Saturday, September 09, 2017

Cart or Horse?

A journalist recently wrote that journalists are people who have to know things first, and this is why they are so easy to manipulate. They leap to conclusions, always in their narrative direction; they over-read rumors. Decades before our controversies about media bias, they talked in terms of getting the scoop, as if that were of some great importance.  Breaking news pushes everything out, and the whole industry will seem to grind to a halt, with talking heads outside the White House or an award ceremony, unable to bring anything real, talking endlessly with each other about what the news might be when it comes.  It's rather like Vladimir and Estragon, or Ionesco's "The Leader," absurdist characters with nothing to say speculating on what others will do.

Therefore, a leak is like a drug to them - they will want to believe it. Like a schoolboy talking about entertainers, it's important to be the one who was onto it first. They have to be up-to-the-minute, and even when they get older and slow down a bit, smiling, they still have to demonstrate their chops that they "get it." They have "well-placed sources," who are often no more than professional PR flaks, who are doling out the drug according to a schedule and plan.

I have noted before that liberals seem to have much more interest in what is fashionable (see also, urban dwellers, who like to be at the center of the action), very now, very hip, very in the loop.  This is not universal, certainly - I know some conservatives and libertarians who put a lot of attention into remaining current.  There are liberals who claim to be uninterested in what is current. Yet I find that many of those very much want to keep up with knowing what opinions they should have about things.  They don't follow Kardashians, but they are up on the latest about Comey, or perhaps new technology. Still, I can think of none who are as removed as a CS Lewis, who took no newspaper, and little interest in current events. Not many conservatives there either, frankly.  We are all reading the news instead of books, and this year's books rather than last century's, never mind Church Fathers.*

If my observation is accurate, which is not proven but I think defensible, which causes which?  Do liberals go into journalism because they want to know things now, which prompts them to acquire the skills necessary to get that information, which they they make a living on, passing it along to others? Or does living in a now, now, now environment gradually turn you to fashion, and to liberalism?

Side note: I think it has been true for a very long time - I can detect it in early Victorian writers - that people who are very aware of current events think of themselves as something like well-read. Some of them, if you ask them, will recognise a distinction immediately and admit that they are not so - not conversant with great writers and philosophers. Yet the next day, they will be talking down about the intellect and culture of those who are not well-versed in the events of the day in just that tone.

*It is of course possible to read only books from centuries ago which will still reliably tell you exactly what you want to hear. Still, things sneak through in such circumstances.  You can't hide forever.


james said...

On a slightly related tangent: when did election reporting come to focus almost entirely on party strategy and polling? The machinery rather than the issues and qualifications...

The reporter wants to be "in the know," and that's more convenient if there's a single system in which decisions are made. So he will prefer a system which lets him do his job more easily and with more of a sense of superiority to the common crowd. And since he is "in the know" he understands the necessity of maintaining such a single system, consisting of those with the knowledge needed to rule.
Maybe both come first.

Sam L. said...

I'd say it's a broken wheel and a cow.

charlie said...

Reading this, I was reminded by a post by Prof. James Thompson:

a bit harsh in tone.


Charles W. Abbott