Journalism is officially dead

Two hours ago Gawker reported that MSNBC and CNN, along with other media outlets and apparently random strangers were allowed into the home of Syed Farook and his wife Tashfeen, they are the two attackers in the San Bernadino shootings from earlier this week.

Since the story broke, I have watched (or read) in disbelief at the “reporting” that has been allowed on radio, television, and in print (digital or otherwise) that seems to have no basis in fact, but a predisposition to eyeballs as my friend Ken Evans wrote about yesterday.

But this is a new low.

In the video, you can see Kerry Sanders rifling through the belongings including personal items of the 6-month-old and even holding up things like Syed’s mothers drivers license to the camera:

I cannot even begin to tell you how wrong this is, but I will attempt to. First, there is the issue that this is still an active crime scene:

Second there is the matter of the photographs, social security cards, checks, and other sensitive documents (that were not exclusive to the attackers) that are being shown to the world live on MSNBC and CNN respectively:

You may be thinking that after what they did, this is all in the scope of “what they deserved,” but I fear you are not thinking about the precedent this is setting. The media has zero right to search your home, regardless of what you are accused of doing, or even did. Zero right.

Have you heard of Jeremy Bentham? He is known as the father of utilitarianism, the idea being that the best moral action is the one that maximizes utility which as a mathematic equation would boil down to this:

Action - suffering in said action = aggregate pleasure

At scale, it would be known as the greatest pleasure for the greatest number of people would be the measure of what is right and wrong. Pleasure, in this case, can also be known as well being.

The other thing that Bentham is well-known for is something known as the Panopticon:

The Panopticon is a structure designed originally for prisons and then later adapted for other uses (like your cubicle farm) where the tower you see in the middle allows for the guard or those in power to see into every cell, but not at the same time.

Here is the genius in the design, the prisoners cannot see into the tower so they never know when they are being watched, so they act as if they are always being watched. If this is reminding you of Orwell’s 1984, it should.

I bring this up because we are handing over a great deal of power and very little oversight to companies and trusting that they are working in our best interest and journalist should be the entity between us and a media panopticon. Journalist this week are not holding up their end of the bargain, at all.

At its best, journalism should be an unbiased look at the world around us in order for the public to use the lens in which they view the world to make sense of all of it. Does it feel like that is happening this week? Or any time in recent memory?

I know it is hard to have these discussions with a tragedy like this as the backdrop, but that is when these issues seem to boil to the surface. I cannot even imagine what it is like to be Muslim in this country this week and events like what unfolded this afternoon only serve to amplify that feeling.

The unfortunate thing about this afternoon is there is no governing body to hold CNN or MSNBC accountable to any standard of journalism or even truth. You may say the F.C.C. as a gut reaction, but they haven’t made a move to have any sort of oversight of broadcast television even before the deregulation that took the teeth out of the organization in 1996.

No, that falls on us.

If you are okay with Kerry Sanders going through your belongings this afternoon, please take a moment to watch this:

If you are not okay with what just happened on two giant cable news channels this afternoon, maybe do what I did — cut the cord.

Eric HultgrenComment