Guest Post by: Lauren Guzman, aspiring media scholar
A wise high school history teacher of mine once told our class, “Our government is not a democracy, but it’s getting closer.” In the context he presented it, this made complete sense. Our country boosts democracy but left out a lot of marginalized groups along the way (women, former slaves, non-landowners). When considering the laws and constitutional amendments created to fix disenfranchisement, we are inching closer to that ideal democracy, but my high school teacher disregarded a very important piece of the puzzle—money.
In Dollarocracy, Nichols and McChesney wrote, “The malefactors of great wealth continue to twist the methods of free government into the machinery for defeating the popular will.” Pulled out of context, one might believe this book is about conspiracy theories or another liberal rant, but I assure you there’s something more to it. Nichols and McChesney put into words everything wrong with our political system and the media covering this system today. They find the causes of my generation’s political anger, frustration, or worst of all apathy.
What struck me most was the chapter titled, “The Rise and Fall of Professional Journalism.” It’s easy to blame corrupt politicians or say we can’t change the way money influences them and our government as a whole. However, if our free press did its constitutionally intended job of being the watchdog of the government, we might be in a very different position. According to Nichols and McChesney, “[Media] preserves and even enhances a dysfunctional status quo while narrowing prospects for real reform.” These are strong words.
I can tell myself that no one including the media can tell me what to think, but I can’t tell myself the media doesn’t tell me what to think about or in what context I see things in. There is a reason our media is increasingly partisan and decreasingly interested in the giant sack of money in the room. They are after profits too. So where does that leave the average voter? Well personally, if I look at politics from the framework set up by the media, I must choose a side (Democrat or Republican), make a commitment to hate everything the other side stands for, but never question where money is coming from to fund elections and never question if my representatives are doing their jobs. Ignorance is bliss. No.
Media is one of the key components to getting our government back on track. We can’t sit by idly debating the semantics about a phrase used by this or that candidate. We need intelligent political discourse and to hold our politicians accountable for their actions. Media should be spurring conversations and opening up forums and telling us where our politicians’ loyalties really lie. Attacking the opposing party with loud-mouth talking heads is not the media acting as a watchdog but as a pawn. We need journalists critical within party lines, across party lines, and within the system. When I look around my classes, I hope some of them are hiding in the crowd. I hope they are ready to graduate and set the status quo on fire after reading this book like I am.