I don't watch the news anymore, which isn't good, but I have no choice. The news is no longer the news and that's not merely sad, it's also dangerous for the nation. I wish I could say I have hope for the future, but I don't.
Unfortunately, we no longer have a free press. In fact, we barely have a media anymore. Most "news" outlets have become echo chambers. They merely repeat what the powerful say.
That's not healthy for a republic like ours. A free and independent press that reports honestly, fairly and unambiguously to the people is vital. I've heard it said that now is a great time to be a corrupt politician and I agree.
If Watergate happened, today, nothing would come of it. Pause for a moment to let that sink in. The worst scandal in our government's history and no one would know anything about it. For that matter, the Iran-Contra incident wouldn't even be a blip on the media's radar.
For years, newspapers had teams that dug for the details of a story Walter Cronkite never let a politician blatantly lie to them. The movie “Spotlight” told the story of one such team of reporters who learned about priests who were abusing children, had been abusing them for years and nothing had been done about it.
Due solely to the efforts of the Spotlight team, at the Boston “Globe,” the scandal was revealed and not merely in Boston, where the team worked, but all across the country. Special investigative units, such as Spotlight, are fading away. During Watergate, there was a term reporters used: "a non-denial denial." This was where a politician danced around the question of denying something by talking gibberish. The reason was simple: they couldn't deny facts.
That doesn't apply anymore, not in the era of Trump-speak. The Donald can literally say anything he wants, even something that totally contradicts one of his previous statements; even if that statement was his previous sentence in the same speech and vast portions of the media will not call him out on it.
It puts me in mind of 1984, by George Orwell. A politician is giving a speech, raging against their enemy. In the middle of the speech, he changes the name of the country against which he’s raging. The audience dutifully accepts his action. Now, I don't say we've become that bad, but we sure seem headed in that direction and it saddens me greatly.
Here is a truly important fact to consider. During Watergate, most people in America didn’t care about it. I was very young, but I remember the first news report about the break-in.
The first news of the break in wasn’t considered important. As the days turned into weeks and the Washington Post ran more and more stories, there was still little interest in the scandal. It wasn’t until Bernstein and Woodward truly dug deep, found the connection to the White House and the President that people sat up and took notice.
Such tenacious, dedicated journalism is what we need, now, more than ever. Yet, we seemed headed for a nation without that. We are going into a world that is not only fact-free, but one where anyone can make up any “facts” they want, and it doesn’t matter if someone calls them out on it. If someone says it’s a lie, the response will be. “Eh, that’s okay, it made my point.”
Wow, now that is truly scary, and makes me sad that I no longer watch the news. However, until the “news” once more becomes the news, I just don’t see any point.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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