Author, Lecturer, Ethicist

Paging Mr. Orwell . . . Mr. George Orwell

                               George Orwell

                               George Orwell

Marion Sherman, a long-time friend, student and congregant, sent me an email this past Sunday with a link to an "Apple News" article about "Dozens of local news anchors (being) forced to recite a speech about 'false news' controlling 'exactly what people think.'"  To the best of my knowledge, Marion's link arrived even before the story ran in either the New York Times, Washington Post or Chicago Tribune. For anyone who has yet to read or hear about this latest inanity (highly unlikely), we can sum it all up in just a few words: Sinclair Broadcasting Group, which owns roughly 170 American television stations - including their news divisions - ordered local news anchors across the country to read a script decrying “some media outlets” for “false news” and “fake stories.”  What these news anchors were doing was anything but reporting the news.  Rather, they were consciously carrying out a critical plank in the Trump political playbook: declaring in the most convincing way they can that anyone or anything which opposes the president is a big fat lie. 

This noxious bit of charlatanism might well have gone unnoticed if not for the media geeks at Deadspin, who cobbled together a rather nifty YouTube piece which showed dozens of Sinclair newscasters presenting precisely the same words in unison. By now, the video (shown in part below), has gone triple viral and winding up in the spotlight's disinfecting hot glare :

And, to make matters even worse, Sinclair - the largest and most Orwellian of all media behemoths - is currently attempting to receive approval from both the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department to acquire Tribune Media. If this deal  were to be approved, it would allow Sinclair-owned local stations to reach more than 70 percent of American households.  At first blush, one might think that this most recent revelation about how Sinclair manipulates the news so as to put the president in a halo-esque light (while simultaneously providing its various anchors with inerrant scripts from Mt. Sinai) that this would put a gigantic stumbling block in their path to merger. But no; their brand of extremist "Trump is the truth" propaganda has received a gigantic bear hug of an endorsement from none of than '45 himself, who just yesterday Tweeted "So funny to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased. Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke." BTW: A Monmouth University poll released just  yesterday shows that when asked who Americans trust as a source for information, '45 loses to CNN by a margin of 48%-35%) and a nearly identical 45%-32% margin when the outlet in question is MSNBC.) 

Of all the historic, mind-numbing changes which '45 has brought to the position of president, perhaps none has been as unutterably dangerous as his attack upon the press; of whittling down American's faith in what used to be called the truth. Oh sure, most every POTUS has carried on love/hate relationships with at least a portion of the fourth estate in public; it goes with the territory.  But what has never before occurred is having a president so denigrate and disparage a majority of the media (read: "non-Fox," "non-Sinclair") as to transmogrify it into the ultimate enemy - a traitorous purveyor of malignant falsehoods.  In the span of a mere fourteen-and-a-half months, the President of the United States has essentially out-Orwelled George Orwell: he has turned falsehood into fact, fact into non-existence and sin into virtue.  And miraculously,  despite being a  shallow, boorish, misogynistic narcissist, has actually managed to keep the backing of many of the nation's leading pillars of moral rectitude.  Hohw has he done it?  Through a dumbing down of the American public.  It reminds me of the old canard about the fellow running for student body president who begins his speech with: "A students, B students, C students, D students . . . and my dear supporters and friends . . ."

Hardly a day goes by without a student, a reader or friend asking me 'How long is it going to take to turn things around?  Can a new House or Senate put a halt to all the maddness?"  Sorry to admit it, but I - like those far, far brighter and far, far more turned in than yours truly - do not have an answer.  Sure,  vote in a new House and/or Senate and some things are bound to change.  It will no doubt make '45 think twice about who he nominates for the federal bench or the Cabinet.  And, it is possible that some of his most mindlessly egregious executive orders will be thrown for a loss.  But no amount of electoral change is going to change all those who believe that guns are good, immigrants are bad, war is for heroes and diplomacy for sissies . . . or to convince the right that the biggest, baddest, most cancerous conspiracies are those dreamed up by professional conspiracy theorists whose business it is scare the pants off the gullible all in the pursuit of fame and fortune. 

Then too, no single election will be able to change America's sullied image in the world.  When Barack Obama became president in January 2009, he embarked upon a series of foreign trips which Republicans derided as "apology tours."  In fact, his political enemies are still talking about his "bowing down before Muslims and apologizing for America" more than a decade later. Can anyone imagine what the next president will have to do, say or promise in order to rebuild America's place in the community of nations in years to come? 

We began this essay with a reference to Marion Sherman, whom I thank for bringing the Sinclair situation to my attention.  We conclude with a shout out to another of my students, Professor Gil Klajman, one of the smartest, most insightful menschen I know, who sent me an email mentioning the Sinclair debacle and George Orwell . . . even after I'd begun writing this piece.  I for one feel blessed to live in a community of seekers and readers . . . of those who are ceaselessly expanding their intellectual horizons even while those around them profess belief in the unbelievable and find truth in that which in fact, nothing but what Grannie would have called "canal water."  

There is still hope for the truth . . . and facts.

438 days down, 1,021 days to go.

Copyright©2018 Kurt F. Stone