Thursday, September 2, 2010

Intellectual pimp: the art of Journalism

Mr. John Swinton, the former New York Times Chief of Staff and the foremost journalist of his time gave a toast to an independent press at a New York banquet way back when....

“There is no such thing, at this stage of the world’s history in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you who dare write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinions out of the paper I am connected with. Other of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my papers, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone.

“The business of the journalist is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it, and what folly is this toasting an independent press? We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men.

“We are intellectual prostitutes.”

John Swinton, New York 1890? date unknown.

His inebriated efforts may have been the last crimson taste of truth our mirage-blinded, barren-bitten, sandpaper-ridden mouths will ever indulge. Current writers- namely those who have superseded the art of amateur blog-writing (hi) and have instead secured a far more promising/lucrative career in a well-established journalistic institution (insert breath here)- would be ostracized, demonized, ousted, outKasted (CAROLINE!), blacklisted (COMMUNISM!), if they even so much as uttered their TRUE thoughts about the dirty politics of journalism and reporting.

Naturally, these reporters and writers won't ever bite the hand that feeds them ($$), while those who have set their reputation aside in the name of pride and valor are now jobless, "famished", or both.

In her piece, "How We Survived Communism & Even Laughed", Croatian journalist and novelist Slavenka Drakulic describes how journalists of Socialist times were monitored and restricted. Their voices were smothered and dissenters would not only be repudiated from their job, but they were also charged with heresy and were subsequently exiled from their mother-less land (these were some of the more generous consequences).

In 2007, Armenian-Turkish editor and journalist Hrant Dink was assassinated by a Turkish nationalist. Dink made poignant attempts at advocating Turkish-Armenian reconciliation and he advocated for human and minority rights in Turkey; but his quest for truth was short-lived because he refused to repress his opinions in his writings- he refused to conform to conventional journalistic practices in Turkey. His refusal cost him his life.

Attempts at honest journalism have generally failed. While some have the mere misfortune of getting laid-off, others have met a far more dire fate. Courageous and bold, Swinton's speech uncovers a bit of the truth, the filth, and the hypocrisy of news media.

Of course, at the hands of a sensationalist media, the public is bound to read and see and hear about the very things, thoughts, ideas, FACTS, and opinions political pundits and politicized machines want us to absorb.

Just to name a few...NBC is Democratic, FOX is Republican; their news-casting is undoubtedly biased, the presentation of their sensationalist media is indubitably apparent...and the beat goes on an on an on...

We all see it and acknowledge it, we all hate it and complain about it....but how do we change it? How do we prevent others, and even ourselves, from becoming intellectual prostitutes?

Step 1: speak your mind, incessantly.

^ my pseudonym if I ever write for a prominent and legitimate? newspaper...but I guess now I can't use it anymore...

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