But you cannot understand any of the disastrous situation we are in (with America leading the way and the rest of the world following passively behind, as ever) without taking account of the failure of the press.
I devoured most of a book by Matt Taibbi (another mt!) last night called The Great Derangement, which I highly recommend. I will quote from what I consider to be the central point of the whole brilliantly sorry story, on pages 187-189 in the paperback edition, the closing section of the chapter "9/11 and the Derangement of Truth":
"They hate our freedoms" was only one of a number of preposterous lies mainstream society was expected to embrace after 9/11. The Iraq invasion and the reasons for it were only the most obvious. By 2003 or 2004 any American with even half a brain could only assess the performance of his government via a careful weighing of various lies and contradictions. An educated person understood that the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) business was a canard and that there had to be some other reason for the invasion of Iraq...
It's not a good sign when even your supporters don't even bother to take your cover story seriously...
When the administration submitted its "Clear Skies" plan to Congress, who among us didn't automatically know that it was a giveaway to polluters? Or that "Healthy Forests" was somehow going to result in more trees being cut down? America by the early years of this century was a confusing kaleidoscope of transparent, invidious bullshit, a place where politicians hired consultants to teach them to "straight talk", where debates were decided by inadvertent coughs and smiles, and elections were resolved via competing smear campaigns...
The message of all this was that Americans were now supposed to make their own sense of the world. There was no dependable authority left to turn to, no life raft in the increasingly perilous information sea. This coincided with an age when Americans now needed to understand more of the world than ever before...
Now broke, or under severe financial pressure, with no community leaders, no community, no news he can trust, Joe American has to turn on the internet and tell himself a story that makes sense to him.
What story is he going to tell?
Maybe the idea of "saving" journalism is wrong-headed.
Many of the information streams we need have never existed, and many others are moribund.
Journalism must be reinvented.
It may be too late, but if there's any hope for sustained democracy, that is for both dignity and freedom into the future, it requires a population that is informed, skeptical and responsible. We need to be slow to claim rights and quick to grant them, slow to cast blame and quick to accept responsibility.
Reading the other mt's book doesn't leave one feeling optimistic about these matters. It's very sad; in my childhood in the 1960's, for all the not-entirely-baseless fear of Stalinist Russia, it seemed a given that civilization would continue to progress.