I’ve been sifting through some of my older writings lately, and I’m astonished at how little things have changed. I wrote the first part of this in 2011, and the second part in 2018, and could have easily written it yesterday.
I’ve come to the realization that we no longer have a free press in this country. It used to be that members of the media were observers and journalists, more words on paper than celebrities in their own right, reporting in a hopefully unbiased way on the things people were already interested in. Slowly but surely, these journalists became entertainers, enjoyed their own celebrity, and integrity in the media gave way to money. Corporations with political agendas bought up news organizations as corporate geniuses realized there was huge money in controlling the information people were given.
The media no longer observes, it directs and orchestrates where our attention is paid. They (along with our politicians) participate in the circus to divert our attention away from real issues, and onto the latest inflammatory drama. The danger in the loss of our truly free press is that we as a society have lost the ability to exert any kind of “peer pressure” on members who behave wrongly because the sleaze in question is bombarded with attention, cameras, and “journalists” from around the world, making their idiocy into a career.
Little did I realize at the time how ill-informed I was. I recently came across this quote…and was completely shocked by the date at the end:
“There is no such thing at this date of the world’s history in America as an independent press. You know it, and I know it. There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinion, and if you did, you know beforehand it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allow my opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before 24 hours, my occupation would be gone. The business of the journalist is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of Mammon and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it, and I know it, and what folly is this, toasting an independent press? We are the tools and the vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the Jumping Jacks. They pull the strings, and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.”
— John Swinton, CEO, New York Times, New York Press Club, April 12, 1953.
All I could think was “What the F***???” Really? The CEO of the NY Times knew this in 1953? Why have I been laboring under this false illusion for so long? When I wrote the item at the top, in 2011, I thought that the phenomenon of corporate control of the media, and the complete selling out, were coincident with TV journalism and the instant celebrity of all who looked at us out of the magic box. That the sleaze was post-Walter Cronkite.
All I can say is that I think we want to be lied to. If we wanted our journalists to be JOURNALISTS, we would insist on it. We love the Great and Powerful Oz, and don’t really want to know what’s going on behind the curtain. And that makes me sadder than I can say.