Note: When I am in solitude with nothing but my own mind for company, scary things result, such as this.
In the interests of providing entertainment content that may or may not violate the Geneva Convention, I propose a reality television show that has journalists locked up in a house that, as the noted internet troll above said: “only shows Fox News or movies from Fishflix” where the journalists “can only leave the house when they write a story that is tweeted approvingly by the president. Season only ends when the last journo leaves.” While this show may be classified as cruel and unusual punishment, it would make for fascinating television, because the lack of enthusiasm on the part of the journalists to write a story that the president could tweet approvingly would be matched by the grim nature of a reality where left-biased journalists can only get news from Fox News and only entertain themselves by watching Christian films, possibly with the only food deliveries coming from Chick-Fil-A (sorry, no delivery on Sundays). The entertainment of watching these journalists struggle between obvious self-preservation and their desire not to write anything commendatory about the president or his behavior would be popular entertainment, not least in a world that does not think very highly of contemporary journalists.
How did things get to this point? It is not as if America’s press has ever been all that genuinely truthful. For all of the thoughts that there was once a golden age of American journalism for newspapers and television, there has always been a particular bias and narrowness about the perspective shown by the American press. Not all of the press in America’s history has been as crude as the sensationalist press of the late 1800’s or the contemporary scene, but there has never been a period where America’s press culture has been unbiased. To be sure, there were times where the characteristic bias of newspapers was thought to be thought of as reflecting within the general consensus of large portions of the American public, but this consensus was an admittedly fragile one that required a populace that had a high degree of trust in civic institutions and a press that had strong patriotic motivations. In the contemporary period where journalists seem torn between trying to argue that there is no standard of truth or justice that they can be held to while simultaneously seeking to hold the moral high ground as representatives of a Fourth estate against those they consider their rivals and enemies as authorities, journalists have suffered along with everyone else in the general mistrust for elites and authorities that now exists within our nation and across the world.
The premise for a show like this could only exist in a world where considerable animosity exists between a professional class of people who has tied their well-being and self-respect to a view that they possess and ought to possess a permanent state of institutional power and those who disagree. To be sure, someone must hold institutional power, and since even in the most anarchical and dysfunctional of societies some institutions must exist, and those institutions have offices that must be filled by someone, indeed some people must be accounted worthy of holding that power. Such people are expected to serve the best interests of society at large, and the honor and dignity of those offices declines dramatically when it is seen that the holders of these offices are only interested in serving their own selfish interests. The gap between the self-regard of journalists and the regard that they are held in by a large share of the public is stark and shows no sign of going away. It is easy to find ways of criticizing our current president. He is crude and somewhat deliberate in being a troll. That said, if he may be considered to be a bully he is not a bully to ordinary people but rather chooses as targets to mock and to troll those targets that are immensely appealing to ordinary people. The shrewdness of that move is not something to be underestimated, which sort of explains why so many people who should know better so consistently insult him as a dictator when he is no more of a dictator than a fierce populist on the mold of an Andrew Jackson. In a more troubled country that resembled the fevered nightmares of journalists, the sort of libel that they engaged in on a daily basis would be enough for long stints in uncomfortable prisons or a bullet in the back of the head. The fact that our nation’s journalists have nothing to fear worse than some well-earned ribbing and teasing suggests that we are still a nation that believes in freedom of the press even when we happen to think poorly of those who use that freedom most conspicuously. One wonders how long that can endure.