Friday, March 04, 2005

Sentimental Nihilism at its Finest

With all the brouhaha over Jeff Gannon/Guckert, or whatever his name really is, I had to pull out one of my favorite passages from Conel West's book Democracy Matters:

On page 36:

The political nihilism in America today is not limited to the arena of party politics; it has infiltrated our media culture as well in the form of sentimental nihilism. While an essential mission of the news organizations in a democracy should be to expose the lies and manipulations of our political and economic leaders - and surely many meadia watchdogs devote themselves to that task - too much of what passes for news today is really a form of entertainment. So many shows follow a crude formula for providing titilating coverage that masks itself as news. Those who are purveyors of the bastardized form of reporting are sentimental nihilists, willing to sidestep or even bludgeon the truth or unpleasant and unpopular facts and stories, in order to provide an emotionally satisfying show. This is dominence of sentiment over truth telling in order to build up market share. Our market-driven media have become much too constrained in the coverage of unpleasant truths, much too preoccupied with the concerns and views of middle-class and upper-class white people, and much too beholden to the political persusasions of the media moguls.

Hence we have witnessed the breakdown in media ethics - going after "good" stories even if the truth has to be stretched or outright fabrications are condoned. The overwhelming dominance of market-driven pressures has also lead to the blatant partisan punditry. And even the supposed do-gooders in the media often limit the depth of their analysis and the range of their truth telling so as not to offend advertisers and mainstream opinion...

...but our mass media are dominated by the ambulance chasers and the blatantly partisan hacks, mostly on the right. Many newspeople are deep believers in the principle of the free press and the special role it's meant to play in our democracy, and yet that belief all too often amounts to sentiment becuase they fail to act more consistently on that principle.

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