Journalists as Guardians of Democracy

With the Fourth Estate under increasing siege by the powers-that-be in America and elsewhere, the public is being entertained by journalists singing paeans to their profession; as secular prophets speaking truth to power; as “the last guardians of our democracy.” While I concur with their appeals for the unhindered right to exist, these minstrels of journalism conveniently omit some rather important verities.

If a cornerstone of the Western political heritage is the right of free expression, the underlying political theory which buttresses that right also conditions it under the rubric “with the consent of the governed.” So if the ambassadors of journalism chronically abuse that privileged right by the selective reporting of the facts and of the news stories published (a.k.a. self-censorship), with hyperbolic predictions of immediate economic disaster which fail to occur (i.e. Brexit), or unsubstantiated and baseless accusations (i.e. BuzzFeed), scandalous slanders (i.e. Rolling Stones, Washington Post), yellow journalism, outright mendacity, and all the other cheap disingenuous tricks of the rhetorician; it should not surprise if the governed, in effect, withdraw their consent, and permit would-be tyrants to trample over this fundamental tenet and bastion of free civic society. Those, who have previously discredited themselves and their moral authority, will find themselves alienated and sociopolitically isolated, as the willingness of the public to come to their defense, even at the cost of life and limb, falls by the wayside.

The moral authority of the Fourth Estate, at least in the United States, has all but collapsed; even before many of its members decided last year to surrender all pretense of journalistic objectivity and intellectual integrity and devolve into rank propagandists. Most of its members continue to fail to recognize and/or acknowledge their unethical estate, let alone change, and who blame their woes upon a civically illiterate public for not buying their sale of damaged goods.

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Many moons ago, I was struck by the ease by which 20th century tyrants and totalitarians steamrolled over real and potential islands of opposition. Be it true, for instance, that Germany had lacked a long tradition of liberal democracy, with brief and aborted attempts in the Revolution of 1848–9 and arguably in the Peasant’s War (1523–4). But it was my conclusion that the ambassadors of the various islands of societal power and influence had so discredited themselves, even prior to the Nazi takeover, they could no longer credibly serve as rallying points of defiance.

Some of the best paeans to the virtue of the Roman Republic were delivered in its last days by Cicero and Cato the Younger. However, the rhetorical flourish resonated little in the minds and hearts of their contemporaries while the optimates of the Republic nakedly pursued private aggrandizement at the expense of the commonweal and their less fortuned compatriots.

If President Trump be a potential tyrant, his inaugural speech echoed and exploits a similar state of affairs in contemporary America.

For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished — but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered — but the jobs left, and the factories closed.

The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.

It is a historical truism that those individuals, dynasties, sociopolitical institutions, and states who lose moral authority (Latin – auctoritas) find quick loss of power on its coattails.

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The good news, from an internal Canadian perspective, is that our Fourth Estate is largely unlike its American counterparts. I might complain about its superficial, dumb, and provincial coverage and analysis of world events at times. But the deceit and dissembling, lasciviously and shamelessly practiced by the American media and reaching pandemic levels, simply doesn’t exist here to any great extent. In the Jian Ghomeshi trial last year, one could sense some Canadian commentators chomping at the bit. But hyperbolic and irresponsible claims would be found largely in American rags, whose attention to the trial was otherwise fleeting.

Journalistic circumspection and integrity is neither innate in our blood nor a permanent fixture. If the odor of sheep manure emits from the pages and screens of many American media outlets, it is largely because truth and intellectual integrity is the first casualty of war, even if that war be of the multi-faceted cultural kind.

John Ibbitson’s depiction of a continuing Laurentian consensus in this country, of an inclusivistic political center which broadens, incorporates, and co-opts but brooks little tolerance for extremist and unsubstantiated claims, currently differentiates this country from our southern neighbours where the center has collapsed. But we are no less human than they; no more Exceptionalist than they.

Even so; if journalists be the last guardians of democracy, then journalistic and intellectual integrity is the strong fortress, high watchman’s tower, and chief weapon of their defense.

Publius

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Interpreting the Signs of the Times

One of the bloggers, I follow, as somewhat of a Dionysian foil to my severe Apollonic propensity is Rick Marschall. I may not always concur with the views of this “social critic, political commentator, and Christian writer.” But I, nevertheless, cherish one those cultivated rarities who are well-informed about their own heritage. However, Mr. Marschall occasionally galvanizes a reaction such as in his recent article, People of Faith Ask, to Trump or not to Trump, which complacently soothsays that the current commotion in the American body politic is not unlike those of yesteryear. Mr. Marschall thereupon gives a fairly detailed history of past political turmoils in his nation; particulars, much of which supplement my own knowledge; and as is therefore much appreciated.

I tend to look upon history more from the perspective of broad ideological, cultural, and social trends. Furthermore, as a student of world history, I will situate American history and politics within the context of a larger ideological narrative with sociopolitical consequences. Whereas, you will find many Americans, such as George Will, unable to think outside of their Exceptionalist box. Historical and external events are measured in the context of American situation and psyche, a civic form of (Ayn) Randian egoism, which I would suggest poses a great noetic stagnation.

It is not unusual for persons dwelling inside the kettle of a society to be oblivious to the tumult that is about to occur within their midst; and when it begins, to be freshly surprised on frequent basis as new travesties and atrocities unfold. I, on the other hand, am inclined to be on the side of the Chicken Littles.

However, this tumult in the U.S. has been anticipated, as has been claimed elsewhere, since the late 1980s. Events since then have pretty well gone to script of previous run ups to civic conflagration. And indeed, I have noticed in the last couple of years, a remarkably dizzying acceleration in the disintegration of the social peace and cohesion such that I am having problems catching up. Continue reading “Interpreting the Signs of the Times”

Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie Hebdo – I Am Not Charlie Hebdo

 

Blessed is the man, who sits not in the company of mockers.
(Psalm 1:1 – parsed and paraphrased)

How repugnant is this thoughtless stampede to self-identify with those journalistic mongrels at Charlie Hebdo. Or these pompous European and North American scribes, pontificating their right to blasphemy and chafing at the bit that their corporate masters are pixelating these cartoon images of Muhammad or the Entities of other Faiths. Or even of obtuse Crusaders, whose antipathy to Islam drives them into the arms of their secularist adversaries. True Christianity ought to have no interest in choosing between radical Islamists and radical secularists; the equivalent of a Stalinist-Hitlerian choice.

Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie Hebdo. Continue reading “Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie Hebdo – I Am Not Charlie Hebdo”