There is no question that a free, honest and unbiased press is a great asset to any free and fair society. A press characterized by integrity demands answers to hard questions from everyone, regardless of political affiliation. When the press chooses sides, it enables those on the selected side to ignore rules and conduct themselves as they please, having no one to whom they must answer. Of course, this assumes that the populace is largely asleep at the wheel and not demanding objectivity in the press.
Unfortunately, the "mainstream media" and the American people have conformed to this latter description in recent years, but I see signs of the people beginning to recognize the risks to both political and economic freedom imposed by the continuation of a journey down that pathway. Like politicians, the press no longer enjoys the almost unanimous trust it could once take for granted. What has caused so much of the press to become biased and agenda-driven, and why has the partiality become so blatant?
I think the answer revolves around the fact that we as a nation are at a critical decision point. We are one or two national elections away from determining if we want to continue down the road toward "utopia," where all of our basic needs are met from cradle to grave, the only price being total subservience to the government, or alternatively, to reverse direction and go back up the road toward personal responsibility and embrace the "can-do" attitude and values that facilitated the rapid rise of America on the world stage.
The proponents of each of these lifestyles are convinced that they are right, and it will be difficult to convince them otherwise. Since many so-called "progressives" reject the traditional American way of life and wish to fundamentally change us, I think they have an obligation to fully engage in the debate about why their vision is better. Many of these liberals dwell in the mainstream media and seem reluctant to engage in serious conversation. Instead, they attempt to ask leading questions of their opponents, then distort the answers in an attempt to diminish their "enemy" in the eyes of the public. If they are successful, they never have to actually address the real issue for which they have no real answers.
It is encouraging that many people are seeing the light and ignoring the intellectually bankrupt assertions of these agents of resentment. We should teach our children and everyone in our spheres of influence to recognize these disgusting and dishonest techniques of any media, and reject them. As was the case on the third-grade playground in elementary school, it is best to ignore the name-callers and proceed with more important endeavors.
Over the past year, I have learned a great deal about the press in America. It is not uniformly unfair with nefarious agendas, but a significant portion is. One of the best ways to determine which news organization is objective and which has an agenda is to keep a scorecard that lists both electronic and print media. When evaluating a story, check off whether it is concentrating on factual reporting or demonization. If there is controversy, determine if both points of view are considered. If major stories of a political nature are ignored or barely mentioned, that should raise suspicions about objectivity.
My emergence on the national political scene has produced great consternation for many in the media who adhere to the "progressive" ideology. The fact that I had a very difficult upbringing and embraced the concept of personal responsibility and hard work, rather than dependency, directly opposes their narrative that people must depend on public support and must be loyal to the party that provides for their maintenance. In fairness to many of the liberals, because of that background and my storybooklike career in medicine, they considered me a brilliant role model and hero until it became clear that I rejected the liberal model of "success." At that point, they assumed I was a pariah who could no longer think for himself and obviously was a tool of conservatives. If they just stop for a minute and thought about how silly that sounds, they might once again be able to find some noble bearings.
Many have said to me that the mainstream media is hopelessly biased and cannot be reformed. I included an analysis of them in my latest book "One Nation," which is too extensive for this column, but the bottom line is this: No one is hopeless. We should continue to try to engage all media in conversations about important issues while rejecting their attempts at demonization and divergence. I think it is still possible for jaded members of the press to realize that they have a higher calling than blind and misguided loyalty to their chosen heroes, even at the risk of national destruction. Objective journalistic integrity can play a tremendous role in healing an ailing nation. The issues we face as a nation deserve the attention of rational, mature and objective individuals who have the courage to seek the truth, wherever it leads.
Ben S. Carson is professor emeritus of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University and author of the new book "One Nation: What We Can All Do To Save America's Future" (Sentinel).