A blupete Essay

The Press and Democracy, Part 8 to blupete's Essay
"An Essay On Democracy"

To begin with: those charged with informing the public, such as our journalists, should very carefully examine the "expert evidence" that is thrown their way. Our government experts must be cross-examined and asked if they have any interest in the outcome? The answer is that most of them do -- if, for no other reason, then they are in the pay of the government, as either; bureaucrats, lodged in the upper end of the government echelon; or those resting in publicly funded universities; or those who are in the social welfare business.

The result of the syndrome is predictable, for, as the public conflict grows, people come to doubt expert pronouncements. Normally people primarily judge the propositions before them in a most obvious way, by their source. For example, "Of course she claims oil spills are harmless - she works for Exxon." "Of course he says Exxon lies - he works for Nader." When established experts lose credibility, the demagogues take over and we are left in our mass democracy with groups trying to outshout one another.

"When their views have corporate appeal, they take them to the public through advertising campaigns. When their views have pork-barrel appeal, they take them to legislatures through lobbying. When their views have dramatic appeal, they take them to the public through media campaigns. Groups promote their pet experts, the battle goes public, and quiet scientists and engineers are drowned in the clamor."
Do the important issues get debated in the mass media? Some things seem to work well enough without any notice being taken by the public: and, often, these are the most simple and important workings of society such as family cooperation. In the media, as in human consciousness, one concern tends to drive out another. This is what makes conscious attention so scarce and precious. Our society needs to identify the facts of its situation more swiftly and reliably, with fewer distracting feuds in the media. This will free public debate for its proper task - judging procedures for finding facts, deciding what we want, and helping us choose a path toward a world worth living in.

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2011