PATRICK LAWRENCE: Bad Faith & Blank Checks

All mainstream journalism is “embedded journalism” now, for the battlefield is everywhere, writes Patrick Lawrence in this excerpt from his new book, Journalists and Their Shadows.

An embedded civilian journalist taking photographs of U.S. soldiers in Dana, Afghanistan, 2007. (Michael L. Casteel, U.S. Army, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

By Patrick Lawrence
Special to Consortium News

Journalists and Their Shadows is out now from Clarity Press. A previously published extract from the author’s new book can be read here.

Some years ago, as the decline of American media became evident even among those not in the profession, friends and acquaintances began to ask two questions. Do journalists believe what they report and write? Or do they know what they tell us is misleading or false but mislead or lie so as to keep their jobs?

I had no ready reply to these queries, but I welcomed them as measures of a healthy loss of faith, another “dis-illusioning.” They suggested a reading and viewing public that was more aware, more alert to the crisis in our media, as the public was when Henry Luce financed the Hutchins Commission. [The commission published A Free and Responsible Press in 1947.]

To attempt a reply to these inquiries now, in journalism today we have a remarkably prevalent case of Jean-Paul Sartre’s mauvaise foi. Bad faith, in terms I hope are not too simplified, comes down to pretending to be someone or something other than oneself. It means surrendering authenticity, that essential value in Sartre’s thinking. In bad faith one enacts a role to meet the expectations of others as one imagines them to be. Sartre’s famous example is the café waiter whose every movement — “a little too precise, a little too rapid” — is an artificial display of what he thinks patrons expect a café waiter to be. In philosophic terms, it is a question of “being-for-others” as against “being-for-itself.”

A former journalist made the point very simply in the comment thread appended to one of my columns. “I was like most of the journalists I knew over the decades I spent off-and-on in the business. I was a faker.”

This is the American journalist as he or she has come to be, a journalist-for-others. The less he genuinely serves as a journalist — a journalist-for-itself — the more he must hold to the accepted image of the journalist. He is “the man without a shadow,” as Carl Jung put it in another context. Having become another of society’s “de-individualized persons” — Jung again — the journalist role-plays now, in psychotherapeutic terms. Newspapers, in the same way, are at bottom reënactments of newspapers.

To inquiring friends, I now say journalists are not liars, not precisely. “A man does not lie about what he is ignorant of,” Sartre wrote in Being and Nothingness, “he does not lie when he spreads an error of which he is a dupe.” It is our perfect term for the unmoored journalist of our time. We come again to the turning of Descartes upside down. “I think, therefore I am” becomes “I am, therefore I think.” This is what I mean: I am a Washington Post reporter, and these, therefore, are my thoughts and this my understanding of the world I report upon.

Self-deception of the kind I describe is one of two forces sustaining the malpractice of journalism on the newsroom floor. It would be difficult to overstate its power. Breathe fetid air long enough and you have no notion of a spring breeze. I have never met a journalist in the condition of bad faith capable of recognizing what he has done to himself in the course of his professional life — his alienation, the artifice of which he and his work are made. Self-illusioning is a totality in the consciousness.

‘The Brass Check’ 

The second such force is intimately related to the first and in its practical aspect is still more compelling. I refer here to what Upton Sinclair called, a century ago, “the brass check.” We must now consider money. Is there any self-deception under the sun that money cannot ask for and usually receive?

Sinclair considered The Brass Check one of the two most important books he ever wrote, the other being The Jungle. He self-published it in 1919 and left it un-copyrighted with the thought that it should be freely available. It is a vigorous, 445-page indictment of the American press in all its disfigurement. It is not well-written: The prose is graceless, frequently shrill and dense with dated references. But it is virtuously relentless. It gives us historic ballast with which to understand that the crisis in American journalism today is a story with a long history. For all its peculiarities, the book is especially pertinent to our time. Robert McChesney, the noted media critic, brought out a new edition at the University of Illinois Press in 2003.

Upton Sinclair. (Bain New Service, Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

Sinclair was a curious man. He was raised in comfortable circumstances in New York and settled in Pasadena, but there was much of the prairie populist in his contempt for American capitalism. The Brass Check is a condemnation of the power of capital to corrupt the press and Sinclair judged it to corrupt absolutely. “Not hyperbolically and contemptuously, but literally and with scientific precision,” he wrote contemptuously, “we define journalism in America as the business and practice of presenting the news of the day in the interest of economic privilege.”

It is the story of the brass check that drew me back to Sinclair’s book. He heard it while a college student in New York at the turn of the 20th century. Brass checks seem to have been part of the prostitution scene then. A client arrived at his favored bordello and paid the madam for an evening’s pleasure. In return he received a chit in the form of a brass check, and when the woman of his choice took him upstairs, he handed her the chit. At evening’s end the prostitute returned the brass check to the madam. The john went home satisfied (presumably), the lady of the night was fairly paid (presumably), and the proprietor kept control of the money.

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The story made a lasting impression on the young Sinclair. “There is more than one kind of parasite feeding on human weakness, there is more than one kind of prostitution which may be symbolized by the BRASS CHECK,” he recalled in the book he published two decades later.

“The Brass Check is found in your pay envelope every week — you who write and print and distribute our newspapers and magazines. The Brass Check is the price of your shame — you who take the fair body of truth and sell it in the market-place, who betray the virgin hopes of mankind into the loathsome brothel of big business.”

That is Sinclair — seething, tipping not infrequently into the purplish prose of outrage. But he makes a strong if histrionic case for his outrage. He confirms a judgment I have earlier suggested. There is vastly more at stake in the misconduct of American journalists today than there was in Sinclair’s time. America has since made itself a global power. It is all the more remarkable to ponder the extent to which the information war that weighs decisively on so many momentous global events is sustained by editors and correspondents whose primary concerns are their everyday material desires — houses, cars, evenings out, holidays. This is what I saw again and again during my years in the mainstream press. This, a problem of proportion, is hard to reconcile, as it was more parochially so in Sinclair’s day, but it is still the problem as he identified it.

Sinclair falls off the deep end as he concludes The Brass Check. “Now, surely, this mystery is a mystery no longer!” he exclaims. “Now we know what the seer of Patmos was foreseeing — Capitalist Journalism! And when I call upon you, class-conscious workers of hand and brain, to organize and destroy this mother of all iniquities, I do not have to depart from the language of the ancient scriptures.” He goes on to quote from Ezekiel.

The Brass Check ends with just such a departure, thankfully. In a section subheaded “A Practical Program,” Sinclair lays out a way forward from the mother of iniquities he has finished parsing.

“I propose that we shall found and endow a weekly publication of truth-telling to be known as ‘The National News,’” he writes. Here is Sinclair on the kind of paper he thought America needed:

“It will not be a journal of opinion, but a record of events pure and simple. It will be published on ordinary news-print paper, and in the cheapest possible form. It will have one purpose and one purpose only, to give the American people once every week the truth about the world’s events. It will be strictly and absolutely nonpartisan, and never the propaganda organ of any cause. It will watch the country, and see where lies are being circulated and truth suppressed; its job will be to nail the lies, and bring the truth to the light of day.”

This is neither more nor less than an invocation of the ideal of objectivity considered earlier — never attainable, ever to be striven for. “The National News” would carry no advertising, so protecting itself against the coercions of corporate interests. This would require a subsidy so as to keep the price down — a subsidy “large enough to make success certain.” Sinclair defines success as precisely as he does all else: “I believe that a sufficient number of Americans are awake to the dishonesty of our press to build up for such a paper a circulation of a million inside a year.”

No newspaper called “The National News” ever came to be. But we err to conclude Sinclair’s project died before it could be born. I have a good idea Cedric Belfrage and Jim Aronson read The Brass Check, given the book’s excellent sales and enduring reputation. But no matter. When they founded the National Guardian in 1948, they tore a page straight from Sinclair’s book. The project was journalism untainted by power or money and supported by readers who valued the undertaking.

[Related: Patrick Lawrence: Independent Journalism as It Was]

I wish I had read The Brass Check before I went to work in that memoried loft on West Seventeenth Street. It was at the Guardian that I first encountered the inverse relationship that so often obtains between power and money on one hand, and uncompromised, plain-spoken journalism on the other. When I consider how American journalists can find their way out of the crisis to which they have brought the profession, my thoughts arise from those 90-a-week years in my mid-twenties. I can see this now as I could not for a long time after those days came to an end and as my path led elsewhere.

Independent Media 

I have never cared for the term “alternative media.” There are only media, in my view. They are of greater or lesser quality, integrity and reliability; they have greater or fewer resources at their disposal and greater or lesser reach. Our media have more or less power, one to the next, and a larger or smaller place in public discourse. But “alternative,” a term that seems to have arisen among other-than-mainstream media themselves, is a great disservice. It places the alternative in a diminished position next to standard-setting superiors, so confirming them as perennially in opposition to a prior version of events. This is no longer remotely the case, if ever it was. The best so-called alternative media are now emphatically for — for discernible truths, for objective accounts of events that stand on their own two feet — accounts, indeed, that often enough have not appeared elsewhere.

“Independent media” is the better and accepted term now — independent of corporate owners and advertisers, of political and institutional power, of prevailing orthodoxies. Although it is not much used, I also favor “nonaligned media.”

Robert Parry receiving the 2017 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism in London on June 28, 2017. Also, from left to right, are Victoria Brittain, John Pilger and Vanessa Redgrave.

Robert Parry, a refugee from the mainstream when he founded Consortium News in 1995, put this point as well as anyone ever has when, 20 years later, he accepted the Neiman Foundation’s I. F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence.  “To me the core responsibility of a journalist is to have an open mind toward information, to have no agenda, to have no preferred outcome,” he said on that occasion. He then added the summation I quoted earlier: “In other words, I don’t care what the truth is. I just care what the truth is.”

Apart from the sheer dignity of these words, implicit in them is the thought that the place of independent media has fundamentally changed in the last decade or so. The mainstream’s turn toward agenda-driven journalism during the Trump and Russiagate years, so well described by Jim Rutenberg [a New York Times media reporter] and the others I have cited, was decisive, in my view.

Corporate media retain immense influence and continue to enjoy large and loyal followings — there is no suggesting otherwise. But for an ever-growing number of readers and viewers, these media’s subservience to the national security state is greatly more obvious.

All mainstream journalism is “embedded journalism” now, for the battlefield is everywhere. This places burdens on independent publications far outsized to their means. Let us not allow this circumstance to distract us. It is a matter of independent, nonaligned journalists understanding the responsibilities that fall to them now and then embracing these with alacrity.

Mainstream journalists do not often produce the first draft of history, as the creaky adage has it, however much they may or may not have done so in the past. Journalism in our time and by the evidence in many others is the first draft of the accounting of things power prefers so as to keep balanced, factual accounts of events, those bearing on the conduct of empire at home and abroad, out of history books.

Journalists outside the mainstream are thus the historian’s true friends and bear the first-draft duty the historian imposes. The Russiagate affair is a case in point. While the mainstream piled proven fallacies and far-fetched conspiracies one atop another, such mis– and disinformation is unlikely to survive a good historian’s scrutiny given the work independent journalists have written into the record. The task is to force the great unsayable into what is said. This is done whenever journalists speak the language that is not spoken, the language wherein truth resides. It is the task of a press that is truly responsible.

The appetite for this kind of work among readers and viewers is impossible to miss at this point. This, too, confers a responsibility on independent journalists. Readers come to recognize what I have argued severally in my columns: We can no longer read The New York Times, and by extension the rest of the corporate press, to learn of events, to know what happened. We read the Times to know what we are supposed to think happened. Then we go in search of accurate accounts of what happened. Do not take this as an indulgence of cynical wit. The observation arises out of numerous cases wherein this unfortunate reality has proven so.

I am not alone in advocating a top-to-bottom renovation of the craft — meaning a recovery of journalism as an autonomous institution, a pole of power, a Fourth Estate, antiquated as this term may seem.

This transformation is to be accomplished over a long period of time, not by grand convocations or scholarly symposia but in the sheer doing of it. It would be foolish to count on established media to drive this process. They may find their way back from the swamp of subjectivity, or return to their senses on the censorship question, or recover from their altogether curious swoon into “wokery” and “identity politics” in their newsrooms.

But with the history I have reviewed as our guide, there is simply no ground to expect mainstream media to reclaim the independence they long ago surrendered to the national security state — not under present circumstances. I detect only faint signs of debate among these media on this question, the most decisive they face, for they refuse, as they did during and after the Cold War, to recognize the errors, the dysfunction.

Every journalist now practicing faces a choice none was ever trained to confront. “If journalism is anything,” John Pilger said in a television appearance as I wrote this chapter, “you are an agent of people, not power.” This is the choice I mean. It has always been there, but in our time it has become too evident and stark to avoid. It is by way of independent media that journalists can make this choice. There are only media, but the independent among them are destined now to matter ever more.

Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, lecturer and author, most recently of Journalists and Their Shadows.   Other books include Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century. His Twitter account, @thefloutist, has been permanently censored. His web site is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon site.  His web site is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon site

Journalists and Their Shadows is available from Clarity Press or via Amazon or Google Books.   

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

TO MY READERS. Independent publications and those who write for them reach a moment that is difficult and full of promise all at once. On one hand, we assume ever greater responsibilities in the face of mainstream media’s mounting derelictions. I take up this very topic in the commentary you have just read. On the other, we have found no sustaining revenue model and so must turn directly to our readers for support. I am committed to independent journalism for the duration: I see no other future for American media. But the path grows steeper, and as it does I need your help. This grows urgent now. If you are already a supporter, big thanks. If you aren’t, please, to sustain my continued contributions to ScheerPost and in  recognition of the commitment to independent journalism I share with this superb publication, join in by subscribing to The Floutist, or via my Patreon account.

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34 comments for “PATRICK LAWRENCE: Bad Faith & Blank Checks

  1. CaseyG
    September 6, 2023 at 13:46

    I wonder if this whole news mess truly began with Kennedy being assassinated, and then the said to be murderer shot soon after. It also seems that more and more newspapers are disappearing. Even more sad is that the level of congressional incompetence is growing.

    When I was in the 8th grade, we students apparently were all told that if we didn’t pass that Constitution test—then anyone who failed had to repeat the 8th grade. It was pretty easy to intimidate 8th grade students—-but now the public seems easily intimidated too. “Truth , Justice, and the American Way…” but that seems only to apply to Superman. : (

  2. Bushrod Lake
    September 6, 2023 at 11:08

    “Watch the MSM to see what they wish us to believe, look at alternative news outlets for what probably happened”, seems like pretty good advice. The Nord Stream Pipeline explosion is a good example. There are many others…

  3. michael888
    September 6, 2023 at 08:46

    Operation Mockingbird was an illegal attempt by the CIA to influence/ control public perceptions about THEIR US foreign policies.

    Since the elimination (“modernization”) of US anti-domestic propaganda law (the Smith Mundt Act) and the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act of 2016, the State Department/ CIA has been put LEGALLY in charge of the old legacy MSM, which is more appropriately called State Media. All Official Narratives are top down and increasingly control information (often intentional disinformation, as we saw with the horrific US Covid response). Now we have institutionalized Propaganda (for “your own good” and “National Security”).

    I’m continually surprised by old school journalists puzzled and criticizing the “new” federal government-controlled “journalists” across State Media. Spreading propaganda is now their job. Some have lucrative careers. Few will give up their roles as stenographers to do real investigative journalism challenging the Power of the Establishment. The punishment can be (and will be increasingly) severe.

    “Alternative” media (as espousing different perspectives from the Official Narratives), or “independent” media will not be tolerated. As Mint Press and the Grayzone have discovered (and even CN had their PayPal accounts shut down), the easiest way to shut down political opposition or even scientific discussion and dissent is to demonetize their sites. Most alternative media operate on a shoestring budget and are vulnerable to disabling funding. The Scheer Post grew out of the ashes of Truthdig when their “benevolent” funder disliked their viewpoints (and demands for more funding). The Intercept, which forced out Glenn Greengard for his investigative journalism aimed at the Security State, shows what happens when you run afoul of Pierre Omidyar’s Establishment-friendly control. Most likely the State Dept/ CIA will find the correct formula to shut down these dissenting view sites, no matter how hungry most Americans are for contrary information (as the popularity of Rogan and Carlson’s Twitter accounts show). It WILL get worse, as censorship and propaganda is now institutionalized as the Law of the Land (the Constitution be damned!)

  4. September 6, 2023 at 06:03

    Desde mi punto de vista, este libro es imprescindible en un momento en el que, incluso, periodistas “serios” repiten los guiones que les pasan desde gobiernos o empresas, sin contrastar, investigar ni contextualizar. Amigo Patrick, sigo a Consortium News desde España. Mi inglés, como el de muchos en España, es muy limitado. Por ello agradeceríamos mucho que este libro pudiera aparecer en español. Saludos a toda la familia de este gran proyecto CN.

  5. Lois Gagnon
    September 5, 2023 at 21:01

    This is such an important essay Patrick. Too many people still rely on corporate press out of sheer habit. I try mostly in vain to encourage people to look beyond establishment sources for news and information, but they are so indoctrinated by nationalist propaganda, they are frightened by anything that deviates from what they are accustomed to. I am going to share this article around in the hopes of helping at least a few to discover information they need but have been missing.

    Thanks for your excellent work.

  6. September 5, 2023 at 20:17

    As a blogger I do most of my reading and research on the independent media where I have over the years identified a pool of trusted sources and writers whose authenticity is apparent and their willingness to speak truth to power. The little time I spend on the MSM is to check out what is not being reported and the spin on the spin.
    The gap between truth and fiction in these times has never been so alarming, and as Lawrence points out independent journalism has never been so important.
    There is another category though as I call myself a citizen journalist. I write as an unpaid volunteer in search of the truth of our times, and a slayer of the lairs who dominate the MSM airwaves.

  7. September 5, 2023 at 19:51

    I can’t believe it was ever as bad as it is now.

    • J Anthony
      September 6, 2023 at 06:36

      It was worse, especially in the 19th-early 20th century.

      • c1ue
        September 6, 2023 at 08:11

        It might have been worse in what was printed, but it was certainly not worse in extent. Most people were not literate so the newspapers were really just propagandizing among the upper classes.

  8. Frank Lambert
    September 5, 2023 at 18:15

    Another masterpiece of truth-telling by the philosopher/logician and Master Journalist, Patrick Lawrence, who said so much in about what Paul Craig Roberts called” presstitutes,,” who have abandoned the principals of honesty and integrity as reporters, but follow the subtle but coercive formula of the Lords of Money & Power, for “30 pieces of silver.”

    Georges Seldes would be so proud of you, Patrick! Seldes “did” have the newsletter which Upton Sinclair envision, which he started in 1939, which was called: “IN FACT” and Mr. Seldes was the first to expose the tobacco industry (in 1940), of lung cancer due to long term cigarette smoking Back then, newspaper publishers wouldn’t print the findings about the John Hopkins University research on the subject as they were threatened by Big Tobacco to withdraw their advertising if it was printed.

    IN FACT was quite popular in the 1940’s and had a fairly large circulation for a newsletter of it’s size, and of course was a threat to big business for it’s exposes that mainstream media refused to print. The “Red-Baiting” smear campaign got to George Seldes too and he went before drunken Joe McCarthy’s HUAC hearings and made a fool out of that psychopathic alcoholic, but the harm was done by the corporate capitalist propaganda machine that Seldes “was a communists” and many of his newsletter subscribers canceled their subscriptions.

    Whether it was one of the early “muckrakers” (truth-tellers) like Lincoln Steffens, Eugene V. Debs, Seldes, Robert Scheer, and so many others, present and past reporters, the “honest-ones” have a harder time making a living in bringing us the facts of the news, which a few of us are eager to learn about.

    Anyway, I find Patrick’s reasoning on the term “alternative media” interesting but in a similar fashion, I use the term “alternative political parties and candidates” rather than the standardized MSM moniker “third party or parties,” which the non-critical thinking public considers “spoilers” of the duopoly aka the Repulsive Party and the DemoRAT Party. Or as Ralph Nader caled them: Tweedle De & Tweetle Dum.

    Interesting times, but weren’t they always?

  9. Elial
    September 5, 2023 at 17:46

    Perhaps your most important piece yet, and beautifully written. Thank you, Mr Lawrence.
    Your mention of I.F. Stone prompted me to order his book on the Korean War. A large part of my re-education now is unwinding the false narratives that Empire has sold me most of my life.

    • LarcoMarco
      September 5, 2023 at 20:12

      I was inspired to order Journalists and Their Shadows from my local independent bookstore. Release date is October 1st.

  10. September 5, 2023 at 15:43

    When one reflects on the reality that the two great American legal decisions on freedom of the press, the Peter Zenger case and NY Times v Sullivan, perhaps this result is not surprising. Both cases protected the right to be wrong, the right to calumny. Now that has become the rule. An industry who’s highest acclaim is named after Joseph Pulitzer has no interest in the truth, unless it coincides with more profitable goals, and damned be the consequences.

  11. Susan Siens
    September 5, 2023 at 14:22

    I found it very interesting when watching a recent Jimmy Dore episode that Kurt Metzger spoke of all the people he had known who worked in media, most of whom used drugs. Having lived in NYC I was familiar with the rampant use of drugs, particularly powder cocaine, in advertising and the garment district, and it makes total sense to me that the lying bots in media also swallow, snort, shoot, anything they can get their hands on.

  12. Carolyn L Zaremba
    September 5, 2023 at 14:02

    I have a copy of the original self-published edition of The Brass Check. The introduction and Sinclair’s Publisher’s Notes at the end of the book are enlightening.

  13. shmutzoid
    September 5, 2023 at 13:31

    Penetrating analysis, as alway. “it is difficult to get someone to belive something for which he is paid to NOT believe. …..woulda’ paired nicely with: “A man does not lie about what he is ignorant of”.

  14. Carolyn L Zaremba
    September 5, 2023 at 13:25

    The idea of “being-for-others” as against “being-for-itself” comes from Hegel. Sartre pinched the idea from him.

  15. September 5, 2023 at 11:47

    Disappointed but not surprised by the fact that the Sinclair’s “The Brass Check” is not taught in academic journalism programs (and many other critical thinking and political economy domains) and part of the shared common reading and historic knowledge of the profession.

    I agree with much of what Mr. Lawrence observes and argues here so effectively, but I part company on the “swamp of subjectivity”. I’m all for it. It’s essential to the authenticity Lawrence seeks and implicitly criticizes in the “without a shadow” quote. It’s all we have. Be here now (and put your cards of the table).

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      September 5, 2023 at 13:28

      I agree. But in today’s educational system, high school students have trouble with Harry Potter.

    • Susan Siens
      September 5, 2023 at 14:19

      Thank you, bill. The “purplish prose of outrage” is what we need more of in a world that should provoke OUTRAGE in thinking, ethnical people. I am sick of the bourgeois notion that outrage is poor etiquette.

  16. Rudy Haugeneder
    September 5, 2023 at 11:46

    Journalists write for journalists and their bosses rather than the public. And even then they lie to each other especially when praising themselves at social events and at Press clubs.

  17. vinnieoh
    September 5, 2023 at 09:00

    “We can no longer read The New York Times, and by extension the rest of the corporate press, to learn of events, to know what happened. We read the Times to know what we are supposed to think happened. Then we go in search of accurate accounts of what happened.”

    I have used those very words to defend my continued ownership of my TV: to paraphrase – “Forewarned is forearmed.”

    Patrick: I tried to donate to your cause yesterday and was blocked. I had just (successfully) donated to CN and to Caitlin Johnstone, but when I attempted to again use my credit card to donate to you a message written in red text appeared saying something like “Your account needs further verification before the transaction can be completed.” It appeared briefly then disappeared and no indication was given to whom I needed to give further verification.

    I thought you should know.

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      September 5, 2023 at 13:30

      I got rid of my TV in 2012. I refuse to have a brain-washing machine in my home. I don’t need to be forewarned. I already know that capitalism and the U.S. are completely corrupt and evil. That’s all I need to know. I support many independent journalists instead. I don’t need TV. Nobody does.

      • Frank Lambert
        September 5, 2023 at 18:18

        Sorry, but I miss watching RT television news, weekly programs and documentaries. I canceled my subscription in early 2022 and learned to live just fine without TV.

      • SH
        September 5, 2023 at 19:52

        Ah Carolyn – for some there are only so many “independent journalists” one can support – at some point it may be a choice between supporting any more and paying for rent or food, or medical bills …

        That’s why I so believe that in addition to supporting “independent journalists” we have to get involved in politics – the ones who so often “create” the facts that journalists report on …

    • September 5, 2023 at 16:25

      Thanks this note, disturbing as it is.
      Please, if you would, send your email address to [email protected] and we can see abt what is going on. Grateful you effort, of course.
      As to other remarks, Bill Wolfe in particular, a swamp is where sanctioned subjectivity leads. Any edition of The Times offers clear evidence of this.
      The book from which this passages comes has a lengthy consideration of this topic.
      Best to all.
      P. L.

      • vinnieoh
        September 6, 2023 at 09:49

        Thanks Patrick, will do.

        I stand by my earlier remark; knowing your enemy is critical to anticipating what comes next. “Monitoring” the official mouthpieces of state is one of many means of doing so. As for all of the other crap on TV – who here is familiar with Frank Zappa’s “I’m The Slime”?

        “I am gross and perverted
        I’m obsessed ‘n deranged
        I have existed for years
        But very little had changed

        I am the tool of the Government
        And industry too
        For I am destined to rule
        And regulate you

        I may be vile and pernicious
        But you can’t look away
        I make you think I’m delicious
        With the stuff that I say

        I am the best you can get
        Have you guessed me yet?
        I am the slime oozin’ out
        From your TV set

        You will obey me while I lead you
        And eat the garbage that I feed you
        Until the day that we don’t need you
        Don’t go for help…no one will heed you

        Your mind is totally controlled
        It has been stuffed into my mold
        And you will do as you are told
        Until the rights to you are sold

        That’s right, folks.. Don’t touch that dial
        Well, I am the slime from your video
        Oozin’ along on your livingroom floor
        I am the slime from your video

        Can’t stop the slime, people, lookit me go”

    • Jeff Harrison
      September 6, 2023 at 22:38

      I believe the actual quotation from The Simpsons is: to be forewarned is to have four arms.

  18. firstpersoninfinite
    September 5, 2023 at 00:36

    Great article from Patrick Lawrence! However, I prefer the “purplish prose of outrage” to the slow, obtuse expectations of journalism today. Lewis’s metaphor is perfect, and that is what we have lost – the ability to believe in language. Orwell pointed this out many times – how the destruction of language is the means to authoritarian power. We should be outraged that concrete language is no longer used to describe our shared reality. There are two paths meandering past each other which never seem to cross: the reality of global power in the hands of the few, and nostalgia for what brought us out of meaningful economics to our present impasse. We are still measuring our daily reality by the rules of our oppressors, who keep changing the rules while invoking the past as the only possible prologue to what we can perceive. We can’t just point out this discrepancy, we have to act upon the fact of its existence. This is what Sinclair Lewis was trying to do. And so is Patrick Lawrence, with the absolute necessity of his observations on the history of the subject and the way forward.

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      September 5, 2023 at 13:32

      Patrick is not alone in this. All of the independent journalists are trying to do, which is why I support very many of them.

    • Theresa Barzee
      September 5, 2023 at 16:58

      This article is why and how we need the elder journalists. To keep seeing, reading the rooms, so to speak, and still get us out to the air in a natural way. May we find the money, find the courage (and keep it out of gofundme control) to support our journalists who need our payments. And may we free Assange while we say what we know is true.

  19. Andrew Thomas
    September 4, 2023 at 23:49

    Thanks to Patrick Lawrence for his as usual dazzling prose and insights. Especially his exploration of The Brass Check, which I had never heard of and only discovered and read in the last two or three years. The amazing thing to me about Sinclair’s savage condemnation of what passed for journalism in his day was how much it was done in the way it is done now. Lies, of course, but far more important was what was left out- known to have occurred, but universally ignored. It is in that way that some events can be reported that actually do occur, but devoid of essential context that make them intelligible. This method creates an overall understanding in the public that is the exact opposite of reality. The examples, which are voluminous, that Sinclair recounts are so much like what is going on today that there is an eerie feeling that creeps over you.

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      September 5, 2023 at 13:36

      One of the main differences between journalism in Sinclair’s day and now is that there used to be very many local newspapers and radio stations with different perspectives. There were labor papers, socialist papers, foreign language papers, etc. Nowadays mainstream media is owned by a handful of oligarchs and they all reflect the same perspective: that of the capitalist imperialist system. We can thank Bill Clinton for the increase in oligarchic control of the media because he was the man who signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which opened the door to unlimited media owned by a handful of the Murdochs of the world. Before that Act was made into law, there were limits on how many newspapers or radio or TV stations a single company or person could own.

      • J Anthony
        September 6, 2023 at 06:44

        Indeed, born out of that terrible piece of legislation was FOX News and other bastardizations of news programs. Clinton’s legacy is that his administration put the final nail in the coffin of the Democratic party having any authentic progressive agenda, pulling the party to the right, pushing Republicans even further to the right, and here we are, with what is essentially two rightwing parties. Yet even still Democrats are constantly referred to as the “left”, when they’re anything but, by the average consumer. Propaganda works.

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