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June 30, 2008

Media Madness

The Corruption of Our Political Culture
James Bowman – ISBN – 9781594032127

“James Bowman compellingly argues that the contemporary reign of ‘media madness’ has been allowed to ‘grow and spread like some pest whose natural predators have been eliminated.’ This is a scathing, provocative, brilliant and useful book.” This jacket blurb is by a professor at the Columbia School of Journalism, and the editor of the Huffington Post. This is not a conservative commenting. Both he and the writer are liberals nearing the outer reaches, while clearly remaining in touch with reality.

It is a fascinating read--brief, challenging and informative. My only complaint is that he too often writes like a professor entangled in Derridaesque deconstruction. He emphasizes that being a journalist does not implicitly endow one with capacity to transcend one’s point of view and the cachet of objectivity (brilliant) and then delivers a 145 word, circular sentence with almost no punctuation. Other times he is clumsy: “History shows us no way of choosing not to fight, so long as there is still fight in the enemy, except for surrender.” Why not simply, if the enemy chooses to fight, surrender is the only alternative its continuance?

Caveats excepted, he is adamant about the insistence of the media-mad press that difficult and complicated issues of the day—war, health care, social security, etc.—are moral rather than political . . . and they occupy the high ground. Those who disagree are uninformed, imbecilic, or evil. No possibility of honest disagreement. This leads them and the rest of us to ponderances with those who share our prejudices and world views, rather than productive debates with adversaries.

The media has taught its consumers that feelings are more important than facts. A sage observed years ago that you may interpret the facts as you will, but you not entitled your own facts. Some things are simply true; even “fair and balanced” doesn’t make the grade, since giving alternate interpretations of feelings is not the same as stating the facts.

On the more arcane side he reminds that when Elvis Presley died there was almost no reportage. Compare that with Anna Nicole Smith of recent vintage. When and why did this all change? Media and markets!

They seem always to insist that everything needs be public. But they make anything public, which quite different. If everything is divulged there is little difficulty determining what to think, but cherry picking the data to skew interpretation is illegitimate. Contrariwise, not everything should be made available to the public; for instance, the media’s announcement of how intelligence agencies were tracking Bin Laden with his satellite phone or the banking links used to determine their funding. The enemy promptly changed operations thanks to those “little details” which no one really needed to know. Imagine that the 1945 the invasion plans for D-Day had been announced to the Nazis! That would have resulted in propagators tried for treason. Why not now?

Further, based upon nothing, they have decided that “root causes” exist, and are solely relevant, they proceed to share this wisdom in varietal (usually circuitous) ways. To whit, crime cannot at once be the root cause of poverty while poverty is the root cause of crime. Unfortunately, a majority is now convinced of this, despite the illogic.

Since there exists no natural check on media, it’s easy to presume that politicians are out of touch . . . but out of touch with what, as determined by whom? The president has information unknown to the press, and: “It is [in] itself a sign of detachment from reality to suppose that . . . any President of the United State is clueless about the things that are so plain to his journalistic critics.” The default setting of the media in our psychotherapeutic world is often pop-psychologizing, and it is as dangerous as it is ill informed. It is neither the administration’s job to be out of touch with reality nor the media’s job to point it out.

Since Watergate the press has appointed itself to make judgments for us, and explain them for our benefit, since they are intellectually and morally superior to both us and our leaders. These things can only be unmasked with a sagacity and shrewdness they alone possess. This is considerably worsened by intellectual elites who have followed suit, taking their own cracks at “Bushite mendacity, viciousness, corruption, and, with luck, criminality.”

And, finally (from the review standpoint) he observes the incongruous attitude of the media that the need for millennial achievement of earthly perfection leads them to conclude that nothing can be done until everything can be done. Addressing failing schools must await the elimination of poverty and crime; the third world mess is the result of European colonialism, which left it miserable, so there isn’t much to be done until it is corrected culturally. Media multiculturalists are committed to assumptions of equality between cultures, thus never consider the consequences of cultural differences. Attitudes notwithstanding, things are not always in our control. Utopian ideation prevents accommodation of the fact that these challenging problems are not well served by a little wisdom--which in any event cannot be expected from the bungling boobs in power who lack the imagination or intellect to address root causes.

It has become a point of pride for the people of the media to see themselves as not only without a party but also without a country. Agenda free, of course. Fair minded and honest to a fault.

I part with a couple of quotes from famous American poets:

“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information.”
T. S. Eliot

“A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.”
Robert Frost

Posted by respeto at June 30, 2008 11:58 AM