“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves,”
From Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: Edward R. Murrow understood this quote while McCarthy ignored it all together.
While watching old broadcasts of both Murrow and McCarthy, I came to wonder what drives people to such paranoia?
In the summer of 2001 I went to New York with my father. One of his long time College friends lived there, so a free place to stay was helpful, welcome, and a good reason for my dad and he to catch up. Each day my dad and I would take the train into the city to visit Central Park, The Empire State Building, and once, The World Trade Center Buildings. I still have my ticket stubs.
When I was in eighth grade my friend Matt called me in the morning and told me to turn on the TV. I watched the second plane hit, and the buildings fall and for some reason it all felt very exciting to me. It didn’t feel like the world had suddenly changed. I was surprised, but I couldn’t have understood the implications this event entailed.
It still makes me sigh and grit my teeth that George W. Bush became our president. Do I think Al Gore would have handled the situation better? Who knows. I think he would have handled it differently, that’s for sure.
“Either you are with us, or your are with the terrorist,” said W. Bush.
Murrow might have been right in 1954, but in 2001 his fears came to pass. Part of this, I believe, was by the same means Murrow himself fought such fear mongering. The media outgrew itself. There will always be differences in reporting. Fox news is bias and harmful, but I think not so different from the other news channels as they are, in the end, all reporting the same things. All reporting how bad the world has become.
Yesterday as I unlocked my bike after going to the gym a middle aged man asked me for some food. He looked miserable. I, like anyone has turned away from a homeless person before. Yesterday I didn’t have my wallet with me, so didn’t buy the man any food. But I asked him how he was doing, if he was staying safe and told him about the food bank that is open twice a week.
Unfortunately for us the events of 9/11 accomplished their goals. It pushed the hand of our government, just as the fear of the Soviet Union did back in 1954, to prosecute and treat their own people as the enemy.
George W. Bush needed someone to tell him these lines.
~We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason. If we dig deep in our history and our doctrine and remember that we are not descended from fearful men. Not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were for the moment unpopular.~
The problem I see is that every man or woman who speaks the truths Murrow would have felt necessary in our day and age or billed as comedians. Yes, they are passionate about their topics, but as long as they keep the crowds laughing those same crowds will not speak up for themselves in outrage or in protest. To recreate what Murrow accomplished Aaron Sorkin has created The Newsroom starring Jeff Daniels, and while this show speaks truths, things that need to be said, the fact of the matter is these things can only be said in fiction. Because this the news, the real truth and news, the dissent that sparked discourse is absent from the 6 o’clock. There are no more Murrows in that industry. No voice of reason that isn’t masked by the term fiction or comedian.
For a closer look at these issues see Corey Doctorow’s work Little Brother, which is free on his website.