On February 15, 1898 the U.S.S. Maine sank in Havana Harbor, Havana, Cuba. At the time of its sinking, the US government was at odds with the nation of Spain. In order to increase sales of newspapers and to exploit the headlines of a war, William Randolph Hurst and Joseph Pulitzer coined what is now called yellow journalism. In short, that is the manipulation of facts to bring about a specific end.
To this day no one knows what caused the Maine to sink. Many believe it was a boiler explosion on the Maine. Others hold that the Spanish sunk the ship in order to threaten American influence in Cuba. Either way, war was most beneficial for newspapers around the US. Headlines screamed, “Remember the Maine” or another colorful rendition, “Remember the Maine, to Hell with Spain”. Articles around the US printed outright lies or at best exaggerated details.
This exaggeration reached a new level in recent years. Bringing back yellow journalism. A cursory view of main stream media such as CNN, MSNBC, FOX, or the New York Times will show any person paying attention, that there is an agenda that must be pushed. In the past few days, President Trump in the midst of a heated reelection campaign, can be seen on CNN with large crowds, none of which are wearing masks…for those in the future, this is the age of COVID. Turn to FOX, the same rally is shown with many wearing masks. Which is truth? Each seeks to push their view. CNN wants nothing more than to disparage Trump at every turn. While FOX does its best to support him.
Where does that leave the American people? As usual somewhere in the middle. Most likely the crowd at this rally had both mask and non-mask wearing individuals. Some might say, “what is the big deal”? Simply this, if the American people cannot trust the media, how do we know what is really happening? How do we know that we are not consistently being played? I hate to break this to you. I’m sure you will be stunned. The American people have not been able to trust the media since the Spanish-American War.
See we all approach every issue with a preconceived bias. We try to have an open mind, but we are a product of our culture, our age, our state, our nation, our gender, our…you name it and it plays a part of forming our approach to the world. So, what do we do in a new age of yellow journalism? As a Christian, I pray. I pray a lot. I ask God to give me wisdom. I ask the Holy Spirit to lead me into all truth. In the end I trust Christ to be in control of my life. I also remind myself, that in most areas of life, somewhere in the middle is probably where truth lies.
It is interesting to look back upon the Spanish-American war’s effect on our nation and our world. Following the war, the US took temporary possession of Cuba and the Philippines. We still hold Guam and Puerto Rico as protectorates. This war also gave rise to one of the larger than life figures in American history, President Theodore Roosevelt. It was here that Teddy and his Rough Riders rode up San Juan hill…another point of yellow journalism, they printed the wrong hill…but that is for another day and another blog.
Yellow journalism is a permanent part of our culture…for better or for worse…many would say for worse. So, the next time you turn on your TV, radio, news app or listen to your favorite vlog, remember yellow journalism is most likely lurking in the shadows. I can guarantee it is never going away.