The Downfall and the Fourth Estate

The stunningly stupid have formed into a sustained mob to destroy all of the pillars of our nation, including the fourth estate, the Press. I will admit, there are days I find much of our current media to be less than ethical, less than unbiased, in fact, at times extraordinarily biased. I frequently hope there would be some sign of solidarity, common sense, and reverence for what a free press means to a free society. I look for it, for just a glimmer, but these days, there is rarely even a flicker of it in the eyes of either elected officials or the common man.

Looking at the problem pragmatically is the only way to get to the root cause. The polarization and demonization of the Press have been in the works for decades. Since the days of Reagan and the rise of Cable radio and television, the US public has been inundated with partisan stations that make no bones about their affiliations. Many point to the elimination of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 by the FCC; however, the Doctrine only regulated terrestrial stations, not cable. One distinction between these, viewers had to pay for cable, whereas terrestrial stations were free. It should be noted, in 1987, the Democratic-controlled House and Senate passed the Fairness in Broadcasting Act, which would have enshrined the Fairness Doctrine in law and covered cable as well as terrestrial television and radio. Ronald Regan vetoed the Bill.

What is surprising to me, how easily those who may have started out wanting to be journalists fell into the trap of being spokespersons for one side or the other. Every day they sit in front of a camera and blather on with opinions and half-truths, feeding their audience what they want to hear and further polarizing the nation. I am reminded how far we have fallen as I listened to the names of the dead of 9/11 being read by their survivors. I am considering the difference of the nation in the days following that horrific day in 2001 and today; they are numerous and seemingly insurmountable at times.

On September 11,2001, President George Bush (R) was in Florida reading with second graders when Flight 11 hit the North Tower at 8:46am; four minutes later, his Chief of Staff Andy Carr informed him of what he then believed was a tragic accident. At 9:03am, Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower. Andy Carr advises the President that America is under attack within two minutes. At 9:30am, the President gives the first of many addresses to the nation in which he says, “terrorism against our nation will not stand.”

Yet, it does stand. In fact, it flourishes, driven on by media mistruth, misdirection, and outright lies.

The story of 9/11 is important because what American’s did after was come together. We came together behind the President, who gained his office under less than ‘perfect’ circumstances. We came together to mourn. We came together across racial, faith, and political lines. Imperfectly at times, our President had to remind us of our humanity, had to personally visit a Mosque and say these too are Americans. But the fact is, we came together as Americans.

Now twenty years later, look where we are, look at what we have become. As a nation, we are incapable of fighting a pandemic. We would rather see our neighbors die than take a vaccine. We would rather put our children at risk than follow science and wear a mask. We allow, even celebrate, a media that has so polarized us that we continue to tune in rabidly despite knowing they tell half-truths and outright lies.

Those we elect to high office tell blatant lies about the election, the pandemic, and everything in between on ‘News’ shows watched by millions. Yet, both the public and the media refuse to call them out. We listen as the media on one side of the aisle call police officers, who were beaten and abused during an insurrection, actors, and liars. We laugh; we repeat the lie despite the pictures of that day. On both sides of the aisle, the media continue to give hours of air and print time to the loser of the election, rather than call him what he is and his lies what they are.

Instead of sober coverage of world and national events, we watch as every media outlet beats their own drum to stir their base further into fury. Is it any wonder we are a nation divided? Whether it is the Big Election Lie, Covid-19, Vaccines, or the end of the war in Afghanistan, there is a common thread. The media is spinning at top speed 24 hours a day to keep their audience in a constant state of rage and ignorance. Whether Left or Right, whether only a slight lean or extreme, they all have one thing in common, the news is not what is on the menu. It is the spin and how to keep the entire nation uniformed, enraged, and polarized.

Worse still, we fall for it. As a people, we draw further apart and become angrier, our fury spilling over onto family, friends, and strangers. We give no quarter, creating an entirely new cultural phenomenon to account for our need to enforce the new wokeness. On both sides of the aisle, the media works hand-in-hand with those who, without facts, demand the destruction of others based only on their hurt feelings. Someone didn’t move fast enough, someone didn’t ‘recognize’, someone didn’t do or say something. Or frankly, someone is simply in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong opinion. It is no longer enough to mind your business and stay out of the way; your opinion must mesh perfectly. You must agree or be labeled, and the labels are many and terrible. You must abjure family, friends, lovers, and others simply for their failure to be in the right group, play on the right team, or by all that is holy, you must be … pick your poison.

The old news room

The protected Free Press is right there dragging themselves and everyone else into the mud, covering themselves in the glory of self-destruction and a nation with them. The truth is, no Right is absolute; it always comes with responsibilities. Yet, it seems in this case, the Press is unfettered and predominately left to its own devices. Enemy of the State? So it was named by the last President with few exceptions, and even those came under the glare of his ire when they failed to tow the absolute line. This takes me back to my original statement, the stunningly stupid have formed a sustained mob to destroy all of the pillars of our nation, including what was once a free press.

I am stupefied that we have fallen so low and wonder what it will take or who will rise up with intelligence, dignity and sense to begin the hard work of setting us back to a place where the fourth estate is a trusted source of information and even opinions come from a place of intellect rather than partisan vulgarity.

Comments

  1. Wonderfully articulated. News is more about ratings than integrity these days, and it sucks.

    • Thank you. It has been bothering me. I have watched so many of my friends and family fall down these weird rabbit holes. It both saddens and angers me.

      • Same. I’ve had to tell my dad to stop bringing up politics with me. He’s extremely conservative and I’ll never agree with anything he says, so I just told him to stop.

  2. The way things are, I don’t see much hope, unfortunately. Outrage sells, and “free press” cannot survive without cold hard cash, so it has to compete with other media outlets for advertising revenue and therefore for public attention.
    Maybe a solution could have been to create publicly funded media outlets that in no way would depend on advertising or donations – so not like NPR that keeps running donation drives and therefore has to keep its listeners happy to survive.
    But I think it’s too little, to late – I am not sure how many people are interested in hearing stuff that occasionally goes against their point of view when there’s so much out there to cater to every possible bias.

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