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FROM MY CORNER: Media’s Myopia

Howell Hurst American News, Humans, People, Racism

[Myopia according to Webster’s is: “nearsightedness; lack of understanding or foresight.” Arguably this defines the state of America’s newspapers and broadcasting companies. And, unfortunately, of too many of the American people.]

Nationally, current riots document this near-sightedness after decades of onerous financial oppression of blacks and poor whites by a predominantly wealthy white racist-inclined American culture. This is also subtly evident locally on the Monterey Peninsula where I live.

The oppression is economic and is defined by long-existing condescension toward minorities by an enclave of privileged people on high. These extremely wealthy deny this oppression and cover their responsibility for America’s financial inequality by ostentatious donations to non-profit organizations ostensibly aiding the poor.

This behavior does not anyway near approach having a comprehensively positive effect on the massive income inequality that dominates American life. Oh, mainstream press has it partially right: the pandemic with its forced isolation has re-established the territory upon which this social battle is being conducted.

But paradoxically, why this battle is now nationally re-erupting is being reported only by select American media: The New York Review of Books, The Atlantic, The New Republic, The New Yorker, Politico, Harpers, Mother Jones, maybe even occasionally on the right somewhat by the hard-to-define Washington Examiner; and, of course, by non-white media.

 What am I trying to explore here? I’d like to cast light on why mainstream media ignore or gloss over the reasons for America’s financial bigotry.  And for its white-on-black police violence. (Black-on-black violence is another issue; there’s no room here to explore that unique problem.)

So, allow me to try to bring this down to earth and deal with it simply. This month, I spent almost three weeks trying to persuade our local weekly newspaper’s CEO to do something I thought made a lot of sense. I thought it would appeal to him. I was sorely mistaken.

I asked if he would consider publishing an article posing the following question: do we have here locally workers who, after three months of unemployment, are about to lose the places where they live, to be literally evicted? And, if so, would he in his journal then publicly appeal to our local wealthy to directly aid them?

He refused. The details of our back and forth emails, I shall spare you. They became a prototype of two people’s words passing by the ears of the other rather than into them.  It eventually became clear the CEO lives in a different world from mine.

Intriguingly, A Pulitzer prize-winning writer, Maryilynne Robinson, deals with an issue relevant to this in the current New York Review of Books article: “What Kind of Country Do We Want?” She pinpoints the problem of our unequal American culture quite plainly and clearly.

         “The profit motive has been implanted in our deepest history as a species, in our DNA . . . American unhappiness has        arisen from the cordoning-off of low-income workers from the reasonable hope that they and their children will be fairly compensated for their work.”

If you have read my many commentaries you know I disagree with the much-beloved profit motive of our rapaciously predatory American economy. Rather than seeing it as the much-touted salvation of the earth’s people, I too judge it far more the cause of what Ms. Robinson further says in her essay.

            “The global order has meant that the poor will remain poor.”

How does this economic phenomenon intertwine the death of yet another Black American by the hand of our intellectually-challenged police with the passivity of our intellectually-challenged media?

It is another example of the mental cowardice of our wealthy, of their law-enforcers, and of their daily chroniclers of our infantile culture when dealing with non-white Americans, as well as – in today’s world – its low-income American workers?

Our culture has embraced the idea that if someone has low-income and less education than we do, and is a shade off color, they are inferior. The next step is to accept that they deserve to be treated that way – even to the extreme that we too often allow police to get away with murdering them.

Meanwhile we simply cast the entire phenomenon from our mind.

The media, I propose, are the basic bedrock of this cultural norm. Because, if the people of the United States share any common vision of life, it is held together, – however tenuously – by what we all read, and hear in our media.  However, I judge media to be failures today in seriously exploring their part in perpetuating a worldview long seen as obsolete among thinking people.

Most U.S. media are captive to “Luxury” advertising dollars aimed at wealthy spenders. Safeguarding these profits depends on media’s ability to balance the promotion of capitalism “as is” while passively exhibiting concern for the abandoned non-white and poor-white.

American Media’s existence being grounded in the Luxury profit motive, they largely deny or are unaware of their duplicity; I don’t think they actually mean harm. But it is definitely debatable whether their intellectual inquisitiveness is adequate for them to fulfill their jobs any more.

An intellectual awakening on the part of the mentally-conflicted media industry’s leaders is in order. They are no longer journalists; they have become primarily self-aggrandizing marketers. They are the allies of a decaying financial system we would all do better off without.

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