Saturday, August 04, 2007

 

Irresponsible Corporate Media Makes Responsible Government Impossible

Note: I was going to write a followup to this piece in light of this weeks bridge disaster and the soon to be laid aside interest in bridge inspection and repair. However, that wasn't possible. The reason the matter, clearly a matter of saving lives this week, will be laid aside is due to the collusion of conservative politicians and the media which supports them. It is the "tax and spend" chanters who have brought us to this. While it is profitable for their campaign supporters to build an enormous and complex infrastructure, it costs money to do do it right in the first place and to maintain and eventually replace a superannuated structure. That's when the howls of the right wing begin and responsible voices are silenced.

The Boston Globe had a column by David Luberoff last year which clearly explains the origins of the emerging Big Dig disaster. He points out that the project, originally funded through the federal highway system, lost a lot of its federal support half-way through. Instead of facing that reality, the politicians in Massachusetts didn't make up the difference with state and local taxes and tolls. One of the truest things in life is that while you often don't get what you pay for, you never get what you don't pay for. You know that's true when you are dealing with a large corporation like Bechtel with armies of bean counters making sure that they get maximum profits from their projects.

What went wrong in the face of warnings by people who knew what they were talking about - Massachusetts has probably the highest percentage of those on the continent- is just beginning to be studied. While they are looking at that I hope someone will look into the more general political atmosphere that led to the bad decisions. I don't only mean the steady stream of Republican governors during most of the Big Dig.

Given their refusal to monitor themselves for accuracy and responsibility, we won't get the media's role in promoting gross irresponsibility in politicians. At least not from them. But it really does largely fall on the media. Through call-in shows, wise-guy on-air personalities, connected owners and those who have created today's media sewer, anyone who steps up and tells the truth, "You want this done, you are going to have to pay for it," gets their head handed to them. They make lying and dereliction of duty requirements for retaining a political office or civil service job. Reporting with enough time or column space to really explain an issue costs more while the truths uncovered are insufficiently entertaining to maximize profits. And some of those truths might be most unwelcome at the club.

The Republican Party, who used to pride themselves on responsibility, now specialize in this kind of winning through lying. With the media fully in support they tell lies designed to win elections. Most people have a weakness for believing what they want to hear. The busy public, without the technical knowledge or time to look at the details buys the lies until reality strikes and they can't ignore it any longer. How else do you think Bush I lost to Bill Clinton despite the insane press adulation following Bush War I and the war they waged against Clinton as soon as it was clear he had a chance to win?

But if you want good government, safe and effective civil engineering projects, the rest of the benefits that only government can deliver, then we can't wait for the disaster to deliver the real news. The cost in lives, time and remedial action are multiplied many times by the lies and propaganda spread by the media.

The often repeated line, "Good, fast or cheap. Pick two." sums up the current political climate that this irresponsibility has produced. But as the Big Dig is beginning to prove, good is the only way to get faster and cheaper. Maybe the same applies to news media getting it right. But getting it right isn't what today's profit-driven and cynically self-interested media is all about.

The Globe had an article in which Michael Dukakis defends his administration's role in the Big Dig. Having read about the project from its beginning, he makes a good case. But Dukakis is just a boring detail guy the press rejected two decades ago

Comments:
OT (or maybe not, considering the media is involved here), but the Bush/Dukakis race is one of those races (like Kennedy/Nixon, Smith/Hoover, Lincoln/et al) that would have been decided differently in a different era.

Just as Nixon did better on radio while Kennedy did better on TV (or while Lincoln, with his high pitched voice and strong accent, would have bombed like Smith did on the radio, while Smith would probably have done better on TV than would have Hoover), Dukakis would have won in 1988 (even with Bush riding the popularity of Reagan) had the election been conducted via whistle-stop tours rather than with the media tending the gate and the ability of Bush's people to manipulate the public's mindset through commercials on said mass media.

I know even of some die-hard conservatives who, after having spent time in person with Dukakis, are kicking themselves for having voted for Bush in 1988. If we treated elections like the job interviews they are, and people actually would have gotten to know Dukakis like an interviewer gets to know an interviewee (rather than via whatever the media and/or attack ads feed to us), Dukakis would have won.

But then again, if we had that attitude, we never would have elected Reagan in 1984 but rather gone with the person who actually seemed up to the job -- Mondale!

Perhaps the problem is the media who manipulates and encourages this attitude, but fundamentally, if our republic's broke, it's because too many people fail to view elections as a hiring process and fail to view our leaders as functionaries we the people have hired to do a job. If we look for a king, we vote for whomever has the best "character" or we'd wanna have a beer with (c.f.: someone having "the common touch" means they ain't actually a commoner!). However, if we think as true citizens of a republic, we'd actually consider voting for the best man for the job!

The media is a problem; money is corrupting, etc. But fundamentally the problem is the electorate ourselves. To quote Pogo: "we have met the enemy and he is us".
 
alberich wrote:

"The media is a problem; money is corrupting, etc.
But fundamentally the problem is the electorate ourselves.
To quote Pogo: "we have met the enemy and he is us"."

Hey alberich, I agree with you 100 %

That's why I liked Al Gore book so much
"The Assault on Reason", he actually apportions some
of the blame, where it belongs, on the electorate.
This was proof positive that he really was serious
about not running.

As for the idea that people are too busy to keep
informed, I can believe that for some people
i.e. those working 2 jobs, those with small
children, etc. But considering that Americans
are watching, on average, over 4 hrs of TV a day,
the idea that most people just don't have the
time, just doesn't fly.
 
Because Polly is wrong to think xianity brought egalitarianism. Unions brought us good work standards, not xianity. To me it does matter because I find it a way to see how they could be so wrong in giving credit to religion for things religion was against like egalitarianism and a 40 hour work week. Slur? xian and jew are slurs? That she finds it "disturbing" is code for she doesn't recognize how flawed she is in giving credit to xianity for those things. That's also why I asked bill for clarification on originate because so many people gave xianity credit for things it didn't originate.
 
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