If LBJ was President…

April 13, 2011

The other day someone I worked with mentioned a story that said that if LBJ was President, none of this near-government-shutdown-crap would have happened.  The argument was that LBJ was such a hard-ass negotiator and so good at herding cats that he would have whipped everybody into shape and we’d all be happy.  As a student of American history, most recently Presidential history (I’m on Teddy Roosevelt right now) I firmly believe that any historical analogy that places a pre-cable news political figure into a modern political problem is utter nonsense.  The perpetual existence of 24/7 cable news (CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News) and associated internet news sites, organizations whose only purpose is to remain profitable, has had a massive negative impact on our politics and contributed immeasurably to our overall decline as a nation.  First, a couple things to keep in mind: 

1.    The purpose of a news organization is not to serve the public interest; it is to advance a specific political ideology and to make money in the process.  This was well understood prior to the advent of television, when ad dollars suddenly became important, at which point television networks began convincing people they were objective reporters of the news in order to attract a broader audience and command greater ad revenue. 

2.    News media serves as a check against the government, but only when it makes financial sense to do so.

3.    Rarely does more than one hour’s worth of newsworthy events occur in a 24 hour period, meaning the remaining 23 are unnecessary. 

4.    Internet News is like porn; no matter what your tastes, no matter how specific your views, there is a website that will happily cater to your every desire.

5.    News media is self-perpetuating:  It exists to justify its existence, which results in the inflation of events’ importance, endless repetition, and manufactured controversy that does not represent that true state of American affairs. 

6.    News Media has a vested financial interest in creating tension and disruption in the political process.  People working together to resolve problems in boring and not profitable.

The result of these tenants is a fractured American populace which, egged on if not outright directed by the media, is becoming more partisan, more willing to demonize the opposition, and more convinced that those actions are both a normal and healthy part of the American political process.  Intense hatred and vitriol are standard fare for American politics (and in fact, used to be much more intense compared to today’s relatively tame political slurs) but they were always relegated to the fringes, not dragged to the center and repeated to the point that people began to accept it as a mainstream view. 

American politics and the media have always been intrinsically linked and that will not change.  What has changed is the nature of the media – it’s never ending coverage of the trivial, it’s constant elevation of the irrelevant, it’s revealing insistence of it’s own neutrality, and it’s desperately cyclical need for content, have resulted in a populace that is less informed and less willing to work with the opposing side to resolve common problems.  If only there was some way to reach the people and convince them of the validity of my argument…some sort of internet-based means for communicating ideas…oh well….I guess we’re just screwed.


One comment

  1. LBJ married someone named Ladybird and started the Vietnam War… I wouldn’t follow him into a swimming pool if I was on fire!

    Politicians LOVE our “Us vs. Them” mentality. The “powers that be” have successfully divided and conquered the voting public.

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