Media Myopia

cowardly_watchdogThe journos and press pundits are all over this proposed ‘media bill’ like a rash.  And good on em’, for it’s a key area in which freedom must be fought for and won.

But, for the all kudos the press loves to heap upon itself for being so independent and vigilant and impartial and blah, blah, blah, it does a woefully inadequate job of exposing the thousands of other areas in which freedom is remorselessly being assaulted.  Sure press freedom is a big issue, but why doesn’t the media get as hot for other big causes like monetary freedom, or regulatory freedom, or constitutional freedom, or fiscal freedom, or freedom from being signed up to bogus global accords in Copenhagen etc.

The basic answer is that the press, and especially the mainstream press, is by and large as myopic as any other interest group.  An assault on press freedom gets big headlines from the very people such laws threaten to impinge upon, but it would be nice if the press were even half as passionate about all the other massive smotherings of our basic freedoms.

Alas, for such a supposedly intelligent bunch of people, the average journo is actually quite a bore, with few original thoughts and little freedom to express them under the stilted editors that sit in charge over the major broadsheets and mainstream news rooms.  In the end these folk focus on micro stories, a) because often they can’t think much bigger than a personalised sob-story (eg. “Thandi lives with her four children in a leaking corrugated tin shack just outside Khayelitsha.  The local authorities promised her a house in 1995, but15 years later she is still living in a puddle etc etc”), and b) because they’re lazy and ultimately a bit spineless and don’t really want to take on real power bases.  So instead our intrepid professional scribblers pick meaningless or easy battles that aren’t accompanied by any professional or reputational risk.

Of course when it comes to making a big noise about press freedom the press is there in force, writing brow-frowningly earnest pieces about the encroaching state and the ‘danger of big government’.  I guess that is largely the same myopic survival instinct kicking in, it’s just that in this case, rather than the existential risk being in fighting the injustice, it is in NOT fighting the injustice.

So, my challenge to the mainstream and not-so-mainstream press is to extend your newfound courage into the myriad of other big areas in which freedom has been squashed far more than has press freedom.

Use your full-time paychecks and investigative mandates to tell us about the inner workings of the high seats of coercion in this country.  Interview the central bankers and ask them why the rand has lost 90% of its value since 1990 when in 1989 the Reserve Bank Act stipulated that the primary objective of the central bank was to “protect the value of the currency”.

Ask our Treasury officials why they are paying wages with borrowed money, and ask them how issuing new government bonds to replace the value of the maturing bonds is anything other than a Ponzi scheme.

Ask the ‘policy makers’ how printing new bank notes is anything other than theft of value from the existing pool of banknotes owned by people who worked to get their hands on them.

Ask those officials in charge of subsidising certain industries if they’ve thought about the fact that the money they’re paying into one industry is money taken away from other industries who collectively suffer in proportion to those who gain.

Ask Mr Rob Davies if he thinks it fair to impose import duties to protect local industries from foreign competition, thereby raising the price ALL consumers have to pay for tariffed products and thereby diverting disposable income away from other goods and services, hurting all those other ‘unseen’ sectors.

Ask the Labour Department why it enjoys discriminating against the unemployed by enforcing minimum wage laws and why it continues to demand higher wages when labour productivity among the unskilled is falling.

Throughout this whole ‘press clamp-down’ debacle the journos and opinionistas have been pleading their cause by arguing that they do a wonderful, and noble, and sterling job telling people about the government’s lack of service delivery and corruption.  Great, but these are really just small slices off a very large cake, and most state ineptitude is a competence issue rather than a justice issue.  By telling people they’re not getting the houses or sewerage services they ‘deserve’, the media is largely endorsing the pathetic ‘right’s culture’ pervading our nation, conjuring up pseudo-injustices and ignoring the real ones.  What’s more, I hardly think some former stoner Rhodes grad scribbling stories in a plush Sandton office needs to tell the people on the ground in Dustville that they’re not receiving basic services and that it’s the fault of the ANC.  That much is clear to everyone already.

So, c’mon press folk, put your pen where your bolshie mouths are and start uncovering some real black holes of unjust rot in this country, and then maybe I’ll actually start reading what you have to say.

Heck, I might even buy a newspaper again.

One Response to “Media Myopia”

  1. Ja well said…