On the role of the media and the arts

Standing up to greed and oppression

“The idea of social realist art and of journalism was that: ‘We’re going to tell people not what things are like, but what they should be like, and what they will be like, and we’ll get them to keep focusing on the future.’ “

Anne Applebaum, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of The Iron Curtain, speaking last night on NPR’s “Fresh Air”. Applebaum was speaking of Poland from 1945 and 1956 – it seems apt for our country, today.

This past September, Walter Russell Mead described our mainstream press thus: 

If the president were a conservative Republican rather than a liberal Democrat, I have little doubt that much of the legacy press would be focused more on what is wrong with America. There would be more negative reporting about the economy, more criticism of policy failures and many more withering comparisons between promise and performance. The contrast between a rising stock market and poor jobs performance that the press now doesn’t think of blaming on President Obama would be reported as demonstrating a systemic bias in favor of the rich and the powerful if George W. Bush were in the White House. The catastrophic decline in African-American net worth during the last four years would, if we had a Republican president, be presented in the press as illustrating the racial indifference or even the racism of the administration. As it is, it is just an unfortunate reality, not worth much publicity and telling us nothing about the intentions or competence of the people in charge.

The current state of the Middle East would be reported as illustrating the complete collapse of American foreign policy—if Bush were in the White House. The criticism of drone strikes and Guantanamo that is now mostly confined to the far left would be mainstream conventional wisdom, and the current unrest in the Middle East would be depicted as a response to American militarism. The in and out surge in Afghanistan would be mercilessly exposed as a strategic flop, reflecting the naive incompetence of an inexperienced president out of his depth….The White House fumbling around the Benghazi murders would be treated like a major scandal and dominate the news for at least a couple of weeks.

If Bush were in the White House, the Middle East would be a horrible disaster, and it would all be America’s fault.

The communist governments of the Soviet Union and its empire collapsed and dissolved when the dichotomy between what was promised and what was grew too large to be sustained. Or, as a liberal commenter on this blog put it, “the Soviet Union happened to fail.”  That reader is obviously the product of modern education and immersion in a culture saturated and shaped by the media, a culture that vilifies the right and can provide no insight into events that occur as the result of policies they detest and failed principles they cherish.

The collapse of communism was hastened by Reagan, but his ever-increasing pressure on the soviets was described, routinely, as naive at best and more commonly, “war mongering”. Similarly, conservatives who said economies based on collectivism could not survive were ignored, until the Berlin Wall was torn down – “fell”, in media-speak – and the evil empire was destroyed – or, excuse me, “self-destructed for unknown reasons.”

Convenient lies and omissions, masquerading as truth. The communists may have invented propaganda, but our media perfected it.

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4 responses to “On the role of the media and the arts

  1. Libertarian Advocate

    I saw Argo last night. A great nerve-rackingly suspenseful movie about a real event in our fairly recent past; well worth going to see! Anyway, the reason I mention it is that there’s a line in it that goes something like this: If you need to sell a REALLY BIG LIE, have the press sell it for you.

  2. Peg

    I remember learing about “yellow journalism” as a child – and being appalled.

    Personally, I think that so-called “journalism” today is worse.

  3. FlyAngler

    But there is a bigger lesson in the fall of the Soviet Union: while waiting for that promised future, a culture’s skills atrophy, their sense of competitiveness is replaced by government dependence and they accept forfeiture of their freedoms. The Russian people had anethesized themselves in an ocean of vodka and a mountain of cigarettes. Then, when the Wall fell and crony capitalism was thrust upon them, they could not compete and turned back to a quasi-authoritarian government with the rise of Putin.

    Where is the USA today? Are we on a similar but different path? Are we careening toward our own cultural precipice, brought on by ever-increasing debt rather than an unwinnable arms race? Are our skills and competitiveness atrophying? Are we becoming more dependent on government? Are we accepting increasing pressures on our freedoms?

    Yesterday it was reported that the USA was among the countries that voted to advance the UN Arms Control Treaty which seeks to include small arms. Second Amendment advocates have indicated that aspects of this treaty could supersede the US Constitution’s right of citizens to bear arms. The
    Obama Administration, under bipartisan pressure from Congress, protested the aspect that would conflict with our Constituion. Some saw that as a pre-election ploy so the timing of this vote to move the treaty process forward seems convenient at best. More importantly, will this re-elected Administration be as forceful in the future?

    Are we moving toward a time where the USA’s sovereign rights are superseded by “global” imperatives? Are we as citizens going to accept this?

    Or, will we anethesize ourselves with social media, video games, coarse art/cinema and, increasingly, legalalized pot?

    I do not like where this is going.

  4. Anonymous

    Triumph of the Ill.