Mindset is made of gristle, a sinewy and fibrous tissue hardened by constant bruising against contradictory realities. More hardened than most is a perspective once true but changed gradually over time.
Take for example, those of us who grew up in the nineteen sixties when network news and both local and national newspapers were muscular and proudly independent, and their very independence considered one of the prime pillars forming the superstructure of democracy. Edward R. Murrow’s investigative reporting changed national consciousness, as did (non “embedded”) reporting from the battle zone in Viet Nam. It meant something when ousted Vice President, Spiro T. Agnew, complained that the press were a bunch of “nabobs of negativism.” The negative was his corruption.
We have all watched the corporate take-over of news media, whether network and cable news, newspapers, or the gobbling up of local radio stations into a very few national conglomerates. Except for NPR, they were always for-profit so advertising and the bottom line are nothing new. The difference seems to be that before, in the old days, news was considered a public service and a lost-leader to hook consumers into their other programs so the newsroom didn’t have to make a profit. No longer – even though they get to rent public airwaves there is no public service any more.
Bernie Sanders has been blacked out by corporate media, left and right – of which this is actually no left and mostly center or right. His black out has been well documented, which you can read more about in a New York Times column this past week. We can only speculate the reasons for this but the obvious one is that Bernie is an effective prophet of public morality and the prosecution of corporate immorality.
The Millennial’s, who favor Bernie by 85%, have no yellowed mindset to change because they have never seen or used corporate media as a primary news source. Because they get their news from less centrally and profit controlled locations, he was not blacked out to them.
We see it also in the painfully obvious, and much reported on but unchanged phenomenon, that Donald Trump receives enormous attention from the news because he is a spectacle, and therefore an audience attraction, and therefore a profit-incentive. If Ozzy Osbourne bit the head off a bat every night on television and it garnered an audience – both the bloodthirsty and the outraged – the profit-driven media would should it. So Donald Trump does and says more and more disturbing things and he gets more and more attention.
I mention this because even though we have been watching this reality move into place and dominate the neighborhood since the mid-seventies – ironically, not long after the Washington Post brought us Watergate – I keep being surprised and outraged as if something different was supposed to happen. Honestly, it is no different than listening to the radio and expecting something other than mass-produced pop music to get airtime.
So now we seem condemned to the balkanization of news reporting so that people tune into the source that reinforces their point of view and the hardening of mindsets becomes both acute and chronic. Reconciliation and healing cannot take place among people that disagree when we do not participate in and share the same conversation.
This is just one of the logical conclusions of capitalism.
When cultural and social norms are guided primarily by private enterprise, the end result will be social fragmentation and hostility. There is no end in sight to what we are experiencing now so long as there is no strong and progressive counter-veiling power (federal government) to mega-corporations.
Dolly corkins says
Beautifully said. I rarely watch television news right now because I can not bear to see or hear the Donald. The Daily Show and Colbert are my news sources.
Cam Miller says
You rock! (As they say)
Joseph LaGuardia says
I totally agree with with you, Cam. But we need some alternatives, some way of fighting back, taking back our freedom. I’m sure you have some ideas. Many of us fear for the future and trust that God will be sending his
Spirit to create alternatives.
Cam Miller says
I suspect that spirit is afoot and moving but rarely where we expect or look for it. As far as actin goes, whatever we do we have to do it together. Power comes in two forms, at least on the political and economic stage: organized people and organized money. We don’t have the money so we have to be an organized people. I’m not much of a joiner but I am looking for the people and leaders that have the ring of truth to my ears. Remember, you’re not alone!
Mary Ellen McGowan says
I agree totally with your “rant” and the comments. However, I think part of the problem–besides the balkanization of the press so people just listen to “news” that agrees with their point of view–is the fact that these days there are so MANY voices. And not only that, but they all seem to be yelling at us in order to get our attention (so we will listen just to them and to all their paid advertising so we’ll buy what they’re selling). And I don’t know about you Cam, but all this noise means I am increasingly deafened, not to say turned off by any news sources at all. (Except of course NPR and PBS.)
Cam Miller says
Hi ME. That is a fantastic description of what I was pointing to and the tuning out a very dangerous part of the process. It turns out that negative campaigning surpasses the vote – the more negative the campaign the fewer people vote. Since Democrats win when more people vote, it has been a cynical strategy of their opponents to be vitriolic and so get an advantage from fewer voters. Along with the Republican strategy to enact laws making it more difficult for marginalized people to vote, this benefits them. Tuning out is what they want us to do and, as your description suggests, that is our instinct as well. The trick is to find filters that lesson the noise while retaining our interest, focus and investment in the process. Easier said than done!
Steve Oles says
Provocative post, Cam…
Sensationalism and shock (without the awe) may prove counter-productive to its perpetrators, triggering more voter participation rather than less. Muslims and hispanics are naturalizing in droves in order to vote for the first time. In addition, millions of ordinary (read not insane) citizens will vote even in a driving rain, out of fear for the republic, if not the planet. In even a residual democracy like ours, excess and extremism beget moderation. Remember 2008.
Politics is a pendulum…
Cam Miller says
I am hopeful that your prediction is correct. The pendulum thing doesn’t work in our favor just now, however. We’ll see – but hopefully we will all take action and not wait and see! Thanks for the comment.
paul bosco says
imagine Bernie Sanders running for president if India. His “get out the vote” would get all the getto people of Calcutta, Bombay etc. to get out and vote for free health care, minimum wage , free college education. etc,
How does pure democracy work?
Is the American experiment over?
When has “power to the people” worked? France? Soviet Union? Cuba?
We have had the best of the bad systems. No?
Cam Miller says
Seems to me like an Indian Bernie mobilizing all those marginalized people to participate in the process would be a great thing for India – and wonderful if it happened in the USA. I know Americans like to imagine we have the best system but it is only one system among many and some operate better for its people than ours – and yet it is an ever changing landscape. Can we do better, absolutely.