We as Americans are quick to point at other countries as corrupt- as having barriers to entry for foreigners, of having politicians who must be paid off to be able to do business. Yet, it’s tough to look in the mirror and realize that we too, have become as corrupt and politically immoral.
In a discussion at the dinner table with my father, a political science major, I posited the theory that the huge expenses of television advertising have helped drive the politicians to graft. This was after reading a piece in the New York Times about corporate gifts to endowments named for politicians:
The donations from businesses to the endowments ranged from modest amounts to millions of dollars, federal records show. And the lawmakers, who include powerful committee chairmen or party leaders, often pushed legislation or special appropriations sought by the corporations.
This country is paying to play on steroids. My father says it goes back to the days of Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall. I don’t disagree- but, the amounts at play and the openness are becoming more evident in my eyes- either because of the Internet and its flow of information, or just because the amounts required have turned it into a high-stakes game.
What we pass off as political dialogue these days is disappointing- and the art of debate is long lost. Even with our great orator president- the message was “Hope” instead of action.
Up until George W. Bush made his mark on history- Jimmy Carter had the rap of being a bad president because of tough financial times. “It’s the economy, stupid” was the rhetoric that sent him packing, yet- GWB got a hall pass by many for his backing of policies guaranteed to fail. I came across this clip on YouTube- and it made me think- which is what I try to do here with you- and so I’m sharing it: Hunter S. Thompson covering Jimmy Carter.
Now, for many, putting the words Hunter S. Thompson together with the word journalist is a stretch- just as putting my name together with the word electable, but the claims that his exposé on Carter was part of what helped Carter win over Ford make it at least worth consideration.
Watching that clip, and comparing what passes for political rhetoric today- should inspire all citizens of the United States to demand more than the 30-second spot and sound bite politics we’ve come to expect. That Carter was also the first and only president or candidate to interview with Playboy- also speaks to Carter’s willingness to step outside the lines of what a politician is supposed to be and say.
The reason I began writing this blog was to counter the persona painted of me by the Dayton Daily News Editorial board, who’ve done a masterful job of mangling every idea, or thought I’ve shared with them. I’ve often wondered how Rolling Stone was able to publish Thompson- since he didn’t fit the mold of journalist any better than I fit the political mold.
Being honest- and saying what one believes needs to be said- despite the audience, is something I strongly believe in, and have paid a price for doing for the last 20 years in this city. I’m watching with amusement as the Dayton Daily News still offers a link to Bill Pote’s Dayton Most Metro on their site as a local blog- as he starts to solicit advertising to compete with them. So far, despite scooping them numerous times, and running for office a few times (in comparison to scoops)- they have never once linked to this site. For the record- although my stats are on par with what DaytonMostMetro just announced, and have been for over a year- I’ve not monetized this site due to concerns about being attacked legally by the powers that be- preferring to keep this a personal opinion site and retaining protections. DaytonMostMetro- as a feel good, happy news site, with multiple- authors and the support and endorsement of local non-profits doesn’t have to worry about the same issue.
It’s sad to say that political thought is now limited often by liability, but that comes with the times. It’s not enough to own a printing press anymore to publish- but, having the financial backing to be able to afford one is part of what decides how much risk you can afford to take as a publisher.
As a last thought- I wondered why we have so many quotes from Ben Franklin- and realized it was because, like me, he was a publisher. Considering the economics and costs of distribution in his day- I wonder what his readership was, and how it compares with mine (Wikipedia to the rescue: He sold about ten thousand copies per year (a circulation equivalent to nearly three million today via Benjamin Franklin – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.) So far this year, 202,000 visits by 86,225 unique visitors and about 111 gb of data transferred.
Political speech has changed, journalism has changed, the question in my mind is “when will we change?”
I’d take a Jimmy Carter story by Hunter S. Thompson over what passes for both political speech and journalism any day.