What if … ?

The following is an opinion piece published in the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Journal in January 2022.

… American Values, American Morals, American Ethics were based upon the core values of The Golden Rule, Do the Right Thing, and a Foundation of Integrity, Honesty, Decency and Courage.

… And those Core Values have devolved into: — What’s in it for me? What can I get away with? … Religion, despite its people with sincere beliefs, has been corrupted by power players, and grifters, and fear mongers. In turn, it has become intolerant of the poor and the merciful and the peacemakers.

… Wealth begat greed which begat the rich (The Top 1% of Americans have taken $50 trillion from the bottom 90% (Time 2020)) which begat narcissism and megalomania. The rich are willing to use a tiny portion of that wealth to pollute the information pool, and to turn the watchdogs into lapdogs.

The media does play a vital role in our democracy, and if we cannot depend on Journalistic Ethics, the nations in trouble. (Dave Brat)

… American Newspaper Daily Circulations grew from 48 million in 1945 to 62 million in 1990 and then dropped to 24 million in 2020 (PEW). Fewer than 10 Companies now control 90% of media outlets — down from 50 companies in 1983 (Poynter). Media ethics departments in news agencies have all but disappeared.

… About two-thirds of U.S. adults say they get news from news websites or apps (68%) or search engines, like Google (65%). About half (53%) say they get news from social media, and a much smaller portion say they get news at least sometimes from podcasts (22%) (Pew 2021).

Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. is a diversified media company and leading provider of local sports and news. The Company owns and/or operates 21 RSN brands; owns, operates and/ or provides services to 185 television stations in 86 markets; is a leading local news provider in the country; owns multiple national networks; and has TV stations affiliated with all the major broadcast networks. Sinclair’s content is delivered via multiple-platforms, including over-the-air, multi-channel video program distributors, and digital platforms. (Sinclair Website).

… Sinclair’s probably the most dangerous company most people have never heard of, said Michael Copps, the George W. Bush-appointed former chairman of Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the top US broadcast regulator (The Guardian).

… Sinclair, Fox, MSNBC and most other outlets have a point of view. They have a motive. Some are political. Some view you as Fish, to net and sell. (Click bait?) The circuitry activated when you connect online is the seeking circuitry of dopamine…We’re like the rat pressing the level over and over to get a little dopamine hit, forgetting all about food and rest. (Harvard Business Review). The camouflage with which the message is hidden is “false equivalency.” Both sides are equal — whether you are right or wrong is irrelevant. But that is not true. The politics of a decade ago is not the same as the first time in American history, that we did not have a peaceful transition of power.

… We have been separated into tribes. Sectarianism is a highly moralized political identity that views the other side as contemptible. The moral component is foundational. You can imagine that you are a member of a religious sect, and you very, very strongly believe that you possess the full moral truth and that the other people aren’t going to heaven or are evil. That is the tenor of the thinking that we see across the political divide these days. (Scientific American). Civilized discourse and confrontation have disappeared — replaced by hate speech. We spit at each other.

… It’s all a lie. And we have come to accept being lied to. Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth. (BBC Future)

… It’s about racism-misogyny-homophobiafear and loathing of the other. That cannot be an overstatement if it becomes any part (even the tiniest part) of the “strategy.”

… We all get a trophy. No need to work hard, no need for excellence. Your opinion, your feelings are all you need. If you’re not getting what you want, you are aggrieved.

… They are the carnival barkers. We are the rubes. … We don’t need no stinking science, no stinking excellence, no stinking hard work, no stinking masks, no stinking planet…

… And finally — We don’t need no stinking ethics. Except in 1995 Carl Sagan PhD (Astronomy and Astrophysics) wrote:

“I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or my grandchildren’s time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness. The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30-second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.”

What happens now…?

Jay Milano is a Past President, Current Chair Thought Leadership, and Past Chair Ethics Professionalism. He has been a member of the CMBA since 1982.

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