Humiliated? Yes. Regretful? Never

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Humiliated? Yes. Regretful? Never
Published by Leonard Novarro in Blogs · 16 May 2023
Humiliated? Yes. Regretful? Never

By Leonard Novarro

If you expected Rupert Murdoch or Fox-TV to apologize after agreeing to pay $787.5 million to Dominion voting systems, settling the suit brought against the TV network, look no further. It never was gonna happen.

While Dominion lawyer Justin Nelson declared "truth matters. Lies have consequences,” the British newspaper, The Guardian, who probably knows Murdoch better than anyone else, said it all in a headline: "Fox and Rupert Murdoch have been humiliated, but they won't change their ways."

There was a time, and not so long ago, when truth really mattered. Now, when it comes to legitimate journalism, as in mainstream newspapers and broadcast television, it's as useless as a slingshot in a full-scale war.

"Among the questions raised by the legal drama unfolding in Delaware," wrote reporter Jane Martinson, "was how presenters and the owner of a broadcast 'news' channel could knowingly have spread lies." Another, she added, "was how much a former reality TV star-turned-U.S. president had changed not only democracy but also the journalism meant to hold the powerful to account."

Legitimate journalism used to be called the Fourth Estate because of its role as a check and balance on our three main branches of government -- the presidency, the Congress and the judiciary. But that ended long before Facebook, Google and the rest of social media drove the final stake into the heart of a fading and failing tradition. Long before a pre-president cried "fake news" whenever confronted with the truth -- part of the Hitler-Stalin-Mussolini playbook -- legitimate journalism was bereft of the influence it once had for generations.

In my book "Wordslinger", I trace the confluence of events, beginning in the 1960s, that led to the demise of a once venerable institution. At the same time, changes wrought by the Civi Rights Act of 1964 created a political topsy-turvy of events akin to a Gulliver like transition of political forces.

Immediately after the Civil War and during Reconstruction, the party of Lincoln was anathema in the South. At the same time, while it continued to hold sway over the U.S. presidency for fifty years, Republicans were the reformers. Think Lincoln, Edison and Teddy Roosevelt. The Democratic Party, on the other hand, not necessarily of its own choosing, was linked to a more anti-minority stance. Think Woodrow Wilson, who promoted the Ku Klux Klan, oversaw the segregation of the federal workforce and promoted the racist "Birth of a Nation."

Then came the Civil Right Act of 1964, chmpioned by a Southern Democrat, Lyndon Johnson. Within a decade, sides shifted to where they are now. Blue no longer ruled the South. Red was now, and still is, king.

The second major change occurred in the late 1980s. As I explain in my book "Wordslinger," the
"fairness doctrine of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), created in 1949, required holders of broadcast licenses in radio and television to represent both sides of a controversial issue. When Congress tried to codify the regulation in 1987, President Ronald Reagan vetoed the
legislation. The following year, no longer required to furnish competing viewpoints, Rush Limbaugh launched his radio show. Balance was dead.

"Today, according to latest studies by the Pew Research Center and others, most Americans get their news from right-wing radio shows that grew from these changes and from social media sites such as Facebook, much of it not verifiable and most of it embroiled in one conspiracy theory after another. As for divergent views, don’t expect them there."

So, here we are, once again a nation divided, in which we do not want to abide by objective truth as much as our respective versions of it.

Maybe this is the Jesuit education in me talking, but as moral human beings, shouldn’t we be obligated to judge right and wrong and act righteously to promote the greater good for the greater amount of people? This moral code is the only one that makes sense. And the only way to ensure civility.

However, for those who thought that the Fox-TV decision would, at the very least, point the way there, it is ulikely that we will ever get back to the "there".

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