Lately I have found myself on a very long, very cold, and very narrow branch, labeled very clearly: ‘I have opinions.’
Overall I believe that entertainers, and I count myself amongst that group, should shut the hell up and entertain. We should not advocate, pontificate, or vilify, because too many people will be swayed by trust in words that might be guided by something less than a intellectually formed opinion. At the same time, if we have the opportunity to bring FACTS (and I mean FACTS – which is not spelled T R U T H no matter how we might want it to be different) to a discussion it can be seen as a responsibility to do so. Also I am not sure where informed, honest debate falls in this category. I mean if someone asks me my opinion, I am happy to give it – but then again I’m not the kind of people to call people who do not agree with me as racists.
As a side note, and it is chilling, has anyone noticed that for over a decade now that if you want someone to really enjoy the whole empty-a-mag-into-the-enemy’s-face style of video game, then you make the bad guys Nazis. This is not to say that I dislike the idea, nor that I think it should stop, but I think someone, sometime, should say that if you call a political opponent a Nazi, you should be forced to provide proof or be branded on the face with a Scarlet IDIOT. Training an entire generation of children to see Nazis as enemies is in no way a bad thing, but if you begin to mark people that way who clearly are not then I have a problem. (Ok, I admit it happened again. This time it was a guy I respected — past tense. ) but I have just had the Hail-Mary of all digressions.
But recently I have had this thought – the one where entertainers should shut up – turned on its head, and from the most unlikely of sources. You see, I have had a few discussions with journalists as of late and each of them has left me uniformly unimpressed with the education one has to obtain in order to get credentials. I have been subjected to every logical fallacy and ad hominem attack imaginable. I was completely used to this on Fark.com, yes and the rest of the internet too, but when I was treated to this kind of thoughtless, insular argument from a member of the 4th estate, I have to despair. And now it gets worse.
You see, the press is the, and I mean THE, #1, absolutely most important appendage of society necessary to the freedom of a society is a free press. Without the ability to dissent, without voices to lift up, without the threat of exposure, any sufficiently large group of people can destroy the freedoms of other groups. This is true whether you are talking about governments, corporations, or large community groups. The larger the majority group and the smaller the minority group, the more important the protection. Call it Ross’ Law #1. There are other protections, but trust me when I say they are far more costly.
Now, given Ross’ Law #1, and given there is no larger group than the government, and no smaller group than the individual, a free press is critical to personal liberty. That’s why it’s so important that they take their jobs seriously, and so important they stay impartial, professional, and independent. Sadly it appears some media members are willing to trade all their freedom for illusionary (job) security. Ben Franklin is spinning in his grave so fast they are about to strike oil in Philly.
Let’s keep it simple and just say that it seems that the recession has finally reached the lofty halls of journalism. Actually circulation has been declining for years, but that’s another – and much longer – post. Suffice it to say that now that newsmen and women are losing their jobs, some have begun to turn to the government for a bail-out. Surely government would be derelict in its duties if it refused to lend a hand to such vitally important public servants?
Really? Seriously? It is people spouting brainless humble such as this that makes me wish I could kill people with murderous thoughts alone.
I can understand the desire for a comfy paycheck. After all, I’d like to have one myself. I, however, would not qualify. You see, while I may comment on the events of the day, and I may put out a fair word count on a daily basis, I am not one of those golden-halo wearing priests of truth known as journalists. I admit it, I am a just a poor, dumb, novelist, but even I can see that journalists are no longer doing the job they are paid to do.
It took an internet journalist to break the ACORN scandal. After screaming for months about how H1N1 flu is going to kill us all, they ignore the fact that there has never been enough flu shots to go around. It took a hacker to discover that highly-placed climate ‘scientists’ have waged a campaign of fraud against those who disagree with them for years! These are the biggest stories of the last decade, and they are the province of that long dead tradition of investigative journalism! Perhaps, if you wish to be relevant in today’s world, you could, maybe: do your jobs!
When I was a lowly writer of RPGs, I was told, down a very British nose, that I was speaking to my better, a journalist, and that he never got out of bed for less than .25c a word (and who the hell are YOU to have an opinion on anything, anyway?) For those of you keeping track, .25c a word is a heck of a lot of money and most get paid far more. Most online fiction publications pay less than .03c a word, and my highest paying job bench marked at about .04c a word. To date, with all my royalties lumped together, I have not made anywhere near .25c a word. Yet if I walked up to you on the street, pulled out your wallet, and said you owed it to me in order to keep writing what I wanted you would think me mad. And yet, that is precisely what they are proposing.
Let me put it this way: Put aside the question of how ethical is it for those who guide public opinion to use that vehicle to call for public funds to be diverted to their private use. Instead ask yourself: If you are paid for by some entity, then it owns you, and you will never be allowed to criticize it in any way, shape, manner, or form. Call it Ross’ Law #2, for flavor.
So we have an industry that has failed in its duty, no longer creates a palatable product, hires under qualified people at high prices, and is now claims that because you are too stupid to buy their products they need someone else to steal your money for their coffers.
I have an idea: If you actually want to make a professional wage for your work, perhaps you should make a professional product. Perhaps you should work for a living. Perhaps you should try to hire some independent thinkers, or any thinkers at all.
Do not underestimate the danger of this development. Such an incestuous relationship will only breed irrelevance and corruption. Should it come to pass, a government bailout will doom anyone who stands up to the papers, to the government, and ultimately the papers and the government themselves.
Which brings me to Ross’ Law #3:
If you have a voice, you have a responsibility to speak out when you see danger, lies, and unfairness. Otherwise, what damn good are you?
A few other notes:
Mundania is running a sale. You can get my books through them for 20% off by using the coupon code SANTA.
Also, the revised Chimerium Gambit is almost ready for re-launch. More on that soon.
Ranting in dark places and guide myself by the echoes…
James Daniel Ross