|Vignette by Clive Hicks-Jenkins for Thaliad|
The great powers and we the people
One temptation for great powers like the media is that they become fawning and cease to see what is before their eyes in an accurate way, fail to name what issues are important, and then obfuscate reality for the rest of us. One of the jobs of great powers like media and government is to be vigilant in fighting against a fallen, devilish tendency to align themselves against ordinary people. If journalism ceases to ask penetrating, needful questions and use precise, unbiased language, then it is a fallen power that can do nothing but harm people by throwing veils over our sight. Journalism is then against us and not for us, and that occurs no matter what our politics and opinions are.
A reality-based fantasy
Picture a country. Beloved Leader goes away to have a vacation with a Renown Instructor in a popular sport and a Famous Celebrity of that sport. The press is disappointed that they are not invited, but they gather for his return. Many matters ought to be addressed--wars and rumors of war, economic crises, and so on--but the press corps shows nothing to the outer world but celebrity-style fan-boy, fan-girl affection for Beloved Leader. In planned and synchronized unison, they chorus, "Who won?"
To the journalists
Take up your homely, needful mantle. Respect language. You are a people anointed to be the arrangers of words and the clarifiers of the Babel-language that comes burbling from congressional offices and ivory towers.
You see, my journalists (you are supposed to be mine, you know, and to belong to us all--this is a glory and burden of your vocation), I am discouraged about the inaccuracy of words and the devaluing of language in our era. In fact, I am back to considering that marvelous William Stringfellow quote about the Powers and their manipulation of language, ending with "diversion and demoralization, and the violence of babel (including verbal inflation, libel, rhetorical wantonness, sophistry, jargon, incoherence, falsehood, and blasphemy.)" The media is, indeed, a "great power," one that appears to have wandered into strange paths of late.
Journalists, help us be a "more perfect union." Give us the gift of clarity. Don't base the news or the choice of what's news on your personal opinions. Avoid the trivial and the trifling. Ask the questions that burn to be asked. Never fawn.