Where’s the Rage?
Stephanie R. Murphy
by Stephanie R. Murphy
may seem like peanuts compared to the gargantuan national
debt. Nonetheless, that’s the amount of money the US Department
of Education confiscated from you and me and paid to Armstrong
Williams for his promotion of the No
Child Left Behind Act. Egregious, yes. Surprising, no.
says he "believes in" the program. He only accepted the
stolen loot because he supported NCLB anyway. He would have promoted
DOE apparently paid Williams to promote NCLB as part of an "outreach"
program. In other words, government officials hired a black person
to talk up a program they know many black Americans are skeptical
about – and rightly so. Part of Williams’ contract was also to encourage
other prominent black journalists and pundits in America’s
Black Forum to promote NCLB as well. Does anyone else find this
media have regurgitated this story with a detached indifference,
just as they cover all government idiocy. News reports on celebrity
gossip evoke more passion in journalists. Admittedly, the Armstrong
Williams scandal isn’t a life or death issue. I was sickened to
hear, however, the nonchalant reports this weekend of US forces
in Iraq mistakenly dropping a 500-pound bomb
on a residence in Iraq. We killed 14 innocent people. Oops.
those who are incensed by the pundit’s payoff seem assuaged by the
fact that it has spurred an investigation. Reaction to government
failures typically follows a formulaic course: an official reports
that one or another fat bureaucracy has "formed a committee"
which is "looking into" the debacle. This only happens
if and when coverage of the goof creates enough public murmuring.
are people so placated by investigations? The government is investigating
– with your money – a scandal in which it illegally paid someone
– using your money – to spew propaganda for another of its disastrous
programs – which you are paying for both in monetary terms and in
terms of the program’s unintended consequences. It’s happened hundreds
of times with hundreds of other government disappointments in the
exact same way. Not to worry. "They’re looking into it."
the rage? Has everyone suddenly become a pacifist? I think it’s
safe to assume that we have not.
So why do I feel like the only person who gets fired up about anything
done by the mob of organized criminals running amok in Washington,
the answer to this question came to me via a commentator on my favorite
Leviathan state has become so bloated that it intrudes into virtually
every area of our daily lives. Naturally, this makes for a lot of
news. The hawkish commentator explained it quite eloquently: for
journalists to get news information from any government source,
they have to "make nice." They must gain a reputation
for asking the right questions – i.e., ones that don’t rock the
boat – and for spinning stories to cast politicians and government
programs in a favorable light. Only then will officials talk. It
increasingly appears that we have a free press in name only.
Harry Browne points
out, most journalists have strong political views. Liberal or
conservative, people in the press see themselves as reformers who
can broadcast their views to others and elicit change. And they
unquestioningly see the government as the arbiter of such change.
news reports have another interesting feature as well: they are
reductive. Stories are condensed to a few key details in the interest
of holding short viewer attention spans and covering as many stories
as possible in a finite period of time. Unfortunately this practice
often leads to vast oversimplification of complex issues. It’s common
for people exposed to oversimplified reporting to assume that hearing
a few shallow points makes them experts on the issue. An often-suggested
panacea for any complex problem is more government intervention,
and usually the newly ordained experts only serve to rally "public
support" for it.
media are notorious for fear mongering and sensationalism. Shocking
headlines sell; any crisis – real or invented – is a boon to journalists.
Government thrives on crisis. Whatever problem the media hypes ad
infinitum is a perfect opportunity for some politician to swoop
in and save the day with another useless program. Later, the unintended
consequences of that program will create yet another crisis, which
the media will again oversimplify and exaggerate. More intervention
yet, the exceedingly pro-government media continually claim objectivity.
When people consider the news they hear unbiased, they more likely
neglect to take it with the proverbial grain of salt. Unfortunately,
even the "most trusted" and the most "fair and balanced"
news requires a large saltshaker for the viewer or reader. Both
the ubiquity of news pertaining to the government and the self-proclaimed
objectiveness of the media contribute to the notions that many Americans
share about government: government is intrinsic to our lives; government
is a natural and benign entity; government is a "necessary
consumers of information have increasingly begun to sense deception
on the part of the "objective" media, however. This is
one reason for the increasing popularity of Internet news sources
and weblogs over television, newspaper, and AM/FM radio broadcasts.
"Alternative" news sources usually make no bones about
displaying their biases directly and clearly. Guests of LewRockwell.com,
for example, know exactly what they’re reading – and it’s anti-state,
anti-war, and pro-market.
conclusion? Well, since my own biases are fairly transparent, you
may have already guessed it. The Department of Miseducation which
paid Armstrong Williams to espouse crazy government schemes might
as well have saved its – oops, I mean our – money. DC has Big Media
wrapped around its grubby little finger.
R. Murphy [send her
mail] studies Biochemistry at the University of Massachusetts
at Amherst. She is a member of LifeSharers
Organ Donation Network.