emerging environmental movement of the 1970s. It was the underground and alternative press that presented the truth that the establishment press under-reported or refused to acknowledge, timidly accepting the ‘official sources’.
Textbook publishers aren’t the only problem. The news media have ignored or downplayed mass protests against the wars, whether Vietnam or Iraq. They have ignored or downplayed mass protests against fracking. And, during this election year, all media have decided which candidates should get the most news coverage.
There are several excellent Republican presidential candidates, but the media like the pompous and boisterous Donald Trump; he gives a good show. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton gets the most coverage of the three major candidates. The problem, of course, is editorialising by omission.
At one time, the media led the nation in unveiling social injustice and other major problems. Although they had their defects and biases, the nation’s media understood they were the system that helped assure a free and unencumbered forum for debate about major issues. More important, they also understood that their role wasn’t to perpetuate fraud and lies, but to seek out and present the truth. Seemingly in conflict – present all views vs. present the facts and the truth – the media also understood that newsprint and airtime should not be wasted upon being a megaphone for ignorance.
Now, their role is to follow, while pandering to the entertainment value of social and political issues and giving cursory glances at the news value. It’s not what the founding fathers believed and, certainly, not what they wanted. But it is, in the 21st century, the media’s vain attempt to restore profits.
This article has been excerpted from: ‘The American media: pandering to bias and ignorance’.