If you’re reading this you know what it’s like to be bombarded with messages from all directions insulting us if we don’t trust the media. The elites would like you to believe that if one is educated, cultured and socially powerful, it automatically follows that you are obligated to trust them to have your best interests in mind.
Would-be rulers, such as today’s technocrats, employ professional communicators to promote their visions of how our lives should be in order to better serve them. One would hope that professional communicators entrusted with such power would demonstrate by their behavior the highest possible standards of ethics. Instead, lessons on “fake news” are being taught by people such as Hunter Biden, as if the name “Biden” is synonymous with ethical standards.
Are you curious about what is being taught in schools about ethical communications? I consulted some college-level communications textbooks from my collection to see what they had to say about it.
The textbook Essentials of Public Speaking calls on public speakers to “research information carefully, present only truthful information, and give credit for all ideas and words that come from someone else” (Hamilton 12).
Inter-Act, a textbook on interpersonal communication, asserts that ethical communicators are truthful and honest, possess integrity, behave fairly, respect others, and are responsible (Verderber et al 13-14). Later in this text we are exhorted to engage in ethical dialogue, which is said to embody “authenticity, empathy, confirmation, presentness, a spirit of mutual equality, and a supportive climate” (Verderber et al 161). Students are encouraged to build their personal credibility by refusing to adopt the standard of ethics we associate with manipulators and abusers – the end justifies the means. Credible communicators are supposed to “tell the truth”, “resist personal attacks” and “disclose the complete picture” (Verderber et al 266-268).
As explained in Presentations in Everyday Life, our Ethos is our perceived credibility as a communicator, and it may or may not match our actual Ethics, which ideally should include “truthfulness, accuracy, honesty and reason” (Daly and Engleberg 190).
In Public Speaking & Responsibility in a Changing World, the 2012 US presidential election cycle was praised as an example of vigorous public discussion proving that free speech is ethical and results in societies that are free to make informed decisions to govern themselves (Ige and Montalbano 5). The reader is apparently supposed to take it as given that freedom is a good thing. This textbook was published in 2013. I wonder if the authors would say the same about the 2016 election? Later in the book the authors argue against the use of “dictatorial or totalitarian persuasive tactics” and provide strategies for helping victims regain the ability to make free choices (Ige and Montalbano 202-203).
I could go on and on with examples of what professional communicators are supposed to aspire to, but you get the idea. With all the education they claim to have, it sounds like professional communicators as a group ought to be doing an extremely ethical job of informing the public about important issues. If they are so educated, why don’t they show us how well they absorbed their instructions on ethics?
How well do you think they are doing?
I found some links to examples of media criticism for your consideration.
“We Have a Great Story to Tell”: NBC’s Todd Interviews Clinton Without Asking About FEC Fine on Steele Dossier – It does not appear that either NBC’s or CNN’s ethical standards include disclosing “the complete picture” while communicating.
YouTube Removes Trump Interview for Violating ‘Elections Misinformation’ Policy – One of many examples of criticism pointing out how public discussion of election tampering is only allowed for certain political sides. According to communications ethics, issues are supposed to be discussed in a climate of “mutual equality”, “authenticity”, “accuracy” and “reason”. Are we getting that?
The Journalistic Tattletale and Censorship Industry Suffers Several Well-Deserved Blows – A critique containing allegations that today’s journalists engage in punishing free speech instead of promoting free speech.
WaPo Runs Piece Saying Elon Musk’s ‘Twitter Investment Could Be Bad News For Free Speech.’ Musk Fires Back. – Here is an example of a journalistic attempt to preempt the possibility of more free speech before it even happens. Does advocating against free speech encourage communications professionals to “tell the truth” or disclose “the complete picture”?
MSNBC opinion article ridiculed for warning about ‘fascist fitness’ – Is it responsible, empathetic or supportive to shame people who want to exercise by labeling it as a White supremacist, NAZI-affiliated activity?
GUNTER: More falsehoods about the convoy are now being retracted – The CBC has reluctantly retracted at least two false stories about the Freedom Convoy. Did the CBC research information carefully and present only truthful information before publishing?
Opinion: Misuse of the term ‘misinformation’ has muzzled scientific COVID-19 debate – We’ve all seen this happening – current journalistic standards seem to say that asking reasonable questions about anything to do with COVID-19 should be labeled as misinformation and banned everywhere possible. To my way of thinking that is not demonstrative of “reason”, truth-telling, or an attempt to help the public discern “the complete picture”.
You’re probably wondering to yourself, as I often do – how did we get to the point where there is such a huge gulf between the ideals of professional ethics in communications and actual practice by the most influential communications gatekeepers of our time? I’ll attempt to answer that question in a future article. Stay tuned, and stay skeptical!
Daly, John A. and Isa N. Engleberg. Presentations in Everyday Life: Strategies for Effective Speaking. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001.
Hamilton, Cheryl. Essentials of Public Speaking, Third Edition. Thomson Wadsworth. 2006.
Ige, Dorothy W. K. and Lori L. Montalbano. Public Speaking & Responsibility in a Changing World. KendallHunt Publishing Company. 2012-2013.
Verderber, Kathleen S., Rudolph F. Verderber, Cynthia Berryman-Fink. Inter-Act: Interpersonal Communication, Concepts, Skills and Contexts, Eleventh Edition. Oxford University Press 2007.