Page Two: It’s Not That We Can’t Handle the Truth but That We No Longer Want To
The brotherly and other-ly love
Is just the thing for you
You know your Mothers' gonna love ya
Till ya don't know what to do
"Motherly Love," Frank Zappa
The above song the Mothers of Invention described as a "body commercial for the band." What follows appears to be a rant – well, it is a rant, but after the storm and swirl it is a commercial.
It's no secret that the media is being undermined by a broad array of forces, ideological and market. Mostly the vast audience disbelieves, insisting what they agree with is true, what they don't isn't. On social media every viewpoint is presented and insisted on. People too conveniently declare false news any information they don't like. Any possibility, no matter how far-fetched, is accepted as a probability. If it could be true, well then prove it isn't. And such possibilities, by existing, discredit any contradictory news.
News and information should be shared among the greater community. Right now it is a vast buffet with each person loading their plate differently.
The cacophony: The Russians interfered with the election – there is no proof, there is proof. The proof is from government sources, which we know have misled and misinformed in the past so they are questionable. The variety of sources insisting this is the case lend veracity to the charge – or are proof positive that it is a setup.
Assad used poison gas. Why would Assad do that? It was a terrible act by the Syrian government. The Syrian government had nothing to do with it.
The demand is for proof. But what is proof? Secondhand reporting, not the original documents, is judged by the source. Some believe Fox News but not MSNBC. Others believe MSNBC but not Fox News. Others trust neither.
In this free fall any opinion can and will become an accepted fact by some. A charge against a Republican is answered by loyalists with a charge against a Democrat. Often a greater charge, even if it is in no way germane. The defense is not to defend but to accuse.
Name-calling dominates political discussions. Call someone a libtard, argument over. Say liberals can't face the truth and you don't even have to offer facts. Declare one a Trump supporter, thus racist, thus sexist, they are equally damned. The brilliant counter move is to cite disdain for playing the race card or identity politics.
Believing in and advocating compromise, I am still partisan. The president lies; his supporters champion him. He is attacked; they declare it vicious propaganda with the absurd charge that Obama is behind it, orchestrating a smear campaign.
Trump bombs Syria. This makes him a hero. Finally he is presidential. Unlike Obama he is strong and decisive, showing the world that the U.S. is back! Does this action really have meaning in Syria, in the world?
Given Trump's impulsiveness coupled with his desire to be loved, isn't it likely that foreign intervention will become a fallback as his domestic agenda fails? "Cowardly libtard, misguided, traitor."
The assault on media, subscribed to by so many, is more an egotistical celebration of one's politics, beliefs, and opinions and less an indictment of news media. As much as mainstream news is declared broken it really isn't. But in a time of arrogant ideologues, the desire is for reinforcement of one's positions. Contradicting information is not just unnecessary but intentionally dishonest.
What is really sad about this whole dialogue is from all sides there is smug condescending partisanship. Americans thrilled to have contempt for other Americans, absolutely happy at the conflict, thrilled to show disdain. Neither side remembers to love the country, love the Constitution, relish that however much we disagree, even violently, we really all are in this together. That has been lost. Common decency is mocked, even the desire for it sneered at. We have lost the center.
But it has not always been so. Here's the commercial. Mike Nicholson and David Layton are making a documentary about Gene Roberts. In the early Seventies he became editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, then one of the worst newspapers in the country. Turning things around, it was soon one of the best. Speaking truth to power, offering comprehensive and superior reporting, it faced down the regime of Philadelphia mayor Frank Rizzo.
The Newspaperman, this documentary, is currently in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign (www.bit.ly/thenewspaperman). Sandy and I are executive producers on the film. Not because we will ever make money from it; we won't. But we believe in a free, aggressive, and outspoken press. This film reminds us of that importance but also what courageous and committed journalists can do. Many attacking news media now should instead be defending it; those insisting lapses are intentional propaganda should instead appreciate the difficulties of reporting. More than ever we need to come together. More than ever we are happily moving apart.
The Newspaperman is about the past but more it is a beam forward, into a future we all need. Right now, all around, voices from every side are happily cursing the darkness. It is time to start lighting candles!