It is frightening to watch as, in the face of its gravest test of its commitment to democracy since the Civil War, key institutions designed to protect and strengthen democracy are now being shuttered. If ever this should not be happening, it is right now.
A couple weeks ago, CNN announced it was canning its “Reliable Sources” Sunday morning show. It had been running for years as a watchdog against undue bias in the media, led by the young and dedicated Brian Stelter. CNN didn’t wait to shut it down. The week the announcement was made, it was gone.
Now, the Washington Post is doing a similar thing with one of its most popular and poignant Sunday sections, The Outlook, a playground of commentators of different stripes speaking freely and often in a manner critically important to the political discourse in the nation. Again, the announcement, then gone, just like that.
We may think that losing this or that show or section still leaves the bulk of free speech and ideas intact. But don’t be so sure. There is a woeful lack of forums for thoughtful discourse in the nation right now. Instead, our means of shared communication are flooded with football games, tacky games and reality shows, all horribly packaged to focus on preset outcomes and fan favorites.
Even when we learn that Moscow decided by the 1980s that Donald Trump was going to be groomed and promoted as its preferred agent of influence in the U.S., and would be so cultivated as a presidential candidate, who has taken notice of how the media built him up from that point on. Who knows who the executives at NBC were who created the vehicle for Trump to gain national status as the star of a reality TV show, The Apprentice?
Who was it among the executives at Twitter who resisted pressure from whistleblowers in their own ranks to keep Trump’s account open despite the worst evidence of violating the company policies over and over?
In both cases, the excuse was given that ratings drove the decisions. But that does not hold. It has always been clear that powerful elites see the media, and cultural influencers, as key to their efforts to keep themselves at the top of the heap, and a majority of Americans from paying attention to how they are being so routinely fleeced. The media is very central to their efforts, including those now that Trump has advanced, to simply end democracy as we know it. This present period is being seen as an opportunity to slam the door shut on democracy, once and for all.
Don’t blame the media for complicity in this. The media is the wholly owned tool of it. We must exploit the modicum of freedom afforded our speech now to stand against this with everything we’ve got. The News-Press will be expanding its own modest “Outlook” section to send a message in this regard.