How far and to what extent can we trust the media? Should we assume the training in journalism has liberated them from arrogant subjectivity and manipulative instincts? We should understand that journalism is not a quest for ethics but just another tool – very dangerous one. A famous quote from Nineteen-Eighty Four says, “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” Who controls the media controls the present. The might of the media has not been challenged yet. Indeed the pen is mightier than the sword. The media are now one of the most powerful interest groups if not the most powerful.
I assume – hopefully you agree with me – the pen symbolizes reason and conscience that provide necessary checks and balances to protect our civilization from the ravaging sword. In the 20th century, it was the Pen, journalists who resisted the Sword of imperialism and the Cold War that posed a threat to humanity. But can we assume the Pen as absolute good? I am afraid that the Pen is not entirely incorruptible. History has shown that the Pen can be as hungry for power as the Sword. Perhaps the former is more destructive than the latter because the Sword controls human behaviors and the Pen controls human thoughts. The Sword tells us what to do while the Pen tells us what is right to do. The image of a future autocrat is no longer a stone-faced man in military uniform; a silly-laughing friendly figure surrounded by the press. Yes, the despot and the press come together.
Some people in the media industry believe they are given the power to indoctrinate their ideology into other people’s minds. Sometimes they come to silence our voices. You do not have to be a Donald Trump supporter to recognize the #fakenews media around us. Even the most zealous defender of the Pen would admit that a growing number of journalists and scholars are becoming manipulative. How has the Pen been so venomous? The cause is simple: Absolute power corrupts absolutely. If the pen is much mightier than the sword, why are we not wary of the rampage of the pen?
To me, the first moment the Pen proved its overwhelming might was the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution of the People’s Republic of China; the media mobilized the students to organize the Red Guards and Mao Zedong rose to power again. Mao controlled the Gang of Four, which dominated the media. The party and the media continued to mobilize the masses. The hierarchy was set clearly and firmly; the military obeyed the Gang of Four throughout the Cultural Revolution. The pen is mightier than the sword.
The depravity of the media is the symptom of autocracy, and it is why we must have freedom of speech. We should be able to criticize the media and corrupted journalists. When free speech is oppressed and the media become authoritarian, Big Brother is going to watch you. The Thought Police will no longer tell you what to think and what not to; instead, they will broadcast just one message, “You don’t have to think.”