So there I was, scratching around the web looking for a little perspective on how the hell our expectations of journalists fell so far that Glenn Beck gets to use the same job description that Walter Cronkite used on his tax returns, without getting sued for defaming the entire profession. My guess is, half the population don’t notice and other half don’t give a shit.
I used to think it was pretty cool that Comedy Central were doing their bit in the name of journalism. And, to be fair, Jon Stewart’s beatdown of Tucker Carlson on CNN’s now deservedly-extinct Crossfire was pretty badass. But really, once you think about it, it’s just another reason to hop on a barstool and stop thinking about it.
How did we get here? In lieu of mine own hazy ponderings, enter Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. Giving the 2009 Stuart Bullion Memorial Lecture in Journalism, Chris tells it like it is…
We live in an age of moral nihilism. We have trashed our universities, turning them into vocational factories that produce corporate drones and chase after defense-related grants and funding. The humanities, the discipline that forces us to stand back and ask the broad moral questions of meaning and purpose, that challenges the validity of structures, that trains us to be self-reflective and critical of all cultural assumptions, have withered. And this assault has been a body blow to a free press, which is, like the humanities, designed to promote intellectual and moral questioning.
But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of cake!
We are cleverly entertained during our descent. We have our own version of ancient Rome’s bread and circuses with our ubiquitous and elaborate spectacles, sporting events, celebrity gossip and television reality shows. Societies in decline, as the Roman philosopher Cicero wrote, see their emotional and political passions subsumed by the excitement and emotional life of the arena.