Saturday, August 09, 2008
Why Doesn't Our Democracy Function As One?
I've been reading and watching and hearing a lot lately about the problems that beset our democracy and make it in many cases ineffective in fulfilling its prime duty of serving the general good of our people.
When thinking about this situation, two words always come up: Money and Media. First, money in terms of corporate and individual wealth has almost assumed virtual control of most of the U.S. government's operations. Of course, as covertly as possible. We would not want to alarm or awake the sleeping peasantry. Who anyway, when awake, are too distracted to pay much attention, much less to try to see through the mirage the powers to me hide behind. Second, there is the Media which has as one of its prime duties: presenting the total truth to the people, and to offer insightful commentary when appropriate. Today making a maximum profit is the bottom line for media companies.
One problem is that media outlets: newspapers, magazines, radio, television, etc. want to make TOO much profit. Profit, yes, but too much profit will lead them away from their responsibilities.
Newspapers are dying out. The ones left are being bought out and becoming part of media conglomerates, e.g. the Murdoch Empire. There are only two large newspapers in the U.S. still family owned: the NY Times and the Washington Post. The Boston Globe, which even just 24 months ago, was over 500,000 circulation, now has dropped all the way to 350,000 readers.
In order to survive, those papers still alive, in general, have been reducing their news gathering staff (reporters) and giving early retirement to their seasoned correspondents and replacing them with cheaper novices. The result is less real news; more news items copied from other sources: news info pieces supplied for free by corporations, government, pr firms, etc.
Newspapers that used to provide independent, sound coverge of important local, national, and especially foreign stories are hard to find.
Jefferson said that democracy can only succeed if we have an informed and thoughtful citizenry.
Today we have citizens as a whole with not enough time, nor interest to find out what's going on. If they decide to change their ways --- where will they find what they need?
The internet is not going to be able to replace the role that newspapers once (and to a much less extent today) provided. There are no major internet sources with anything like the news staffs formerly found in large U.S. newspapers. The internet encourages quick perusal, YouTube videos, and images over print, impressions over thought.
Chris Hedges, formerly of the N Y Times. He was part of a N Y Times team that received a 2002 Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of global terrorism.
Hedges says---- The decline of newspapers is not about the replacement of the antiquated technology of news print with the lightning speed of the Internet. It does not signal an inevitable and salutary change. It is not a form of progress. The decline of newspapers is about the rise of the corporate state, the loss of civic and public responsibility on the part of much of our entrepreneurial class and the intellectual poverty of our post-literate world, a world where information is conveyed primarily through rapidly moving images rather than print.
Major television channels NBC, ABC, and CBS fail to cover important stories, or do so superficially --- focusing on lack of flag lapel pins, infortainment, snippets of this and that.
We have a lot of "news" of this and that bombarding us 7/24 much of which is advertisement of one sort or another. What we lack is independent, courageous, in-depth sources of news readily available for the average American. This is needed for democracy's survival, but it just is not profitable enough to make it happen.