Spreading the Blame

Frank Rich in a NYTimes  editorial entitled No One Is To Blame skewers two notions – 1)that Liberal Media lacks punch when confronting the Democrats and the Obama administration with their misdeeds and 2)elite political and economic leaders are a)spreading the blame and b)getting away with gross negligence if not outright misconduct without suffering any consequences – the Scott Free effect. Lets look at both notions in more detail.

Fair and Balanced has devolved into a Voice for a Select Viewpoint. One of the modus operandi which  comes with the Sunday political talk shows like NBC’s Meet the Press or  ABC’s This Week is the fair and  balanced coverage – for every Republican spokeperson  or “expert”  there is a matching Democrat. Likewise in major  print media like the NYTimes , Washington Post or the LATimes there is a Conservative thought leader like  David Brooks for a  progressive like  Bob Herbert. But this notion of  fair and balanced has devolved in the last decade or two into  outright allegiance to one political party or political philosophy and viewpoint.

This tipping the scales into one political camp or viewpoint [think Fox News versus MSNBC] is justified by the perpetrators in three ways. First, Freedom of Speech allows a network or media outlet  to support one major viewpoint disproportionately regardless of any notions of fairness and balance. Second, there are so many other media institutions taking this biased/weighted approach to presenting opinions and news, our network or publication has to do the same a)to be heard and b)to balance out the right or left as in the case of Fox News [we are “Fair and Balanced” because our admittedly skewed opinions and reports balance out in our judgment the bias of most of the rest of the TV news  media]. Third, news and especially political opinion is just another variation of infotainment – and so we can choose to “entertain” our readers, listeners, viewers however necessary to get more readers and/or viewers [and Fox News will happily point out that its variety of “infotainment”  has put it on the top of the ratings heap].

But what Frank Rich’s column does, like this Atlantic Monthly report on Financial Reforms, is expose the lie that most of the liberal media are just praising acolytes of the Obama or other so called liberal administrations. In his column, Rich takes President Obama to task for not enforcing responsibility in his own and the previous administration. Likewise the Atlantic article not only finds fault with the Democratic Financial Reform Bill but picks up on key conservative ideas as being essential to making financial reform work.
This clear and pointed critique of  Democratic or “liberal” leaders and/or policy  puts the lie to the the new notions on what can pass for fair and balanced.

Spreading the Blame has become No One is at Fault. One of the mysteries to this writer is how, after 9/11 the Bush Administration could advance the notion that “No one could connect the dots” to the possibility of a terror attack. Yet Condeleeza Rice had a Terrorist Security briefing sitting on her desk for nearly two months prior to the attacks while the head of the CIA was beseeching the President almost daily to pay attention to the possibility of a terror attack – but the President was on summer vacation. Rich’s column see the symptoms for this catastrophic failure in judgment because no one is to blame. Rich cites numerous cases surrounding the Financial Breakdown of 2007-2010, Iraq War lead-up, and other administrative gaffes and outright indiscretions of both Democrats and Republicans as leading to the current malaise that feeds not just Tea Party goers but a  general disaffection of large portions of the general public[Congress in general has declined to a less than 15% approval rating – will see if this shows up in the vote in November – there should be unprecedented “turnout” of Republican and Democratic incumbents alike].
The key point that Rich makes is that our political, business and social elites  have become protected. Because they get the same “Too Big Too Fail” treatment as the Wall Street Banksters – our democracy and markets are  are mis-performing/malfunctioning ever more often:
Cureently the US has market bubbles/catastrophic failures every 3-5 years; has the most vilely partisan  political confrontations not only in Washington but also in state and city governance; and most crucially, parties are not even able to discuss major national issues such as Economic Sustainability as US Consumption cannot continue to exceed the world average by a factor of  4 to 6 times; Jobs Imperiled by the Rise of Developing Countries like Brazil, China and India with over 2 billion people willing to work at a discount to  US minimum wages; World Livability as Global Human Impacts on our Earth now shape not just climate but water, energy, air supply and the spread of diseases world-wide; North American Star System of Disproportionate Compensation leads to unprecedented skewing of wealth and well being in society; etc.  And these are just some of the conspicuous Elephants in the Room. The bottom line is that the US has prospered for the past 225 years because its populace has been one of the most adaptive and innovative both economically, socially and politically in the World. “No One is to Blame”[especially among the elites at the top] now moves the US from a highly adaptive towards an increasingly dysfunctional society. Not a good prognosis for the US for  the remainder of the 21st century.

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