Today, the Fourth of July, is a good time to think about the First Amendment — and the possibility that journalism, at least as it’s traditionally produced by liberals and progressives, is often a barrier to the creation of a better country. There’s a better way to do it, and we can thank Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for pointing it out.
The left-of-center worldview is: People are mostly good and can be trusted to govern themselves, and what they do that’s bad is largely due to poorly designed institutions and malevolent individuals who take advantage of them. This has the benefit of being true and encouraging – yes, we can.
Now imagine you came to visit Earth from your home planet of Gliese 832c to finish your master’s thesis on “Journalism Produced by the Lefties.” Your space-brain would instantaneously ingest a year’s worth of the best American investigative reporting, which is to say, 1,000 lovingly detailed, beautifully designed dissections of human depravity. And you’d conclude that the conservative worldview — i.e., people are mostly awful — was the right one.
The hearts of self-consciously progressive writers everywhere will cry out against this. (I know mine does.) The whole reason we’re doing this is for the chance to righteously expose awful people doing terrible things, while also getting reimbursed for our copy of Microsoft Office.
But any honest look at the U.S. today suggests that there are limits to this as a life mission. Reporters have ripped the lid off Donald Trump so many times that it’s incredible America has any lids left. Never before has there been as much information available about corruption and idiocy and corrupt idiots at the highest levels of U.S. society. But nothing much seems to change.
So it may be time to consider whether this type of journalism is, at least when pursued by progressives to the exclusion of other approaches, an elaborate form of self-sabotage.
Consider what’s necessary for progressives to succeed. It’s great for the conservative worldview if all Americans ever hear is that people in general are dreadful and politicians in particular are tricksy vampires. But for the progressive worldview to have a fighting chance, we need to broadcast the exact opposite: that public life is full of individuals who are trustworthy and honorable, and even many of the vampires would be redeemable in a world with better incentives. Politics isn’t necessarily an open sewer. The idea of a common good seems like an illusory sham until the moment enough of us believe in it simultaneously.
Read the full story at The Intercept.