Larry Flynt made a Las Vegas appearance recently. The Hustler publisher visited Southern Nevada for the grand opening of another of his adult novelties emporia.
Although I seldom bother glancing at Hustler – the magazine’s content is too artless for my taste – I nonetheless trekked over to Flynt’s new smut hut. Not because I’ve become more prurient, but in our encroaching Donald Trump times it just seemed proper to pay homage to Flynt, a man who rose to the forefront of defending and strengthening our First Amendment.
While he doesn’t suit any image Americans prefer of their heroes, the Hustler publisher has done much to preserve and expand our ability to opine without censure or censoring. Had Flynt lost his fight, the public’s room to dissent, to ridicule, to deflate, would’ve been circumscribed today.
Too many Americans misunderstand the First Amendment. A great many of us mistakenly believe it only pertains to them, what they believe is “good” and “decent.” The amendment doesn’t only provide protections for views we favor. It also secures much of what we may find objectionable. That is the measure’s greatest strength.
Inevitable, inexorable, and unavoidable as Trump above us nears, the capacity to fearlessly offer Bronx cheers against power becomes more vital than ever. Without the First Amendment, Der Trump and the puerile piglets aligned with him would happily determine how we could express ourselves and to what extent we may.
Naturally the short-fingered vulgarian and his mob would look to Russia for sour guidance.
By now who doesn’t know that social media played a greater part in the controversial 2016 election than the mainstream press? For a time there traditional journalism trailed leads set into motion by nebulous right-wing advocates and trolls who each bore the last name Anonymous.
Of course the expected complaint for the previous sentence would be denial and claims the left or liberals attempted swaying public influence with the same fervor. Granted, the defeated side may’ve expended equal effort.
However, the vanquished vied against the salacious, gross exaggerations, and complete fabrications with rational discourse and facts. A more mature society would’ve likely seen through the ruses and discerned truth from content manufactured solely to malign and confuse.
As American society stumbles (“Stumbles,” not “advances” because who truly believes this presidential election portends our further elevation anytime soon?) fewer of us gain information from print media. Severely declining circulation figures prove that, while reputable over-the-air news broadcasts are losing eyeballs to niche cable providers. Though the last began as somewhat traditional news purveyors, over the decades a good many have jettisoned objectivity and wrapped themselves in cloaks of advocacy.
The importance of print media or televised journalism adhering strictures and standards can’t be overstated. Network news groans under the necessity of impartiality because it’s a condition of being able to broadcast. Availing themselves to the public airwaves as they do, broadcasters’ licenses depend on fairness. Cable stations feel no such pressure.
Print media offers deeper insight than visual news. TV is ephemeral. Despite plenty of newspaper serving as fish wrap afterwards, the fragility of the paper itself, these are permanent and lasting records of our endeavors. Notice no one orders a copy of a TV show shown on the day of his or her birth. Instead, a commemorative copy of that day’s newspaper edition serves this purpose.
Best, though, legitimate news articles just aren’t slapped together on whims and printed. No tantrums written by crazed advocates masquerading as genuine reporters reaches print in real newspapers. That’s the country of activists who guise their tripe in sincerity as they preach to the already devoutly converted.
While reporting errors occur, these infrequently so, the stories filling those spaces have been researched then edited. For clarity. To cleanse them of bias.
United States newspaper readers are lucky. Ours make distinctions between news holes and editorials pages. The former are for facts; the latter serves as opinions forums. Elsewhere in the world these lines just aren’t blurred, but often erased. Beyond our shores, readers digest news stories slanted to fit views precious to the publisher, an advertiser … or perhaps government.
During the next four years, thinking Americans should hope traditional news sources regain their go-to primacy. Cable news, such as it’s become, we should regard as echo chambers. Especially the rightward into reactionary leaning ones. Rather than report what occurred, these conduits have found their demographic and cater to the core through regurgitated repetition.
One mustn’t imagine viewers being indoctrinated by the incessant drum of falsehoods pounding “truth” into viewers. Don’t even have to beat the drum that hard. Those watching have come to prefer outright lies being presented as “truth.” Such lies comfort the willing dupes.
In their respective ways, George Orwell and Joseph Goebbels would each admire how Der Trump suckered masses who believed themselves desperate outcasts in the America of today. The TV conman, real estate swindler, and financial fraud did an unquestionably good job of gauging his audience and making them buy the sham of one-man expertise he sold them.
Without a doubt Orwell and Goebbels, two peas sharing the same language manipulation pod, will be name-dropped often during America’s Trump-induced Four-Year Walk of Shame.
Der Trump sold his best malevolence on behalf of America through social media, where no filter, balance, or pretense of fairness exists nor needs expecting. Pandered as “facts,” what sluiced along social media came across as a serial of MAD magazine’s Spy vs. Spy feature.
No meeting in middle, no compromise, no accommodation, just promoting extremes; no shades of gray, just black and white blocs; no subtleties, just hammer striking anvil. Comical if only one didn’t see the possible real-life consequences as so threatening.
Bound as they are by codes and rules, only the traditional news sources can avoid these polarizations which produce plenty of angry exchanges yet fail informing in the least. Since the turn of the century, former primary news sources have rapidly lost their shares of the public’s appetite for knowledge. New media’s platforms and manners of presentation have captivated the immediate gratification generation, yes, but like diets consisting of sweets and starches over vegetables and protein have sated their hunger devoid of supplying much nutrition.
The 2016 election has demonstrated that American minds are brimming but our intellect starves.
Certainly given the public’s greater skepticism of the system, this cultivated through decades of shrill right-wing haranguing, the days of unassailable reportage have concluded. No more trustworthy TV journalists relaying words the Almighty whispered into their ears, no more news articles made indisputable by print seemingly chiseled into the foolscap. Belief that everything no matter how trivial or innocuous is issued on an angle advantageous to some sinister entity has throttled too much clarity. Even the weather now suffers this blemish.
Though climate change is fact it can be argued as a foreign rival’s plot to hinder domestic industry. While offering convenient and easy to grasp shouting points, these demurrals fail explaining the sudden frequency and almost biblical severity of climatic calamities. These incidents may only worsen tomorrow if alleviating measures remain ignored today.
But again, the softening of our ability to separate facts from hoaxes has provided fertile fields for weakened minds. Canards are acceptable on say-so’s. The verifiable needs disputing.