Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Lost Media

Michael S. Malone has written an excellent article on the more than bias - the corruption - of the media as they throw away even the pretense of impartiality as they lunge toward Election Day, trying to haul Barack Obama into the winner's circle by sheer brute force. I confess, I'd never thought of the personal reasons he outlines - maybe one has to be an insider to know how journalists and editors really think. I was looking for something more lofty and philosophical, when it might just come down to a desire to safeguard a pension.

Of course, this isn't exactly unprecedented. Chesterton observed something similar over 100 years ago:
It is customary to remark that modern problems cannot easily be attacked because they are so complex. In many cases I believe it is really because they are so simple. Nobody would believe in such simplicity of scoundrelism even if it were pointed out. People would say that the truth was a charge of mere melodramatic villainy; forgetting that nearly all villains really are melodramatic. Thus, for instance, we say that some good measures are frustrated or some bad officials kept in power by the press and confusion of public business; whereas very often the reason is simple healthy human bribery. And thus especially we say that the Yellow Press is exaggerative, over-emotional, illiterate, and anarchical, and a hundred other long words; whereas the only objection to it is that it tells lies. We waste our fine intellects in finding exquisite phraseology to fit a man, when in a well-ordered society we ought to be finding handcuffs to fit him.

...We do not want a censorship of the Press; but we are long past talking about that. At present it is not we that silence the Press; it is the Press that silences us. It is not a case of the Commonwealth settling how much the editors shall say; it is a case of the editors settling how much the Commonwealth shall know. If we attack the Press we shall be rebelling, not repressing.

The Illustrated London News, October 19, 1907

A week later, Chesterton went on with the same topic:
The old editor used dimly to regard himself as an unofficial public servant for the transmitting of public news, . If he suppressed anything, he was supposed to have some special reason for doing so; as that the material was actually libellous or literally indecent. But the modern editor regards himself far too much as a kind of original artist, who can select and suppress facts with the arbitrary ease of a poet or a caricaturist. He "makes up" the paper as man "makes up" a fairy tale, he considers his newspaper solely as a work of art, meant to give pleasure, not to give news. He puts in this one letter because he thinks it clever. He puts in these three or four letters because he thinks them silly. He suppresses this article because he thinks it wrong. He suppresses the other and more dangerous article because he thinks it right. The old idea that he is simply a ode of the expression of the public, an "organ" of opinion, seems to have entirely vanished from his mind. To-day the editor is not only the organ, but the man who plays on the organ. For in all our modern movements we move away from Democracy.

The Illustrated London News, November 2, 1907


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this post - I also appreciate your interest in G.K. Chesterton and Fritz Lang -

12:26 pm  

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