Integrity in US media

Carl Sagan once said “The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media”, even going on to say it presented: “a kind of celebration of ignorance”.

The problem is that much of what is presented in the mainstream US media today is short, bright and loud, so is it designed more to attract attention than to inform?

The beginning of the ‘dumbing down’ process started with celeb news. Flash cars, beautiful women and rich men make this type of news very viewer friendly, if not content heavy. The result is the rest of the news then looks rather drab and dull in comparison. This in turn has led to the addition of ‘interesting’ little details and commentaries slipped in to current affairs.

A good example of this is was in late 2013. Fox psychiatrist Dr Keith Ablow came on air and said that President Obama’s difficult early life had “led him to feel victimized, hurt and injured” and went on to say “There’s a real victim mentality here, and it really explains the president’s whole mentality and many of his policies.” Whilst his early life no doubt had an impact on the man he is today, this was a piece of supposition and sensationalist guesswork.

This sense of dramatisation of the news increases the need for stories to have baddies, drama and embellishment (like a Hollywood film), even within stories that are already quite exciting to begin with.

When reporting the capture of Joaquin Guzman (Mexican drug lord) in 2014, the Washington Post decided to add that instead of being caught in the mountains with his wife, he was in fact with his secretary. They then said: “An earlier version of this story erroneously said that Joaquin Guzman was found in bed with his secretary. He was found with his wife. This version has been corrected”.

So with the viewer’s attention becoming so hard to grab, it seems the integrity takes a back seat while drama drives the content. So is media is becoming less and less fact based, and more opinion, guesswork and supposition?

It’s not all bad of course: many media outlets are stricter with their content and it is more informative than dramatic.

The real question is, how long will these outlets last in the face of greater ratings for a Kardashian wedding than a civil war?

CIA black sites: offshore interrogation centres and an increasingly aggressive CIA

With details of the newly published report by the US Senate coming out, this 4 year investigation is shining light on some of the questionable interrogation techniques and the medical staff involved in the “safe keeping” of the detainees of the US Government.

Whilst much of the attention has been focused on the legality and usefulness of the interrogation techniques, many within the medical community have expressed concerns over the role of medical personnel in these interrogation sites.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) are a Nobel Peace Prize winning organisation that investigate and help uncover abuses around the world. They have called for an in depth investigation into the role played by the medical staff employed within the various US governmental departments that use interrogative techniques.

In the original version of the Hippocratic Oath physicians swore to work at the “convenience and advantage of the patient; and I will willingly refrain from doing any injury or wrong from falsehood”. Whilst the Hippocratic Oath is not legally binding, it is a guide and ethical convention that most physicians consider extremely important. This empathetic and caring responsibility seems not to sit well with the roles played by physicians in the CIA ‘black sites’ or even in Guantanamo Bay. This role is quite simple; ensure that the detainee does not die.

There have been several key personalities that have come to light as a result of the investigation, James Elmer Mitchell being one. Mitchell is a former US Air Force psychologist, where he trained interrogators in the SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) school. Along with former USAF psychologist Bruce Jessum, he was paid a reported $80 million to design and implement an interrogation programme aimed at detained suspected terrorists.

From what has been leaked of the report so far, it seems that physical and mental harm are not necessarily negatively viewed. Reports of 180 hours of sleep deprivation and hours of stress positions involving standing on broken or damaged lower limbs are emerging.

Dr Mitchell has been reported as saying: “I am just a guy who got asked to do something for his country by people at the highest level of government, and I did the best that I could.”

Appealing to patriotism is a popular move in avoidance tactics, but with the amount of noise coming from the medical community, this looks to be an issue that won’t blow over quickly.

World Hunger: Crisis and a plan of action

According to UN food and agriculture agencies, the number of hungry people in the world has fallen over the past decade. However, the number still stands at 805 million, a figure representing one ninth of the global population.

Some countries have been able to improve their domestic figures, but the number of undernourished people is a still a problem that needs urgent international attention.

Crisis

The fight against world hunger in 2014 has had numerous setbacks. For instance, the Ebola virus has taken its toll on food supplies reaching the affected countries.

Elsewhere, conflicts in Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic have increased hunger in those countries; with the need for aid clear to see.

Plan of action

Solving the issue of world hunger is not just in the interests of those affected, but is also good for the rest of the world. When a country is suffering from hunger throughout its people, this can cause a basic lack of productivity.

Economically, this hinders trading opportunities, costs millions of dollars and is eventually leads to even worse poverty. The desperation caused by such situations can lead to conflict, an issue, which can cost intervening parties millions of their own.

Looking after our own

However, it is not merely out of self-interest that it is important to try and fight world hunger. Humankind must learn to protect each other from all harm. Is world hunger an issue you want on your conscience? Or do you want to beat it?

We can help

There is no straightforward solution to combating this issue, every suffering country has troubles to contend with, and privileged nations must be willing to help.

Countries affected by disease must receive more medical attention. Only by getting the healthy back on their feet can the fight against hunger begin.

Development

In underdeveloped countries, where there is not enough food to go around, aid packages are a necessity; it is also important to promote sustainability.

We must make sure that people are taught how to gather their own food and treat their sick, so they can survive once the aid packages cease to arrive.

Finally, governments must learn to stand up to those who oppress their people. The issue of countries with economic wealth, yet a huge divide between rich and poor, need to be addressed. There is no reason for millions of people to be starving every day.