The Fourth Estate is Treating the Eighth Commandment as a Suggestion
I feel confident that America has all the necessary tools to address our most pressing issues of health, climate, environment, infrastructure and war. If we are lacking in any one of those arenas, we can just beckon the universe of artificial intelligence, create some problem solving algorithms, and replace the Congress.
I am not so bolstered, nor assured, there are any strategies in place to deal with the intractable epidemic of character disorders that have permeated every facet of our culture. Industry, Commerce, Government and Religion are being subsumed by tabloid culture and driven by confabulated bots. Behavior aberrancy has found a way to step to the front of the line and assume the mantle. Ethical and moral lapses have kidnapped the news cycle and the ancient cliche journalistic adage; "what bleeds leads," is having a day in the sun, cockroaches and all. We are better than this and always have been.
When the fairness doctrine political radio was vanquished in 1989, within days it spawned a cottage industry of angry talk radio hosts, wherein we as a people began the unintended consequence of violating the 8th Commandment and bearing false witness against our neighbor and turning journalism into a profiteering industry.
Some of the soil for this collective sin was laid with a Supreme Court decision in June of 2012. It was decided that it is essentially not against the law to lie, if it does not harm or results in no personal gain, as it would be an unconstitutional abridgment of the First Amendment: freedom of speech. Couple this with Citizens United and we have a toxic stew of linguistic games that are leading us into a dark alley for democracy.
The purity of the Fourth Estate is being invalidated by corporate news narcissism that supersedes the individual citizen and concedes its new selections to ratings based on advocacy journalism. Attribution of sources and material that chronicle lasting truths are the casualties. This trend alone will erode our ability, and possibly even the will, to govern and poison the pure intent of free speech.
So who is in charge of this dystopia of advanced payment disinformation that can seldom be discerned to be accurate? No one! It is like smoking cigarettes, a bad habit that consumed a nation with no one in charge.
The bad karma part of this trend is that much of the media; print, broadcast and the vast array of political ghostwriters are violating the 8th Commandment on an hourly basis.
To quote Ted Koppel; "the Ten Commandments were not called the ten suggestions."
There are consequences to the spoiling of character. Two examples, one past and one present.
Since Iran is on the radar I will share this one. The topic of returning frozen assets to Iran is an example of scant attention given to historical truth. How many of our commoners know that these monies were for military equipment we sold to them and never delivered as a result of the Regime change, that we propped up, and then collapsed in 1979? In fact we sold them F-16 jets and trained their pilots at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona. Will one ever see any of this backstory in any form of media? It is washed away with the wave of currency sans all aspects of historical perspective. Dangerous brave new world.
Just one example of the frozen Fourth Estate cable news feeding frenzy of controversy sans all delving into the origins of an event. Prolonged travails get more hits and ratings then thoughtful research and skilled narrative.
The present day example is the 81 lies that have been promulgated by our POTUS about the creation of the Choice Act, now Mission Act, for Veterans. This was launched in 2012 and implemented by Congress in 2014. Simple truth. The other is babble.
There are exceptions to this hijacking of truth by way of the print media. From varying perspectives we can still rely on Harpers and The Atlantic and The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Examiner, and yes even the John Birch magazine, The American. Imprimis is hugely biased but honest, as is Mother Jones on the other side.
Some religion periodicals are more engaged with current culture than ever before. Commonweal, First Things, and I like Christianity Today as it is fearless in addressing thorny issues. These are some of the folks that will protect and secure the Fourth Estate.
The phrase Fourth Estate is credited to Edmund Burke, (1729-1797), a British politician who once asserted, "there are three Estates in Parliament, but in the reporters gallery yonder there sat a Fourth Estate more important then they all."
Our First Amendment to the Constitution grants freedom of the press and it allows it to be the watchdog and source of vigilance for the commoner. Yet the bastions of investigative journalism that informs and elevates the collective consciousness is an empty desk in today's newsrooms.
I return to my assertion that we have become a nation of polarized people who rely on news that violates the 8th Commandment every single day- and are paid to do so! Is it possible that this in antecedent to our other national maladies?
The 8th Commandment is thus: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."
Admittedly, I was educated in Catholic schools where we were instructed to engage in frequent, "examination of conscience." That meant paying attention to the nuances of the Ten Commandments. Some of those related to the 8th Commandment would be: deliberate lies, perjury, harming others reputation, slander, gossip, telling the faults of others, detraction, betraying trust, uncharitable criticism, false suspicions, deliberately misleading or deceiving, and most important to this writer is refusing to confess or forgive.
In a nation that professes to be founded on Christian principles and a rising decibel level of Evangelicals, should we not be reminded that these Commandments are not suggestions?