PLANET COMMENTATORS ‘BABY’ and ‘JOE P’ RAISE, ADDRESS THE MOST VITAL QUESTIONS OF ALL: DOES THE PRESS HAVE A DEMOCRATIC MISSION? CAN THE PLANET CLAIM TO BE SPOKESMAN FOR ‘WE THE PEOPLE?’ IS DEMOCRACY AN ILLUSION?
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY, AUG. 22, 2011) — One of the most vital debates for any so-called free society has occurred in the “Comments” section of THE PLANET in the past few days. The subject: The role of the press in a free society.
THE PLANET is grateful to our commentator BABY BABY for raising the issue in response to our claim to be speaking for We the People. Here is the sequence of comments and responses:
Then came this response from JOE PINHEAD, which basically took the pitch and blasted it out of the park:
“We the People” are “we the people” by birth right. Reporters just like others in every walk of life are free to engage to the level and the extent they wish. If a reporter or journalist chooses to report the happenings IE pancake breakfast or even as spectacular as a hostage standoff that’s their choice. However if you read Jefferson and Paine it would be clear to both the function and the importance of the fourth estate.
“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”
Please see the following link regarding freedom of the press.
And here is the interesting one to me anyways, even back in the day
“The most effectual engines for [pacifying a nation] are the public papers… [A despotic] government always [keeps] a kind of standing army of newswriters who, without any regard to truth or to what should be like truth, [invent] and put into the papers whatever might serve the ministers. This suffices with the mass of the people who have no means of distinguishing the false from the true paragraphs of a newspaper.”
Is the Press in Berkshire County Free? No!
As Joe’s post mentions, one of the assumptions a free society should be able to make is that its press is free. It should expect a press that is in no way muzzled, and lest I remind you, freedom of the press can be blocked as easily with the threat of unemployment as with a loaded gun. An advertiser threatening to pull his account is the loaded gun that holds virtually every media outlet hostage in Berkshire County save this one.
Outside of THE PLANET and to a large extent THE PITTSFIELD GAZETTE, the press in Berkshire County is not free in the classic, Jeffersonian sense.
The Local Establishment Media: A Mix of Happy Fluff, Irrelevancy, Untruth, and Ignoring the REAL Stories
The two local dailies, one in Pittsfield and the other in North Adams, are owned by the same chain, which is in turn owned by an even bigger chain — one that went into bankruptcy and receivership. Both of these papers employ a “the standing army” of reporters kept in place by the local GOBs. For local coverage, they print a mix of happy-fluffy features, truth about stories that don’t matter, and invented stories that they pass off as the truth (for example, the countless stories the BB has done in the past eight years to convince everyone that the downtown has experienced a full-fledged “renaissance,” a story easily refuted every time anyone with an opened mind visits downtown Pittsfield). More importantly, they ignore the stories that DO matter, stories that find their way, sometimes, on THE PLANET or in THE GAZETTE (for example, Steroidsgate, which this website broke).
The non-dailies have even more pressure to roll over and play dead to Da Man. We will give a nod to the work done by our esteemed South County colleague, David Scribner, who edits Great Barrington’s THE BERKSHIRE RECORD and has managed to keep that paper somewhat honest — despite the straightjacketing of the ownership group. Scribner has done this with old-fashioned journalistic independence.
It was the same battle he fought, and lost, as editor of the Boring Broadsheet. The BB has put in place a compliant executive editor, one who keeps the reins tight on his managing editor, the latter a find newspaper man who now and then chafes his way into defiance. For several years, Scribner employed THE PLANET as a columnist and fought to keep me in the paper. How else do you think the BB ran stories blasting the Civic Authority or the scams being perpetrated by the Pittsfield teachers’ union?
Where Can the Reader, Listener, or Viewer Turn in Berkshire County?
Where else can the reader, listener, or viewer turn. He and she can’t turn to local radio. Every radio station save one is owned by an out-of-state chain that cares not a hoot about Berkshire County. The one station that does, WBRK, has knocked the teeth out of its product by removing ‘edgy” talk radio, the type that actually brought up issues that mattered and commented freely and fearlessly on those issues, the type that THE PLANET pioneered.
Whether you agreed or disagreed with our views, for 14 years listeners knew they were getting straight talk on THE DAN VALENTI SHOW. They also knew that when public officials came on as guests, they were given the hot seat. Sherman Baldwin followed that up with a year of edge until the plug was pulled.
And what does the TV viewer have? Three Albany stations that report on Pittsfield with satellite coverage, reportage that against sticks with the Moons in June and the Rotary Pancake Breakfasts. THE PLANET, however, credits PCTV for making its airwaves available to citizens for local programming. Some good has come out of the three local-access channels, and THE PLANET supports the PCTV effort.
Does the Press Have a Democratic Mission of Not?
BABY, you see, raised one of the most vital issues of all: Does the press have a democratic mission or doesn’t it? Perhaps journalist Walter Lippmann and philosopher John Dewey were correct. Maybe it’s time to express the truth, the honest pessimism, about our so-called democracy. Do We The People actually self-govern ourselves? Don’t confuse this question with the right to self-govern. We have that right, but do we use it?
Look at the local municipal elections in Pittsfield. The city has the mayor’s office, the council, the school committee, and a state rep’s job up for grabs, and not a peep from the campaigners. It’s Aug. 22, and they’ve been dead in the water. After Labor Day, the campaigns will rev up a bit, and so what? What substantially will be done in two weeks to enlighten We The People?
Maybe it’s time finally to admit that We The People, though we have the right to do so, have elected NOT TO SELF GOVERN. Maybe people simply don’t care. Maybe they have chosen to remain uneducated about politics, distracted as they are by their busy lives and the fluff-n-puff of celebrity-sensational “news” (another story on Lady GaGa, anyone, or the earth-shaking story that news outlets used PhotoShop to alter pix of the new British princess to give her a slimmer waist?).
How Sad: The Govern Operates, and We The People are Bystanders
The reality is: Government operates, and most of We The People are bystanders. Is it a coincidence that this has happened at the same time that the mainstream media has abandoned its role as a freedom fighter? You think about that. Is there a correlation between the endless “feel-good” PR that the editors of the Boring Broadsheet load into their paper and the dismal apathy of We The People?
Have they exacerbated democracy’s fundamental flaw, namely, that without a diligent, educated, and involved electorate, democracy collapses. The limits of human perception have been stretched to the breaking point by the Internet, smart phones, and the constant access to information. People no longer can distinguish between what’s important and what’s not. We are raising a new generation of compliant consumers.
The outlook would be gloom and doom, indeed, except for the possibility of calamitous change.
IF the economy bottoms out, and IF this country is plunged into second-class status, perhaps then revolution borne from hunger will arouse the people out of their lethargy. That is, IF it’s not too late and we have not by then morphed into full-fledged totalitarianism.
AWAY INTO THE REST OF OUR DAY, WE BID YOU ADIEU, SAYING …
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.