Washington Post’s new slogan, “Democracy dies in darkness,” is well timed indeed with the various mentions going around the Internet of the shadow government. In the case of Trump, the members of congress, etc, they’re elected officials. When they do things we don’t like, we can fire them. The shadow government? They’re the thousands who were picked by the prior administration or hired in by the like minded. The will of the people has little to do with their continued employment. Even our representatives rarely look too closely.
If their slogan is supposed to be a taking of arms against Trump massively censoring news ah-la … well, any number of dictators that they don’t traditionally hate… Trump isn’t trying to suppress the news. People can recognize what suppressing the news actually looks like. It does after all happen all over the world. At worst, as they’ve been attacking him since before the election even happened, he’s been hitting them back in kind. In kind, but we’re not seeing the FCC revoking licences. As someone who has followed the news in Venezuela since before Chavez came to power, what has been happening in the spat between the press and the White House is nothing like it. They’re complaining he’s going after their reputation as they go after his. The media is no more above criticism than elected officials. If anything, they should be criticized more. When they’re wrong, we make bad choices about hiring and firing the politicians, after all.
But the darkness that democracy dies in is not the one where people can’t get information about what their elected officials are doing; it is when the elected officials themselves don’t actually matter. In Saddam’s Iraq, even when the people were informed how they voted was irrelevant, but they were still being told lies. In Iran, most of the bringers of light are in fact holding a hypno-beam. In the Soviet Union the government was secretive, but needlessly so, as any criticism usually ended in gunshots. Propaganda for or against the government has taken place all over the world, and has generally been at the hands of the press. Sometimes they’re loyal, sometimes they’re oppressed. But just being the press isn’t an assertion of moral greatness either.
From fiction, in Hitchiker’s guide one of the main characters was the president of the galaxy. At some point it was decided that no one who wanted that role was fit to have it, so he actually had little to no power at all. We aren’t at that point, obviously, and I’m not saying that we’ll come to be at that point either, but it is true that far more people have far more control who are far more removed from the people than was ever intended. In particular because someone decided that practically any activity that you do which could have potentially generated a sale to or from another state could be considered interstate commerce. Growing wheat on your own farm to feed your own animals? Interstate commerce.
When policy and law are created by those who are unelected is the true darkness which will kill democracy. For the presidency to be part of “the darkness” he’d have to be unaccountable. You want a President like that, look more to FDR or Woodrow Wilson. Hell, Obama’s pen and phone were far less legitimate than anything that the Trump White House has done. But even so, the White House’s power is limited, because no matter how talented the individual, it’s difficult to pay attention to that many things at once.
On the contrary, people like the EPA being able to set rules that affect millions in investments without congress or the President actually doing anything. They are an army of thousands who are focused on the subject of their interest. And their interests need not have anything to do with ours. Or in the case of Europe, the central government actually isn’t picked by the people at all.
But, back to the Post and journalism in general, these various leaks from government offices filled with unelected bureaucrats, edicts from three letter agencies that affect everything from resources to housing to education to school lunches- these actions are generally supported by the press, which claims to be a source of light. Perhaps they should rethink. If Journalism is the light, they’re a film noir sort at best. Their light shines at those they dislike, but like a fun-house mirror it doesn’t cast a true image, and at the same time, it casts long shadows for those they like to do their evil.
So, Democracy dies in the darkness, eh? When you support those working in shadows, act as though you are part of the opposition party with bi-lines while offering propaganda for their side freely, and indeed, cast long shadows to cover the failings of the prior administration while pointing out the non-failings of the current as though they were evil, I wonder.
Is your slogan supposed to be you banging your chest claiming your support of Democracy? Or your threat to end it?