January 18, 2016

News too big to cover

Sam Smith

The media's obsession with the San Bernardino killings is the latest example of how the media greatly prefers small stories over big ones. Thus climate change doesn't fare as well as ISIS even though it will have infinitely more effect on the world. Even when you want to do better than this, specific stories often aren't there. One is trained in journalism to have face and fact in your story but seven billion environmentally endangered people is a little too much for a good lead.

It may be helpful to consider some other the stories that are too big to get much coverage. Such as:

- The collapse of the nation state as international corporations, through trade agreements like TPP and other tactics, assume governing and as well as economic authority. The media and liberal organizations ridicule those who speak of a new world order, but it seems the mildest term one can think of for something like TPP.

- The decline of need for workers. In 2006 fewer than one million American workers were neither employed nor actively seeking work. That number is now three million. This is driven in part by increasing automation that may at some point challenge the whole traditional American work ethic. What do we do about it? A guaranteed income is a good start but even that is mainly discussed on the left without general media attention.

- An overwhelming factor in ethnic and immigrant hostility is the economic situation. There is a long history of this in the United States, including the southern white elite convincing poor whites that blacks were responsible for their troubles. The current economic conditions are strong instigators of this conflict yet are rarely given credit for it or examined from this perspective.

- Technology such as the cellphone, a larger portion of the population living in cities rather than small communities, and smaller family size are contributors to a culture in which the individual is far more isolated than once was the case. I, for example, am the third of six children and learned early that other people disagreed with me but that didn't mean I couldn't live with them and even have an emotional attachment. At least some of our current political problems are due to the fact that we now have leaders have little experience in working well with others.

- Process is overwhelming progress. The stunning increase in the paperwork involved in everything from obtaining a mortgage to passing national legislation not only makes things harder but discourages us from even trying some things. Much of the problem with Obamacare has not been about substance, but that so few understood it. As lawyers, economists and MBAs have dramatically increased their roles in our government it is harder for many in power to see the difference between actually doing something and just putting it all down on paper.

- Missing from the talk on climate change: population increase. This is a topic politicians, media and other leaders want to avoid yet is essential to dealing with the problem. The phrase that scares them is "population control" but, in fact, population changes largely occur because of individual choice, and reflect not so much rules as, for example, things like the rising status of women in a society.

- The cultural takeover by corporations. In our language, our systems, our education, and our values, corporations exercise a control far beyond that of even a few decades ago. Even non-profits have adopted many of these aspect of corporate culture and the idea of doing things cooperatively, out of decency, or other traditional human values is being replaced by corporatism.

- Institutions that offered a moral and conceptual alteratives to the corporation have been floundering. Churches, universities and the media are no longer the voices of decency, common sense, and community they once were. As a result arguments on behalf of traditional American ideals have far less force than once was the case.

- Both major political parties are infinitely more corrupt than they were in the past, largely thanks to the overwhelming influence of corporate lobbying and financing.

- Education is being reduced to merely job training for careers in corporations and the supporting government bureaucracy. The perceived educational value of the humanities and the arts has been deeply downgraded.

- Liberalism of the sort that brought us the New Deal and the Great Society has badly deteriorated largely because it has become a comfortable home for the successful rather than a haven for strivers. The major causes that attract its attention today - such as gay rights and abortion - are those that aid its members who are socially and economically ahead of many it claims to represent. This is not to say these are not worthy causes but absent from the top list are the economic issues that brought us things like pensions, unions, and social security. Among the problems: liberal contempt for lower income whites.

- Democratic principles continue to be steadily undermined as our leaders claim, for example, that liberty must be suppressed for alleged reasons of security. For all practical purposes the first American republic began to collapse in the 1980s and has been replaced by an oligarchy of greed.

- America has increasingly found ways to suppress civil rights including those granted with much pain and struggle in the 1960s. Voter suppression, police brutality and other negative systems have been adopted as normal.

This is not a complete list but may serve as a reminder of what the news typically doesn't tell you. It doesn't mean, however, that it isn't there and changing our world far more than some shootings in San Bernadino.


Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the Stalin quote: "When one man dies it's a tragedy. When thousands die it's statistics."

However may be mis-attributed.


Anonymous said...

i am ashamed to live in a society where incomes range from $10/yr to $10bn/yr and no one is ashamed of it - it is shameful to the 100th degree to have a society where people equal to the population of britain die of starvation each year without it being the topic on everyone's lips all the time - it is stupid to the 100th degree to have people on $10bn/yr without anyone recognising it as super-extreme overpay - to have people on $10/yr without anyone recognising it as super-extreme underpay - stephen hawking: we could all have luxurious lifestyles if we would only share [paraphrase] - we humans could all be on incomes of $50/hr ($100,000/yr for 40-hr week) - and we would have world peace, too - for violence is caused by inequality - this mad freeforall of free grabs no limit on wealth that we humans have cobbled together is good for precisely no one - injustice drives violence - fairsharing is justice - the only way out of all the nightmares - equality is equal pay for equal work, income justice, no overpay or underpay, no money free-gratis for what is not your own work - no leisure class, no over-working class - happiness instead of destruction of man - the world's majority finally determined to spread world wealth as evenly as the work in the world is spread - so wake up, world, and stop actively and passively supporting the most shameful idea to enable a few monomaniacs for moneypower to keep on arbitrarily subjecting a whole planet of people to their harmfilled will and whims

Anonymous said...

Your Choice: Thirteen-Billion-Dollar Aircraft Carrier vs. Cure for Cancer