Yes, I am aware that Robert Reich isn’t genuflecting with those rosary beads as a matter of course.
He is, however, still being remarkably Catholic all the same. For he’s insisting that we proles out here, we common people, just don’t have it. The ability to deal with unfiltered reality. We need, instead, a priestly caste to explain it all to us.
Which is one way of looking at that Catholic and Protestant fight over vernacular versions of the Bible. You know, the one that went on a century or two and had more than one person tied to bonfires of faggots* during the course of it.
We’re all just too stupid, d’ye see?
But democracy can’t be disintermediated. We’re not just buyers and sellers. We’re citizens who need to know what’s happening around us in order to exercise our right to self-government, and responsibility for it.
If a president and his enablers are peddling vicious and dangerous lies, we need reliable intermediaries that help us see them.
Intermediating between the powerful and the people was once mainly the job of publishers and journalists – hence the term “media”.
This role was understood to be so critical to democracy that the constitution enshrined it in the first amendment, guaranteeing freedom of the press.
With that freedom came public responsibility, to be a bulwark against powerful lies. The media haven’t always lived up to it. We had yellow journalism in the 19th century and today endure shock radio, the National Enquirer and Fox News.
But most publishers and journalists have recognized that duty. Think of the Pentagon Papers, Watergate and, just weeks ago, the exposure of Trump’s withholding $400m in security aid to Ukraine until it investigated his major political rival, Joe Biden.
Zuckerberg and Dorsey insist they aren’t publishers or journalists. They say Facebook and Twitter are just “platforms” that convey everything and anything – facts, lies, conspiracies, vendettas – with none of the public responsibilities that come with being part of the press.
Rubbish. They can’t be the major carriers of the news on which most Americans rely while taking no responsibility for its content.
Therefore we must break up those peddlers of unvarnished information so as to – and if others arise using the same technology then we’ve got to damn well control them too – preserve that role of that priesthood. The valiant journalists who interpret, correct, so as to guide us proles to a proper understanding of the issues.
A, not by any means complete, retailing of the Bible story would have the Catholic Church fighting to ensure that the Bible was only ever available in Latin. A language very few spoke, near all who did being clerics. That way the Word of God only arrived with the vox populi when correctly interpreted. The Protestant view was that this is indeed the Word of God. Therefore it should be in every language actually spoken so that the plan man can see, plainly, those plain words of God.
The Church burnt a goodly number of those who translated into vernacular. Because that would be a diminution of the power of the priesthood.
In this sense Reich is indeed being Catholic. Presumably because that caste he’s insisting must still interpret for Joe Sixpack reliably votes and thinks like Reich does. Nothing like partisan interest to engender a soapbox stand on principle, is there?
To give a current example. The CEO of McDonald’s has just gone because he was bonking an employee. Katie Hill has just gone from Congress. Because of revenge porn? Well, no, actually, it was because she was bonking an employee. Now rely upon that priestly media case to see the similarity. Or refer perhaps to the unvarnished and uncurated version also available.
How can you spin these things if the public can see it all unspun? Which is what Reich is complaining about of course. And a point at which even this Catholic starts to see the point of the Protestant irruption.
*Don’t be disgusting. It’s a technical term for bundles of wood used in a fire.