Most of us by now understand that the Mainstream Media are not in the business of the reporting of facts but rather in the shaping of public opinion.
Across America, 24 hours a day, the media enters our homes and lives not to inform us but rather to tell us how we should think.
Whether the issue is Global Warming, marriage equality or civil unrest in American cities..coverage is less determined by the facts than by what networks and reporters believe the story should be.
Journalism has become a profession peopled by social activists masquerading as impartial reporters of facts.
This however is not a new phenomena
In fact a study of papers and periodicals of the 18th and 19th century show wildly inflammatory and misleading opinion being presented as news.
The newspaper business of that day was a wild free for all, where anyone with the resources, could set up a newspaper or periodical and publish virtually anything that they liked.
Not much different from the internet of today.
However..in the early part of the 20th century journalism took on the mantle of a profession. Reporters and the media were now accorded an increasing respect. Schools of journalism were set up, guidelines and codes of conduct outlined and the media took up its self-appointed role as the fourth estate, the gate-keeper of western democracy assuring Americans that truth was their highest ideal.
Walter Cronkite changed all that.
Touted as the most trusted man in America Cronkites role as CBSs news anchorman took him into American living rooms nightly, to tell the families gathered there, the events of the day, signing off with the assurance And thats the way it is.
The public trust in Walter Cronkite cannot be underestimated.
Which is why his betrayal of that trust and its ongoing consequences is so particularly egregious.
In 1968 Cronkite traveled to Vietnam to report on the aftermath of the Tet Offensive.
America had already endured 7 years of involvement in the Vietnam War. Though Americans were tired of the conflict and there was rising concern about the initial decision to send armed forces, only 10% of those in public polls advocated for a withdrawal from the conflict.
American overwhelmingly wanted the United States to finish the job. The anti-war movement despite the modern day presentation was still largely regarded as a fringe movement led by student activists and hippies. Not unlike the present day Occupy crowd.
Tet. or rather the reporting of Tet, changed all that.
In the early morning hours of January 31, during the traditional Tet holiday truce, Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces launched a massive countrywide attack on the cities and towns of South Vietnam.
For the Viet Cong the Tet Offensive was a last roll of the dice.
Having sustained increasing casualties and loss of strategic areas over the last two years, General General No Nguyen Giap, the Supreme Commander of the NVA and Hong V?n Thi leader of the Viet Cong, gambled everything on one last major offensive. They believed that the people of South Vietnam in the face of such overwhelming odds would rise up in and join the insurgent forces in defeating the Americans and the South Vietnamese government.
Their gamble not only failed..but failed spectacularly.
Not only did the South Vietnamese fail to rise up but they fought ferociously in villages and towns to defeat them.
The North Vietnamese suffered horrific losses with an estimated 80,000 killed or wounded. American casualties by contrast were less than 2500.
Not one of the strategic objectives envisioned by Giap or Thai was achieved and in fact the massive loss of life proved a blow the Viet Cong never fully recovered from and to all intents they ceased to be an effective fighting force.
Into all this strode Walter Cronkite
Having commissioned himself to do a special report from Vietnam. Cronkite took his cameraman to one of the only areas significantly damaged during the offensive.
With the rubble smoking in the background Cronkite famously declared It seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate..
This was a massive blow to the American psyche already reeling from the sheer magnitude of the attacks.
Here was the most trusted man in America, telling his fellow Americans that the war was basically lost.
Cronkite did this in full knowledge that Tet was a stunning defeat for the North Vietnamese. Cronkite had decided, perhaps over a period of time, that the facts by necessity must become subservient to his own belief and desire for an American withdrawal.
Whether or not the story of Lyndon B. Johnstons response If Ive lost Cronkite..Ive lost America is true or not.what is undeniable was the erosion of public confidence in the outcome of the war.
Cronkites straying from reportage into advocacy had repercussions far beyond the removal of American forces in South Vietnam.
The journalistic profession sat up and took notice. Here was one of their own not just reporting the news but actively remoulding public opinion.
No longer would they be just reporters of world events now they would be the active shapers of those events.
A role they gleefully embraced.
The legacy of Walter Cronkite continues to this day. The media once the collators and promulgators of facts have become in the space of one human lifetimeThe gatekeepers of inconvenient truths. Only allowing outside that which serves their beliefs and desires.
Thus is our democracy weakened and the public trust made poorer by the day.