Updates for Wednesday, March 8th [2006]

Media In America

3/8/2006

Dear Friends,

The last week does not furnish one single public event worthy communicating to you: so that I have only to say "all is well." I have not paid as much attention to the news recently as I have before, for when I look at the media today, all the newspapers and the televisions, the radio and the internet, it reminds me of the older days, the worse days in particular. The civility and peace is harmed by the squibs in public papers, the internet blogs and media talk shows. The discourses of our politicians and entertainers, endless cannon fodder for cameramen and journalists, in a war on American sensibilities and reason.

Tho' I differ with the nature of ways these days, I have a cordial esteem for this country, increased by long habits of concurrence in opinion with it from the days of republicanism; and even since its modern apostacy to the values of the old monarchy & nobility. Sometimes the question of the media is that of decadence, personal flagrance on the public stage; other times, a question of authority, who speaks and who listens. Surely the musings of those talk show "pundits" is contrasted by the satire of comedians, the temperament of military spokesmen with that of stage actors, in this discordant society.

On this subject, I have a dozen times taken up my pen to write to you and as often laid it down again, suspended between opposing considerations. I determine however to write from a conviction that truth, between candid minds, can never do harm. The modern media is a farce, not merely of partisan antics but of bitter social division. As it stands on the internet, a hundred million Publicolas thrust digital pens at one another, as it stands in the newspapers and print, stunning controversies and perpetual critical polemics. It was days like these I experienced and hated the most, having to read a paper to immediately be thunderstruck with dismay at what I read; now hundreds of thousands feel this way, everyday. Those thrown into the public stage as antagonists and expected to brawl as boxers or wrestlers do for the amusement of the masses, to give the common person something menial to discuss; things such as these are such a pity, the media having become what I feared the most.

I was hoping one day the people who report the events of the day would do so with the quaint understanding that when we all should differ, in our union of individuals, as friends do, as I did. No personal dramas or petty rivalries should divide the wedges between us; I was hoping perhaps, these partisan behaviors and political parties would merely become a temporary endeavor. Parties long-lasting should only be the basis of intellectual dispute, expanded by the application of reason, and should not exist merely to polarize political crisis as they currently do. People should be Democratic Republicans or Federalists as a result of their personal beliefs instead of a recruitment effort, as a result of belief in an idea as opposed to worship of a culture or attitude, that they not be demagogued or demonized for those beliefs just as they should not demagogue or demonize others. Error of thought cannot stand long when free speech allows them to be freely contradicted, yet we worry about error of thought too much, in our petty melodramas. Party alignment these days is hardly a matter of rational discourse or intelligent conversation, instead of bitter rivalry and cultural diffusion.

Vive, vale, et siquid novisti rectius istis,
Candidus imperti sinon, his ulere mecum.

- TH. Jefferson

Editor's Notes:

Today's update reflects many of Jefferson's frustrations he once had in his life over political drama in the public stage, particular that which uprooted his friendship with John Adams and put him at odds with his good friend. As men who politically disagreed it did not take long for political pundits of the day to use their words to put them at odds, damaging their professional relationship despite Jefferson's best attempts to keep it pure. Now though, those types of events are the everyday norm for modern media, our party lines drawn more by rough attitudes than consolidated or well-thought out political principles.

We do need a society of bold people who speak their mind. When I think of a good example of this, I think of Edward R. Murrow, a journalist who exercised his free speech to combat the ideas of Senator Joseph McCarthy, contributing to the end of McCarthy's political tyranny. That is an example of good journalism. On a daily basis, from major media networks, we see bias and slant, even from people whose programs claim the opposite - because people have forgotten how to disagree, as friends do. We all forget that our ideas about politics should not be forged from an emulation of party leaders, or an empty adherence to some group attitude or cultural concept, but that they should be based on our own reason.

How much of today's news is just empty drama? How little of it reports real things necessary to common discussion? And when a real topic does come along, how quickly do the loudest, most obnoxious voices drone out the intelligent discourse? These questions don't really need answers, just something to ponder when reflecting upon the basic state of our media today, and just the people in general.


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