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.

♦                    ♦                    ♦

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.

♦                    ♦                    ♦

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

Coerced Endorsement of Gay Marriage

The views expressed by the participants here are solely their opinions and do not reflect the opinions of this media-organization.

How often have we witnessed TV networks preface religious and other programs with disclaimers that while they enable the airing of the ensuing show, they in no way endorse its content? It is not as if reputational concern for guilt by association is alien to the non-religious. How many of those on the Left were condemned as communists by Joseph McCarthy, simply for flirting with and having attended a socialist/communist meeting decades prior.

In the recent kick-off of Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign at Liberty University, how many liberal media organizations, pundits and commentators decried the forced attendance by Liberty’s students, (on pain of civic-style fines), which gave pubic impression of tacit support and endorsement of Cruz’s candidacy? And their critiques would be right. Many conservative entities likewise declaimed the hypocrisy of speaking for liberty of conscience while in the very process violating it.

Therefore, the desire of theists and like-minded moralists, who do not wish to endorse or appear to endorse an idea or ethical principle, ought not to be beyond comprehension. One may not concur with the substance of their objection. But the yearning not to be associated is not alien. Therefore, the social denigration and legal penalties, inflicted upon those who find same-sex marriage a conceptual travesty and same-sex eros an ethical travesty, emits of a suffocating stench of rational inconsistency, sophistry and hypocrisy.

And the drumbeats of civic conflagration approach ever closer and louder. Continue reading “Coerced Endorsement of Gay Marriage”

Red State v Blue State Philosophical Sectarianism

It has been a working hypothesis since the late 1980s, and a firm assertion since the mid 2000s; that, to paraphrase Lord Chesterfield’s assessment of the French

In short, all the symptoms which I have ever met with in History, previous to great Civic Conflagrations and Wars, now exist and daily increase in America.1

This certainly comes to mind in recent talk of state nullification of Federal Government edicts and decrees by its executive branch, but more so from its judiciary. Nullification reaches back to Vice President John C. Calhoun (1825-32) who spearheaded use of this principle for South Carolina in the North-South tariff wars; one of the causes of the American Civil War, which has largely been forgotten. As the writer states:

But if some states can pick and choose laws, others will surely do the same—and in such a polarized national landscape, they’ll start picking and choosing increasingly contradictory options. Liberals states will start refusing to enforce laws they don’t like. (This happened with the Fugitive Slave Act, in fact; Wisconsin ruled the law unconstitutional; southerners who otherwise championed states’ rights objected; and the Supreme Court overruled it.) It’s a ticket to dissolving the union, all in the name of preventing same-sex unions.

Continue reading “Red State v Blue State Philosophical Sectarianism”

And All the Children Are Insane

This is an individual who should resign today. Today. He cannot run the city. He’s lost the control of the police department and the respect.

Just when one thinks that the liberal and progressive faction in America has plumbed new depths of irrational absurdity; in true competitive American spirit, the conservative faction must match lunacy with lunacy.

Bill O’Reilly of Fox News recently pontificated that since the current Democratic mayor of New York City has lost the support and respect of its police department, he should resign. Apparently, the approximately 1 million voters that voted in the mayoralty election thirteen months ago by landmark proportions (73-24%) should be repudiated because “He was elected in an election in New York City that few people voted”. It represented less than a quarter of the potential electorate.

Instead, those democratic results should be subject to a veto pen of the 35,000 members of the NYPD; that Praetorian Guard of Gotham City.

This raises a legitimate question about the reliability of public opinion polls in a nation saturated and reliant on them. Polls, which survey a fraction of 1% of the populace, generally claim to be within a 3-4% variance of the actual reflection of the general will, 19 times out of 20. If the overturning of a roughly 50 point margin can be seen as possible, if not probable, had only the other 75% of New Yorkers voted; how reliable are any of these lesser reflections of the general will?

One might hope that this rhetorical brainfart might be consequence of his time of the month; except that the science does not grant us such excuse. Or that his script was drafted in the midst of a heavier bout of the sauce or smoke than usual. Or that this dissembling gab exploits a profundity of factual ignorance and lack of common sense of his audience.

However, O’Reilly is one of the leading demagogues of the conservative faction; these latter, who make sole claim to championing the Constitutional heritage of free civic institutions and civilian control of government. What must be the true state of mind of those who promote as one of their major spokesmen, a person who calls for, in effect, governance by military and quasi-military juntas? And how can the conservative faction impugn Thomas Friedman for his admiration of Chinese autocracy, when their own kind are advocating much the same?