Sunday, May 06, 2012

"What good is journalism?"

by Edd Doerr

"What good is journalism?" asks a character in Paco Ignacio Taibo II's 1994 detective novel "Sensing That the Battleground ... " ("Sintiendo que el campo de batalla ... "). Taibo is Mexico's finest detective story writer and a historian (two books about Che Guevara). Much of his work is available in English.

Another character, a professor, responds (my translation):  "Journalism is the last barrier that keeps us from falling into barbarism. Without it, without the circulation of information, we would all salute when 'Big Brother' tells us to. It's the voice of the silent and the extra hearing that God gives to the deaf. It's the only miserable occupation that is worth a damn in the last half of the 20th century. It's the moral equivalent of ethical piracy,  the breath of slave rebellions. It's the only punchy fun work left. It's what impedes the return of the Stone Age. Contradictorially, it's where we can find eternal things like truth, evil, ethics, the enemy. It's the best literature, because it's most immediate. It's the key to real democracy because people need to know what's going on so they can decide how to deal with life. It's the re-encounter between the best moral traditions of Christianity and those of the revolutionary left of the late 19th century. It's the soul of a country. Without journalism we would all be dead or blind. Without the circulation of accurate information  we would all be morons. It's also the refuge of crooks, the most contaminated zone in society, a space that is dignified because you share it with shills and the corrupt. But it offers possibilities for heroism. It's as if you put heaven and hell in a blender and you had to work in that whirlpool. It's like a brick factory. Need I go on?"

And that is why I am a news junky, addicted to MSNBC, the New York Times, The Nation, Free Inquiry, Mother Jones, etc, and even read conservative stuff even though it makes me gag. And why retirement is not in my vocabulary. And why I write and blog. And why I am pissed when fellow humanists allow themselves to be distracted by trivia and faulty prioritizing.

Oh, well, have a nice day.

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