After writing about journalists not being special, sometimes sacrificing truth and opposing for opposing’s sake, further reading revealed to me that some journalists act as they do because they believe journalists should be adversarial. Because of the belief that journalists are “defenders of democracy,” which in turn is partly because of the recommendations of the Hutchins Commission that I cited, they believe they should oppose something in anything they write. While I do agree some oppositional actions apply at times, such as during Watergate, the My Lai Massacre event and the McWane company safety negligence investigations, I believe many journalists today often oppose the wrong things and do it at the wrong times.
One of my favorite documentaries right now is BBC’s Synth Britannia, since I am a lover of 1980s synthesizer-based music. But this documentary also noted that some of the British press at the time, perhaps influenced by traditional musician groups and because electronic music was new at the time, were very harshly critical of such musicians. Gary Numan was mentioned as the first big star of the synth world, but be had a short career performing live. As Andy McCluskey of OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) said, “Numan’s career was shortened by the nasty vitriol of journalism.” And not only him. Martin Gore of Depeche Mode mentioned in the same documentary that they would get into arguments with journalists who believed that their music wasn’t real music. I’m also reminded of that Jingle magazine music writer who always gave Duran Duran the fly (lowest) rating in reviews, which angered many local fans of the group then. But it’s good these musicians weathered the vitriol and are still active today.
Perhaps these music writers have that tendency to be nasty self-appointed critics. They might be claiming, “we’re trying to save the world from mediocre and pretentious music! (by the way, I wrote about music in another article)” But that sounds a lot like social justice warriorism – the actual pretentiousness. Behind all that, they’re actually just trippy jerks. Some may argue, it’s not really news, it’s feature writing, so being trippy jerks in this field is normal. But it’s still rude and unbecoming. If they had training that told them, “journalists should be adversarial,” perhaps they wanted to apply this to non-current affairs coverage such as music. But it was misapplication, and such people came out as pompous and self-righteous egotists.
OK, so we’re not talking about music, but news. Yet, being adversarial is still overrated here. As I said in my previous article about opposing for opposing’s sake, opposition should only be done when necessary. It should not be a “trip,” nor should it be done for personal dislikes. Indeed, it has been admitted that adversarial journalism can be abusive, so it is wrong to claim that adversarial journalism is always right.
In fact, if you like being an adversary, it may be because you like to cause trouble and suit your own dopamine fix, rather than contribute to a peaceful world. It might even be traced to what’s called in the mental health field Oppositional Defiant Disorder or similar. Yes, opposition can be an abnormal thing at times. Besides, avid trouble-causers who claim to be saving the world are self-contradictory.
Then there are the “pilosopos” (smart-alecs) who’d say, “opposing for its own sake should still be done as an exercise so we won’t become complacent or too secure.” But is that right? Does not opposing something really encourage complacency? What if you go and oppose someone and you turn out to be hurting someone innocent? Isn’t that bullying? Is it worth doing that just to avoid this abstraction of “complacency?”
The problem with some adversarial journalists is that they might even be inciting violence against certain people. For example, Gary Numan said in Synth Britannia that aside from people who’d love him, there would be people who would just want to throw a punch at him, probably primed by what they had read to act that way. What if a writer actually said, “if you see that guy, go ahead and throw a punch.” That is not only defaming but encouraging crime. It would be wrong even if the target were suspects whose part in crimes has not been proven, such as President Duterte. In any writing, using bias to bring down someone for no good reason, or because they don’t suit your personal taste, isn’t good at all. While I believe it’s all right for people to express their dislike for something, the problem is when they express it in a manner that promotes violence and hatred toward it or encourages breaking the law.
Also, one can recall that this adversarial attitude of the press seemed muted during the term of BS Aquino III. A few pockets of voices raised the necessary opposition to him because of his obvious mistakes, but many still painted a rosy picture of him even if he had apparent connections to corruption. That had made many people suspect the press was on his payroll. Perhaps such journalists had chosen the the wrong things to oppose, and themselves contributed to increased distrust of mainstream news media. Kudos though to Oscar Pineda of Sunstar for taking up the adversarial stance at the right time with the then-president.
Perhaps it’s time to ask journalists, should you really be adversarial all the time? And are you being adversarial at the right times? Doing opposition just for its own sake is not only a waste of time and resources, but it also can betray actual malicious intentions. It’s probably even being done only for sensationalism purposes. And, here’s some food for thought for the egoists: opposing something by itself should never be cool. As I said before, stop trying to be cool, and just be honest.
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