In Government We Trust, apparently
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Here's a fact to make you wretch -- The American public trusts the government more than the media according to a BBC/Reuters/Media Center poll released recently.
It makes me wonder if Dubya's putting some sort of short-term memory loss drug into the American water supply. I mean, hello? The reasons for not trusting our current government could be (and have been) made into several volumes of books: WMD, "Mission accomplished," NSA, Tom DeLay, Valerie Plame, FEMA, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. I mean, even Miss Mainstream Glamour magazine published an article this month uncovering the ways in which U.S. government agencies spread misinformation about reproductive health. I mean, what part of government do people still trust? Maybe the post office?
While the media world has certainly had its supply of crappy moments and characters in recent years, the evidence still seems to show that the news media at large usually contains a few more grains of "truthiness" than our current government. But, of course, when has evidence mattered to the American people? How silly of me.
As usual, Americans are the outsiders of the world in our trust for government:
Media is trusted by an average of 61 percent compared to 52 percent for governments across the countries polled. But the US bucked the trend â€” with government ahead of media on trust (67% vs 59%) along with Britain (51% vs 47%).
Trust in media was highest in Nigeria (88% vs 34% gov't.) followed by Indonesia (86% vs 71%), India (82% vs 66%), Egypt (74%, gov't. not asked), and Russia (58% vs 54%).
The U.S. stood out from other nations in other ways as well. This tidbit is from the results by country:
Attitudinally, Americans stand out from citizens of the other countries surveyed on a number of dimensions. They are the most critical of the news media's reporting of all sides of a story; fully 69 percent disagree that the media does this. They are also significantly more inclined to disagree (46%) that the media reports news accurately; and more likely to agree (68%) that the media covers too many 'bad news' stories.
One more fact to make you wretch -- Americans mentioned Fox News and CNN as the two most trusted specific news sources.
The poll had some interesting findings on internet news, revealing a definite public ambivalence toward the blogging world. Half of respondents were unable to say whether or not they trusted blogs as a news source. But then, blogs aren't really meant to fill the same function as newspapers or TV news.
The BBC put it well; blogs "exist to agitate, to question, to swap information, to provide leads and opinions, and generally to act as guerrilla forces against the massed ranks of the mainstream media."
I would add that blogs also act as a guerrilla force against government propaganda and public complacency. Guess we still have a lot of work to do on that one.
See the full report on media trust here (PDF).
Maria Luisa Tucker is a staff writer at AlterNet and associate editor of the Columbia Journal of American Studies.