Wednesday, February 1, 2017
The Media Who Cried 'DESPOTISM'
Once upon a large media class lived in a great republic. It contained reporters, pundits, and opinion formers, who had once been respected. While the populace was busy raising families and doing their jobs, they sent the media class out to watch over a swamp that, since the republic's founding, had been regarded as a possible source of tyranny. Their mission was to chatter loudly and warn the populace at the approach of despotism.
Sometimes the media got sleepy out in the swamp and, in one period of eight years, most of its members dozed off even though undemocratic dangers were loping past them in the form of an illegal war, a blatant lie, and other abuses of power. These threats stole in among the populace and feasted, unremarked by the sleeping media.
After their long nap of two sleep cycles, the media awoke with a jolt and remembered they had a duty. But they couldn't remember precisely what it was. So they determined to make as much noise as possible and point out despotic dangers even where there were none.
Many new creatures were moving through the swamp. The media found them ugly, and didn't like them at all. Their response was mostly a mixture of snobbery and, because they had not foretold the arrival of these new beasts, fear for their jobs.
They decided to raise the alarm even though they were meant to do so only at the approach of genuine threats to liberty and self-governance. Instead, the alarm was raised at the most trivial infractions, as when, for example, the most fearsome of the new beasts went out to dinner without informing the media guardians. This was depicted to the republic as a betraying a tendency toward subterfuge and secrecy.
Like young children thinking every noise at night is a witch or a goblin, the media thought they detected abuse of power in every shadow.
Over there! That strange shape, half seen and largely misperceived, looked like fascism. They just knew the wolves were coming. So they let out a scream.
"Donald is silencing scientists and censoring federal employees," they shouted, arousing the populace. The people of the republic came running. But when they looked closely, they realized it was a false alarm. The supposed danger came from the same changes of season the media had slept through eight years earlier.
The people returned, annoyed, to their homes.
Soon after, on a Monday night just ten days after they had woken up, an old lawyer went missing, and the guardians of the swamp sounded their alarm again, even louder this time.
"Monday night massacre!" they blared. They loved sounding this alarm, for it reminded them of their antique forebears' role in catching the wolf of Watergate. Pundits dilated on the dawn of tyranny.
Again, the people leapt from their beds and came running. What they found in the swamp was again harmless. The missing lawyer was an acting secretary who, citing no law but instead her own wisdom, had refused to execute a lawful order, and had been fired a few days early.
The people grumbled and cursed their unreliable guardians. They returned to their homes, shaking their heads. Ever since the media arose from its slumber, they've been shouting "abuse of power" and "fascism," thought the people. You can't trust them.
As the people slammed their doors and closed their windows to keep from being disturbed by more pointless alarms from the swamp, the media watched with unease.
Now, they thought, if the wolves come, as real abuse of power or fascism, to attack the people's liberties and self-governance, or to steal the republic's wealth, who will believe us if we sound the alarm? We can't stop the wolves ourselves. We need the people of the republic to respond to our cries. But the people do not trust us. Will anyone come to us now if real wolves attack?