Monday, October 25, 2010

Freedom of the Press

(Tangentially related, this is the 2010'th post on Hurricane Radio.)

Everyone who talks about politics should go and get involved with their local community politics. You want better government, you have to work for it. Part of working for it is taking rational action to affect your politics locally.

That being said, one can only imagine the importance of having independent media like the American Zombie to investigate stuff most of your locals won't touch.

And that's the thing that has intrigued me the most about this episode in New Orleans. Here is one overwhelming problem with our politics - locally, statewide and nationally - that has led us to the government we have today.

Here is an independent internet investigator going through pages and pages of official documents and timelines to examine and thoroughly vet a candidate for the United States House of Representatives. This is stuff you would expect media groups with more robust resources to be doing.

But they're not.

You'd expect this to be bigger news, especially in this town. You'd expect this kind of possible scandal to be on all the talk radio and all the papers. But except for a passing mention, it isn't.

So one must beg the question: why? Why not?

First of all, these questions are being asked of the frontrunner. This guy is very likely to become New Orleans' next congressman. And in a town more suited for feudalism and patronage than the free market and results, he is poised to hold a great deal of power. If he wins, he is expected to hold the seat for a very, very long time.

No one wants to be on his bad side. Few members of the local media want to be that person who self-limits their access by investigating his past.

Moreover, as I learned this summer, many of the things being talked about were considered normal behavior on the part of state legislators of both political parties. If the frontrunner has his career options limited by this type of behavior, other powerful patrons will likely run into the same scrutiny. (Well, not really, but in theory.)

In a macro sense, these are problems that exist across the land. It is why the GOP tend to focus on marketing utopian visions of the "good ole days" countered by paranoid fantasies of what will happen if Democrats get elected. It is why the Democrats tend to focus on ethnic and labor memberships to provide their base.

Nobody really wants to fix the problems inherent in political government. And with so much power at stake, few individuals in the media are willing to expend the resources necessary to exhaustively investigate those who would lead us when A) those investigations may go nowhere, B) aren't guaranteed to increase readership from a harried population if they do, and C) result in limited access in any case.

In a perfect world, or at least a more rational one, our Democratic frontrunner for US House would be facing serious critique and examination for his qualifications. In a more rational world, our GOP Senatorial frontrunner would be facing serious critique and examination of his record, competence and ideological consistency.

But we have none of those things. Instead, we have only outrageous political advertisements and appeals to team loyalty.

And real independent, beholden to none, investigative journalism posted on the internet.


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