• Posted: Feb 14, 2010 16:32:20
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NPR recently did a piece noting a nearly forgotten fact in the history of U.S. journalism. Not so very long ago it was normal practice for most major newspapers in this country to not only advocate for, but sometimes fabricate so called "news" to suit, a very specific political agenda. That reality has been nearly forgotten because for most of the past 50 years so called "establishment journalism", led perhaps by well respected figures like CBS's Walter Cronkite, has attempted to take a middle of the road mostly dispassionate view of things. The assumption has been that the reading voting public has a right to be truthfully informed of all salient aspects of issues in order that intelligent discussions can ensue and effective decisions can be made. That's the kind of culture we wanted for ourselves. Those were the ideals we held for ourselves.
Disturbing to many of us who lived through those years has been the quite recent blatant move across much of media toward so called "advocacy journalism", a money making trend led by Fox, American Family Radio, and journalistically dubious figures like Rush Limbaugh, where normal practice is to select "facts" for their emotional appeal and usefulness in relation to very specific political aspirations. The underlying assumption is the public is incapable of judging importance and context for themselves and cannot be trusted to act where appropriate, but must be vigorously prompted to call or write their elected representatives "right now" in order that "very important" consequences can be effected. That is the same tact taken by very nearly every money making commercial over the same media: "Buy now and get one free!"
Free, free, free, the great American ideal. All you have to do is act now and, of course, empty your pockets. What is so sadly disturbing about this trend is that it makes money for some, but enslaves and impoverishes so many. Witness the consequences clearly reported elsewhere in the news: foreclosures, bankruptcies, unemployment, squalor, drug abuse, ill conceived crimes of desperation, and family violence. Victims appear nearly everywhere you look. And so do the no longer useful private spaces they've abandoned. Advocacy journalists sound delighted. Why? Because there is someone to blame: blame Obama, blame liberal Democrats. Act now, call your Congressman, call your Senator. But note no solutions offered, just rabble rousing rancor.
The sad truth is that untethered freedom jazzed on emotions is not a prescription for effective action resulting in sustainable constructive solutions to problems. Ask any psychiatrist. What would be nice to see again would be concerned citizens getting together at coffees or block parties dispassionately discussing what might be done to effectively solve shared problems. But, heaven forbid, that would be "socialism", or so say advocacy journalists. True, those who would seek to exploit, profit from, and enslave might, with foresight, be excluded. But, it wouldn't be waiting for an impersonal unwieldy big government to act on our behalf, either. Instead, we'd see free people, freely associating, freely discussing ideas and aspirations intended to create and propagate prosperity for many, instead of just a few. And wouldn't that be a novel thing to see again throughout our neighborhoods.
Wednesday, February 10th, 2010