Contrary to the general current hubbub among the talking heads, conflict over policy and its irresolution is not new nor a sign of the near collapse of our society. If some of these people who rant and rave over the current level of acrimony in our public life had a tidbit of historical sense, they would hark back to the early history of our Republic to find that such has always been a part of its nature. Look back at the accusations thrown at our second Pres. Thomas Jefferson, whether true or not, and get a taste of what it has always been like to enter public life in America.
This cacophony arises, of course, from the very nature of our Republic and its democracy. The Founders carefully wrote conflict in terms of competition into our fundamental law. For one of the original concepts of the American constitution was that unlike other European regimes which preceded it – including Britain’s representative government – it attempted to categorize legislation, implementation and arbitration as three distinct branches of government, carefully balanced but always in conflict with each other.
What is new, perhaps, is that the basic premise on which the Republic was built, a small government conducted by part-time politicians, has been lost of the complexity of modern life. Added to that has been the tendency in some quarters to always see government intervention as the way to solve problems. Add that to a self-appointed elite, product of a few universities which may already have seen their heyday as academic institutions because of their snobbery, and you get the current situation. That may be in fact different from earlier times.
A symptom of the distorted new imbalance in the Republic is the overweening role of the media and its manipulators. It is ironic that at a time when print media, long the monitor of government, is dying. But now ironically you have not only have a greater emphasis on the media but an inordinate concern with the superficialities of its functioning. There are almost as many non-profit outfits critiquing the media today as important centers of news and information themselves. But their analysis largely falls short because they examine the nitty-gritty of every day reporting rather than its overall substance. It is alas! these days too often an attempt to instruct the public about where it should go rather than where it is going.
A symptom of this self-adsorption is a series of motion pictures about the media. Since Alan J. Pakula’s 1976 film “All the President’s Men,”, ostensibly about how Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein dug out material leading to Richard M. Nixon’s resignation, there have been a series of movies about newsmen. Without exception, they have presented them in their best light, noble fighters for freedom against the powers of evil in the modern world.
Last year we were blessed with two examples of the gendre. Just as they presented a generally false picture of what really goes on in the bowels of reporting and editing, they actually celebrated notorious failings without identifying them. One can only gasp at their inadequacies. “Truth” purports to tell the story of the newsmen who went after a story of how Pres. George W. Bush had shirked his duty while serving in the national guard. But it does that despite the fact that the two principal newspeople involved used forged documents and both lost their staff jobs as a result. Hardly a paen of praise for the media, or indeed, one wonders why worthy of a movie which in this incestrous elitist environment is given huge praise and forced on a largely unsuspecting public.
Then the Hollyooders brought out “Spotlight,” a tale of how The Boston Globe’sintrepid reportrts exposed pedophile priests and the accusations of child-molestation were protected by the Boston Roman Catholic Archdiocese. But in the end, the whole story is something of a bore except for those with a more than a detached interest in the mechanics of pedophilia,
We think this concentration by our friends in the theater in our somewhat routine effort to smoke out facts and figures is misplaced. We wish they would go back to romance and adventure, the real raw material on which our movies should be built and which their fertile imaginations can always build.