A few weeks ago Eugene Robinson published an op-ed titled, “How Dumb Can a Nation Get and Still Survive?” It was an excellent foil, I thought, for some conscious politics talk. He’s the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for and Associate Editor of The Washington Post and Chief Political Analyst for NBC and MSNBC. In other words, he’s an established mainstream political journalist, which is not a criticism. The criticism is that mainstream political journalism as an ecosystem is abdicating its tremendous power — some might say responsibility — to at least help move us out of the political morass in which we find ourselves in America in 2021. That sound you hear? I’m pretty sure it’s the seal breaking on a ginormous can of worms. Quotes are plucked from Robinson’s piece. Shall we?
“Why is the news dominated by ridiculous controversies that should not be controversial at all?,” asks the just-mentioned, robustly-credentialed political journalist whose employers and employers’ competitors fill their pages and air with ridiculous controversies all day every day. His call is coming from inside the house, but I digress.
One view of this dynamic is from the top down where it’s all about intention. What are the intentions anymore of the purveyors of mainstream political news? Beats me. Who benefits from a process whereby the journalist/commentator is paid to write and publish his incredulity at what is happening in our society, his colleagues couldn’t agree more so they all get paid to talk about it together on the teevee, we the people couldn’t agree more so we watch and listen and read and absorb it all again and again and again, steeping ourselves in all that incredulity, guaranteeing, of course, that we will get more and more of it? Again, who benefits?
From a bottom-up perspective: What is going on in our society such that so many people are so instantly susceptible to such drivel all the time?
“When did so many of our citizens become full-blown nihilists who deny even the concept of objective reality?”
I’ll leave the when and the nihilism to others, any others. But denying the very concept of objective reality is unconscious practice through and through; being present to what is, accepting reality without judgment is, on the other hand, foundational to conscious practice.
…mainstream politics coverage just stops in its tracks, far short of what to do about the things they both call out and make worse.
When a fellow human willfully denies, as Robinson says, even the concept of objective reality, that fellow human is objectively unavailable for any exploration of solutions to problems because they don’t acknowledge the problems. Engaging that consciousness in pursuit of problem-solving will be fruitless every time. But mainstream political media acts as though there is opportunity there by continually poking at and prodding that bear. Do they not realize that they are actually lifelines for a dying, destructive consciousness they themselves are calling out as wrong when they could be engines of scaling conscious politics, our best hope at societal problem-solving?
“Today’s trench-warfare political tribalism makes that peril [about some debt ceiling bullshit] greater than ever.”
Conscious politics practitioners know that anything in the realm of us versus them or “trench-warfare” or “tribalism” is evidence that we are swimming in the yucky muck of the old consciousness. We cannot problem-solve from within this dynamic either so, again, where are we when we know that yet continue to perpetuate it? Where are we when mainstream news and information entities report on the tribalism, describe the tribalism, analyze the tribalism, lament the tribalism — a thing that prevents problem-solving — and do zilch/nothing/nada on a large- or consistent-enough basis to move us out of it? What opportunities are being missed? I’m just asking questions.
“Conservatives in state legislatures across the country are pushing legislation to halt the teaching of ‘critical race theory’ in public schools.”
The fact that outlawing “critical race theory” — which literally has never been and is not currently being taught in a single K-12 class in any public school in Virginia — is the closing argument for a Trumpist Republican gubernatorial candidate running neck-and-neck with the Democrat in a state that the president won by 10 points one year ago, deep breath, makes clear that American politics right now isn’t even a little bit about ideas or solving problems. What gives decision-makers of mainstream news entities the belief that it is OK to perpetuate abject lies like this? Or do they not see it? Facebook is rightly being slammed for allowing torrents of disinformation to infect its site and whole societies in obviously deleterious ways. Do mainstream news organizations not do similar research about how we the people interact with and are affected by their work?
“How dumb can a nation get and still survive? Idiotically, we seem determined to find out.”
This is the whole point. “We seem determined to find out” is emblematic of how mainstream politics coverage just stops in its tracks, far short of what to do about the things they both call out and make worse. Hands wring. Tsk-tsks permeate the air waves. Political flotsam and jetsam come at us unrelentingly. Robinson and his colleagues are just doing their jobs but should their jobs exist? Should their jobs evolve?
Of course, theses companies can all do whatever they like. But couldn’t they also choose to use their unmatched, formidable power to affect real change instead of to perpetuate problems? Could they band together in a coopetitive way to create new missions and guidelines for their industry? Might The Washington Post and its ilk create some space for a conscious perspective throughout its reporting and consistently on its editorial and opinion pages? That would be nice. Might NBC/MSNBC or any of its mainstream broadcast brethren carve out some space for some conscious politics programming mixed in with the glut of programming they currently produce, so much of which repeats destructive information on a loop? (I’m available for The Conscious Politics Sunday News Hour. Call my agent.) Might new publications and networks emerge that take only a conscious approach to political journalism? Can we afford it if they don’t?
I’m just asking questions.