Woke Journalism is Bad News

When journalism becomes activism, we're all screwed.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

Woke journ­al­ism is way worse than par­tis­an reporting.

Is the news media par­tial to the left or not? 

In my exper­i­ence, I find the alleged lean­ing towards the polit­ic­al left amongst journ­al­ists to be accurate.

However, this only seems to be true when you see the news media as a macro phe­nomen­on; as soon as you move in a little closer, there’s no telling what you might find. 

All news organ­isa­tions present news skewed by ideo­logy, cul­ture, formats, and profit demands. 

Mass Media - Woke Journalism - Do Not Swallow
Image Credit: Allriot.

More journ­al­ists lean­ing towards the left is a stat­ist­ic­al out­come, not a rule of thumb.

However, unlike many PR pro­fes­sion­als, I don’t mind that most journ­al­ists lean towards the left. 

I find it reas­sur­ing that journ­al­ists are relent­lessly work­ing to expose vari­ous elites. 

Power and influ­ence don’t make us evil by default, but strength amp­li­fies the adverse effects of harm­ful beha­viour. With lim­ited journ­al­ist­ic resources, it makes sense to pri­or­it­ise accordingly. 

While I would­n’t cred­it the left for being bet­ter storytellers, they stat­ist­ic­ally have bet­ter stories. 

Ergo: I can live with a sur­plus of left-lean­ing journalists. 

But there are also extrem­ist vari­et­ies. From a news media per­spect­ive, one par­tic­u­larly haz­ard­ous per­sua­sion is where journ­al­ism aban­dons stor­ies about indi­vidu­als on behalf of sweep­ing gen­er­al­isa­tions based on demo­graph­ic affinity.

I’m talk­ing about woke journalism.

With an increase in social con­scious­ness and a rise in the mil­len­ni­al cul­ture of being ‘woke’, there has come an increase demand of polit­ic­al cor­rect­ness espe­cially in journ­al­ism. On one hand lies the decency of a report that gives journ­al­ists an author­ity to phrase their stor­ies in an eth­ic­al way using polit­ic­al cor­rect­ness. On the oth­er hand, it does hinder hon­esty or true free­dom of speech.“
Source: Political cor­rect­ness: An obstacle for media?

When we fil­ter news stor­ies through eth­ni­city, group beliefs, sexu­al ori­ent­a­tion, and ancient injustices, we get journ­al­ists pro­mot­ing a man­dat­ory dis­reg­ard of objectiv­ity on behalf of sub­ject­ive interests.

Yes, woke cul­ture and iden­tity polit­ics sup­port­ers will favour this report­ing. This blatant dis­reg­ard for the truth unites the left­ist woke move­ment with their ideo­lo­gic­al coun­ter­parts — fas­cism and pop­u­lism.

On social media, the coun­try seems to divide into two neat camps: Call them the woke and the resent­ful. Team Resentment is manned — pun very much inten­ded — by people who are pre­dom­in­antly old and almost exclus­ively white. Team Woke is young, likely to be female, and pre­dom­in­antly black, brown, or Asian (though white “allies” do their duti­ful part). These teams are roughly equal in num­ber, and they dis­agree most vehe­mently, as well as most routinely, about the catchall known as polit­ic­al cor­rect­ness. Reality is noth­ing like this. As schol­ars Stephen Hawkins, Daniel Yudkin, Miriam Juan-Torres, and Tim Dixon argue in a report pub­lished Wednesday, “Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape,” most Americans don’t fit into either of these camps. They also share more com­mon ground than the daily fights on social media might sug­gest — includ­ing a gen­er­al aver­sion to PC cul­ture.“
Source: Americans Strongly Dislike PC Culture

Imagine being a med­ic arriv­ing at a scene of a massive acci­dent with lots of wounded people all around you. 

Triage, the prac­tice of med­ic­al pri­or­ity, means that you won’t tend to those scream­ing the loudest first; they have enough energy and life spark to shout and make noise. 

If sav­ing lives is the medic’s pri­or­ity, they should pri­or­it­ise those who can­’t even make noise to pro­tect themselves.

If the med­ic, how­ever well-inten­tioned or right­eous, takes it upon them­self to save people based on group iden­tity, the whole med­ic­al sys­tem will quickly start to break down from within.

We’ve been here before — on col­lege cam­puses in the late 1960s, when stu­dent pro­test­ers occu­pied build­ings, mak­ing demands for cur­ricular and oth­er changes, and admin­is­trat­ors and prom­in­ent fac­ulty mem­bers gave in across the board. The stu­dents at Columbia and Cornell were lead­ing a revolu­tion from the left, and the author­it­ies who sur­rendered to them were lib­er­als. The lib­er­als fol­ded because they were ter­ri­fied of bad pub­li­city, but also because they felt shamed by the mor­al pur­ity, clar­ity, pas­sion, and cer­tainty of the young rebels. In all those respects, our news­room revolu­tions are fol­low­ing the same script.”
Source: The woke revolu­tion in American journ­al­ism has begun

It’s not a journ­al­ist’s job to pro­tect and pro­mote those who already have a voice and a plat­form. But woke journ­al­ism will always empower already strong voices over uncom­fort­able ones.

Suppose we allow the news media to become plat­form amp­li­fi­ers instead of plat­form pro­viders. In that case, we pave the way for cen­sor­ship, can­cel cul­ture, pro­pa­ganda, and dam­aging iden­tity polit­ics on both the far left and the far right of the spectrum.

The Spiral of Silence

Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann - Spiral of Silence - Doctor Spin - The PR Blog
Professor Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann (1916−2010).

Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann’s well-doc­u­mented the­ory on the spir­al of silence (1974) explains why the fear of isol­a­tion due to peer exclu­sion will pres­sure pub­lics to silence their opinions.

Rather than risk­ing social isol­a­tion, many choose silence over express­ing their genu­ine opinions.

To the indi­vidu­al, not isol­at­ing him­self is more import­ant than his own judge­ment. […] This is the point where the indi­vidu­al is vul­ner­able; this is where social groups can pun­ish him for fail­ing to toe the line.”
— Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann

As the dom­in­ant coali­tion gets to stand unop­posed, they push the con­fines of what’s accept­able down a nar­row­er and nar­row­er fun­nel (see also the opin­ion cor­ridor).

The smart way to keep people pass­ive and obed­i­ent is to strictly lim­it the spec­trum of accept­able opin­ion, but allow very lively debate with­in that spec­trum — even encour­age the more crit­ic­al and dis­sid­ent views. That gives people the sense that there’s free think­ing going on, while all the time the pre­sup­pos­i­tions of the sys­tem are being rein­forced by the lim­its put on the range of the debate.”
— Noam Chomsky

Read also: The Spiral of Silence

I firmly believe we need journ­al­ism of the clas­sic­al left, where the indi­vidu­al without a voice can speak truth to power. 

We need object­ive and brave report­ing in the face of severe reper­cus­sions from organ­ised, estab­lished, and insti­tu­tion­al­ised elites. We need journ­al­ists who care more about the truth than polit­ic­al correctness.

In short: It makes sense for journ­al­ism to lean toward the left. But if that left also goes woke, journ­al­ism will cease to be journalism.

Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing it with oth­er PR- and com­mu­nic­a­tion pro­fes­sion­als. For ques­tions or PR sup­port, con­tact me via jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

Additional Resource: The Culture War

How to Navigate the Culture War (and Avoid Cancel Culture)

Cancel cul­ture can be a chal­len­ging PR prob­lem:

Cancel cul­ture or call-out cul­ture is a phrase con­tem­por­ary to the late 2010s and early 2020s used to refer to a form of ostra­cism in which someone is thrust out of social or pro­fes­sion­al circles — wheth­er it be online, on social media, or in per­son. Those sub­ject to this ostra­cism are said to have been ‘can­celled’.”
Source: Wikipedia 1Cancel cul­ture. (2023, January 4). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cancel_culture

Public opin­ion often forces brands to deplat­form indi­vidu­als, part­ner organ­isa­tions, advert­isers, col­lab­or­at­ors, etc.

Deplatforming, also known as no-plat­form­ing, has been defined as an ‘attempt to boy­cott a group or indi­vidu­al through remov­ing the plat­forms (such as speak­ing ven­ues or web­sites) used to share inform­a­tion or ideas, or ‘the action or prac­tice of pre­vent­ing someone hold­ing views regarded as unac­cept­able or offens­ive from con­trib­ut­ing to a for­um or debate, espe­cially by block­ing them on a par­tic­u­lar web­site’.”
Source: Wikipedia 2Deplatforming. (2023, January 8). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deplatforming

Here’s how to nav­ig­ate the mor­al war as a business:

  • Avoid breezy grand­stand­ing. CSR- and ESG activ­it­ies should be laser-focused, clearly defined, and busi­ness relevant.
  • Internally, cel­eb­rate dif­fer­ent think­ing. Having cowork­ers who think dif­fer­ently is an asset to any busi­ness culture.
  • Don’t let the call-out cul­ture intim­id­ate you. Protesters are loud and noisy, primar­ily online, but they don’t have the num­bers to match.
  • Focus your PR strategy on the silent major­ity. Most of your cus­tom­er base will be in the silent major­ity, not in the extremes.

Read also: How To Navigate the Culture War

1 Cancel cul­ture. (2023, January 4). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cancel_culture
2 Deplatforming. (2023, January 8). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deplatforming
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.net/
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

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