Once again I pick up my metaphorical pen to write a letter to the editor. In this letter I hope, in 350 words or less, to convey my thoughts and opinions that this newspaper is under no obligation to publish, yet does so because the editor believes its content is somehow worthy of publication. In writing this letter I am adding my voice to the multitudinous voices that make up “The Media.” “The Media,” then, is not a single monolithic institution controlled by unseen hands; but the collective exercise of our First Amendment rights. This is the essence of a liberal media.
What is important about this right is that, whether in creating or consuming media content, we are participating in an act that is necessary and fundamental to the democratic process. In a democracy we deliberate and we vote.
In order for this to work well, the public must be able to discern what is truthful and real from that which is not. This is not always easy, in fact it is often very difficult. Many, too often, latch onto stories with a lot of pathos. Emotions, especially fear and anger, inhibit our faculty for critical thinking. Stalin put it succinctly when he said “a single death is a tragedy, a million deaths are a statistic."
This is why public education is important to the democratic process. One needs to learn critical thinking skills and know the difference between being skeptical and being in denial. In order to sift through the cacophony of noise, nonsense and misinformation to find relevant truth one must either do the basic research or trust an authority who has done it for you.
Tyrants and authoritarians attack the deliberative process because critical thinking always seeks to find legitimacy, or the lack thereof, in authority. Scapegoating “the media” is a subtle attack by authoritarians to weaken our first amendment rights and the very thing that makes America great.
Fred W. Nehring