Just yesterday, I was in the midst of a rant about the abysmal state of education funding in this country when a friend rejoined, “We get the government we deserve.”
I have been fighting this toxic mixture of superiority and cynicism since I became involved in the child advocacy movement almost 11 years ago. The truth is, when Americans are treated with respect and receive accurate information, they make wonderfully wise decisions. The system breaks down, however, when the press fails to provide such information, as they do today. The so-called fourth estate is now little more than the public relations arm of a government propaganda machine in which all three branches are controlled by the same political party. Who is watching the store?
In some ways, the mass media are all of our surrogates for the truth – they are our eyes and ears. In days gone by, they were just that. To take but one example, the Washington Post famously risked their entire existence when they pursued a story about a suspicious break-in long after everyone else believed the story was dead. Would they make the same tough decisions today? Would any media outlet? Certainly not if there was a government-issued Video News Release handy.
Americans now face a choice between a news channel and cabal of radio hosts that are an arm of the Republican Party, or a lethargic sheep-like mainstream press that would rather discuss a woman who had cold feet the night before her wedding than the continuing chaos in Iraq, where the number of car bombs detonated was up 50% in April from March. I could go on, but there is no better proof than the fact that about 3 in every 4 [pdf] people who supported President Bush believed that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11 and that we actually found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Massive misinformation is not limited to the Iraq war, of course. Take, for example, the Tom Delay ethics scandal. Over and over we hear that nothing can be done because Republicans control Congress, and the Democrats have no investigative power. The way I remember it, investigation was also the press’ job.
Whether in life or politics, it is impossible to make informed decisions when you are not properly informed. The mainstream media has abdicated its responsibility to the American people, and we all suffer for it. The press must be held accountable before it is too late.
In a separate thought, on Friday we lost one of the true champions for social justice in this country, Miguel Contreras. He was a friend and I will truly miss him.