Ethical consumption and media

Abigail Eck, Opinions Editor

We are a media-oriented society; thus, it is natural to draw the conclusion that what you consume in the media matters. As consumers, we have the ability to vote with our money and our views every day.

A staggeringly low percentage of the media in the 2016 election actually covered the ideas of the candidates. This is astonishing; after all, in a true democracy, candidates are competing on policies and ideas for the future of the country. According to “News Coverage of the 2016 General Election: How the Press Failed the Voters” by Thomas Patterson, there was an extreme amount of negative coverage, particularly towards Clinton. “Donald Trump was attacking the press, claiming that it was trying to ‘rig’ the election in her favor,” Patterson says. However, in reality, Clinton’s coverage ran 77 percent negative to 23 percent positive, and Trump 62 percent negative to 38 percent positive.

This is a clear, potent example of an important truth: journalists are no more ethical than anyone else. They are human too and just as susceptible to the pressures of consumer media as any other person attempting to make their way through the world. However, we can change this: if people are viewing and responding to pieces of writing that are effective, moral and appropriately responsive to the situation, it becomes more acceptable to write true news, rather than sensationalist clickbait, that propagate fear.

Here is another example: the sexual harassment claims coming to light throughout Hollywood. Hollywood is extremely rich, and ­— newsflash — the reason behind that is consumption of their productions. In light of these abuse allegations, how can consumers morally watch movies and TV shows that cast these actors when the very action of buying the movie results in more money lining their pockets, further affirming producers’ decisions to ignore the allegations so they can continue to make money? What does that say to the victims, that the public will continue to support their career without regard to the truth behind these characters?

This same idea needs to be applied to all aspects of media. Do you really think Trump would feel so powerful if no one was following him on Twitter and responding to his allegations and childish accusations? Would we be having a re-emersion of white supremacist pop music if no one actually showed up to those concerts or watched the videos on YouTube? 

Consumerism is how capitalism works. People cannot profit from creations and content that nobody is willing to consume. Every day we consume hundreds of ads, articles, headlines, tweets, photos and more; through our consumer view-vote, we have a voice. The media is a potent source of control in the hands of people in power, and as consumers, it is essential to show them that we will not buy into their fear-inducing, sensationalist propaganda. So next time you watch a movie, TV show or YouTube video; next time you retweet something or watch the news, be conscious about the message that is actually coming across.

This article was originally published in the Nov. 2, 2018 issue.