Recent Writings

The underpinnings of democracy

A Fourth Estate, of Able Editors, springs up, increases and multiplies; irrepressible, incalculable. – Thomas Carlyle, English political philosopher

In 2002, Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and murdered by terrorists in Pakistan, four months after the September 11th WTC attack. Pearl was one of hundreds of reporters killed in action before and since, dying to ensure your right to know.

The threat to your right to know has never been higher. Reporters Without Borders states, “The survival of independent news coverage is becoming increasingly precarious in both the state and privately-owned media because of the threat from ideologies, especially religious ideologies, that are hostile to media freedom, and from large-scale propaganda machines.

“Throughout the world, ‘oligarchs’ are buying up media outlets and are exercising pressure that compounds the pressure already coming from governments.”

Oligarchs: We generally think of them in context of autocratic nations like Russia, but they exist here too. Here they’re have an all-American name: venture capitalists.

While American constitutionalism rests on the balance of power among the three branches of government, a fourth power, as Carlyle wisely ascertained, is requisite to serve as the peoples’ check not only on government but also on private bastions of power: corporations, hedge fund operators, political mega-donors whose goal is to own the candidates.

An uninformed and misinformed citizenry is ripe pickings for oligarchs and autocrats. Thus, a vibrant democracy is dependent on an educated, informed, electorally participating citizenry.  That citizenry, in turn, is dependent upon a free, unfettered, professional press; an adequately funded public education system; and open but secure elections. All are under siege from the right, the dark side of which is fascism.

One way to eviscerate our democratic system would be to repeal the First Amendment freedom of the press provision; a more effective way would be to kill it with a thousand cuts by constantly attacking verifiable reporting as “fake news.”

Rightwing “fake news” criers hobnob with nasty company. Hostile powers—Russia, China, Syria, Venezuela, Philippines, Burma aka Myanmar, Turkey, and more—have adopted and routinely use the term to condemn or dismiss reports contrary to its official line.

The Denver Post dedicated its entire April 6th Perspective section to bring readers’ attention to the very real danger of it ceasing to report and print the news. Its lead editorial: “As vultures circle, the Denver Post must be saved.”

The vultures circling are the venture capitalists, uber-wealthy oligarchs with profit as their guiding moral North Star. Holding no allegiance to any nation, venture capitalists are apatriotic as opposed to unpatriotic. The difference between being amoral rather than immoral.

The Post’s goal was twofold: a plea to Alden Global Capital, the owner of Digital First Media that publishes the Post, “to rethink its business strategy across all its newspaper holdings” and to issue a clarion call for Coloradans to help save its remaining major newspaper.

The demise of the Post could come in one of two ways: Alden Global Capital guillotining it in one swoop or death by a thousand cuts, which seems to be its current strategy. If the Post folds, Denver will be the only major metropolitan area without a newspaper. That might stir the heart of the American right, but it chills the spine of American democrats. The reason: It’s more than about saving the Post. It’s about saving our democracy.

As the Post points out, “Another regrettable result of the fracturing of newsrooms has been the rush by political interests to lavish investments in echo-chamber outlets (read Fox, Breitbart, Project Veritas, etc.) that merely seek to report from biased perspectives, leaving the hollowed-out shells of newsrooms loyal to traditional journalistic values to find their voice in the maelstrom.”

In addition to a want-it-now, throw-away society, America is also a take-for-granted one. Many assume that because something was always there or done, it will continue to be. In this case, because we have benefited from having at least one newspaper in Denver since 1859, that means we will always have one. A fifth grader could see the fallacy of that argument.

American democracy is dependent on a free press. One can’t separate one from the other. Scorn for one is scorn for the other.

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