Photo: Gage Skidmore
FOX’s Glenn Beck addresses like-minded followers.
Having begun my professional writing career as a journalist in the mid-80s — back when we were actually respected as objective messengers of factual information the public needed to know — I’ve watched with dismay the steady bludgeoning of this once-noble profession over the past couple of decades.
Most often this pummeling has occurred at the hands of conservative commentators, aspiring politicians and other ideologues who have no historic appreciation for the vital role of a truly independent, objective media in a free society — and who think nothing of slandering this institution to further their own personal climb toward power and fame. During this same time, not coincidentally, we’ve also seen the ascent of right-wing opportunists masquerading as “journalists”.
The almost deafening noise machine these purveyors of propaganda have slowly constructed, brick by brick, today all too often drowns out any reasonable, factual debate on issues of vital import to the people of this nation, and at times, the world.
Personally I find the ethical and journalistic standards of FOX “News” so entirely lacking that I have long since ceased to attach an ounce of credibility to anything generated by this travesty of a “media” operation. I cannot fathom how any legitimate news organization even would take seriously the credentials of anyone ever employed by the FOX “news” machine.
And, yet they do. What’s worse, judging from the recent — and I might add utterly ridiculous — Shirley Sherrod debacle, mainstream media aren’t the only ones somehow intimidated by this machine into accepting its noise as gospel. Policymakers from Capitol Hill to the White House continue to scramble frantically into fire-drill mode whenever the machine emits its latest toxin into the political atmosphere.
Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne today issues a straight-to-the-point call that the media, policymakers and, well, all of us, should heed. No longer can we allow the blurring of the line between factual hard news and fabricated, purely politically driven myths. Propaganda is NOT news. Never has been, never will be.
It may have worked briefly for the Nazis during one of mankind’s darkest moments. But in the end, not even propaganda could save the Third Reich from the forces of truth and decency. Valor, not acquiescence, paved the road to that end.
Until we all reprogram ourselves to fight the innate instinct to simply go along with the crowd, we will continue to see more Shirley Sherrods for years to come. Perhaps worse yet, we also risk being branded as a nation of gullibles — content to absorb, believe and repeat everything the machine wants us to absorb, believe and repeat.
We all have a role in this shift of the national dialogue — from the alternate universe in which the right-wing noise machine exists and where it would like us to take up residence as well — back to the real world. The funny thing about credibility is, no matter how much we’ve earned it, it’s something we can never generate on our own. It can only be bestowed by others in recognition of that earned behavior.
So when the noise machine and an angry crowd of poor losers insist we are looking at a turkey vulture — even though our eyes tell us, no, it is only a dove — why do we continue believing the machine’s rant? Is there any logic at all in this madness?
Dionne has it right: it’s time to yank some credibility cards. And this time we’re taking names.