Monday, October 27, 2014

Hedonists of power

Chris Hedges wrote many words for the New York Times; some of them wrong. He participated in false reporting that helped orchestrate invasion of Iraq by the coalition of the dragged kicking and screaming. He recognized error though and became an articulate critic of his nation's aggression. The NYT, which preferred the Bush administration's version of truth, condemned Hedges and encouraged his departure.

He is sometimes controversial but always thought provoking. His latest column at Truthdig is a good one that should be read completely: The Myth of the Free Press. An excerpt:
"The mass media blindly support the ideology of corporate capitalism. They laud and promote the myth of American democracy—even as we are stripped of civil liberties and money replaces the vote. They pay deference to the leaders on Wall Street and in Washington, no matter how perfidious their crimes. They slavishly venerate the military and law enforcement in the name of patriotism. They select the specialists and experts, almost always drawn from the centers of power, to interpret reality and explain policy.

"They usually rely on press releases, written by corporations, for their news. And they fill most of their news holes with celebrity gossip, lifestyle stories, sports and trivia. The role of the mass media is to entertain or to parrot official propaganda to the masses. The corporations, which own the press, hire journalists willing to be courtiers to the elites, and they promote them as celebrities. These journalistic courtiers, who can earn millions of dollars, are invited into the inner circles of power. They are, as John Ralston Saul writes, hedonists of power."
To me, Saul's words were prominent. He is a prolific Canadian writer and thinker but also known for six years he spent at Rideau Hall with his wife, Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson. The quote is from Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the Westand when Saul refers to hedonists of power, he includes more than corporate media fellow travelers. This is an abstract:
Trending toward the end of egalitarianism. Source
"…Modern men of power come in many apparently different forms. But certain characteristics link them. First, a great difficulty in coming to terms with the democratic process. The talents of the technocrat do not suit public debate or an open relationship with the people. …They set enormous value upon secrecy. Intentionally or otherwise, their methods induce fear among those who must deal regularly with them. Almost without exception they are bullies.

"…The technocrats suffer from character defects which have to do with their inability to maintain any links between reason, common sense and morality. They believe themselves to be the inheritors of the Age of Reason and therefore do not understand why their talents fail to produce the intended results.

"Their abstract view of the machinery of human society prevents them from understanding the natural flow of events and from remembering when they themselves have erred and why. That is to say they don't seem to understand the historical process. Instead they seem actually to believe that their definitions of the world will become both real and permanent simply because they are the result of applied logic. When these formulae refuse to stick, the technocratic mind, rather than deal with failure, simply wipes the slate clean and writes a new definition. They are, in that sense, slaves of dogma.

"…Their talents have become the modern definition of intelligence. It is an extremely narrow definition and it eliminates a large part of both the human experience and the human character. Suffice it to say that under the current definition of intelligence, Socrates, Byron, Jefferson, Washington, Churchill, Dickens, Joseph Conrad, John A. Macdonald and Georges Clemenceau would have been unintelligent or eccentric or romantic or unreliable.

"The technocrats are hedonists of power. Their obsession with structures and their inability or unwillingness to link these to the public good make this power an abstract force — a force that works, more often than not, at cross-purposes to the real needs of a painfully real world.
Merging the comments of Hedges and Saul provides a timely warning to Canadians. Bullies in the halls of power provide or withhold access and information, the stock in trade of journalists. With a natural preference for reward over punishment, most reporters become courtiers and push colleagues to adopt the same role. Those who choose the more difficult course and dare to shame the comfortable sycophants may become journalistic lepers. Chris Hedges provides American examples but we may have Canadian ones in present days. One is Andrew Mitrovia, another might be Michael Harris, author of Party of One. Here in the west coast minor leagues, it is bloggers who draw the ire of media lickspittles.

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  1. We often hear mass media people like Bill Good and Gary Mason say that nobody tells them what to say or what to report. But they never discuss the important thing that Hedges wrote about,

    "The corporations, which own the press, hire journalists willing to be courtiers to the elites, and they promote them as celebrities.

  2. Nobody tells them what to say . . . . because nobody has to!

  3. It is not just the journalists under control but all the way up the chain, through the news bosses, the middle managers, the managers.....they all answer to the corporate bosses, or they're gone. So when the time comes that the technocrats decide to seriously curtail access to information through legislation and through changes to regulations governing media in this country, who is going to stand up and protest? No one because they'll have folded their tents long ago.
    Sometimes it seems the biggest threat to democracy is democracy itself, or shall we say, the abuses flung forward under the guise of democracy.
    I'm would not believe this is what Cpl Nathan Cirillo signed on to defend.

  4. Rafe Mair had this to say in 2003 when he was fired under what he calls humiliating circumstances by the outfit that took over from the Griffiths family:

    "It’s a different kind of company than I've been used to. You get kind of set in your ways. You don't get used to taking any kind of direction from management whatsoever. I just don't think Corus and I were a good fit right from the beginning."

    In July of this year he wrote this on his blog:

    “When I got started in radio, Jack Webster advised me to approach every program as if I were going to be fired that day. His rationale, and it was a good one, was that if you ever let management get on top of you, even once, you were lost. That having happened, you no longer had the individuality that made you important to how the station made itself so popular. Individuals with hugely different opinions and approaches abounded.
    My line was the talk show and I felt that I was the inheritor of the mantle of Jack Webster, Pat Burns, Gary Bannerman and others who had established independence, strong opinions, and fearlessness. That was a heavy mantle to wear and I never stop thinking about it.”

    We only have to look to the Webster Awards for confirmation of Norm’s statement that those who choose the more difficult course and dare to shame the comfortable sycophants may become journalistic lepers. The comfortable sycophants now hand out the awards to each other while lepers like Mair and Oberfeld are denied.

  5. Don't forget the endless 'opinion polls' that pass for news, which, most of the time, are based on questions with false dichotomies ("do you support the federal conservatives or are you in favour of more pedophiles in the streets?"), and all of the time depend on the collective ignorance (read: stupidity) of the mob mentality. Stephen Colbert called it 'truthiness'.

  6. We'll well



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