America’s Compromised Immune System: The American Press as the Dog that Didn’t Bark

In the body, it is a key part of the job of our immune system that it recognize what is foreign to our bodies and then work to disable it from doing us harm.

In this series, we have just reviewed “The Unprecedented,” i.e. a variety of ways in which the behavior of the force that has taken over the Republican Party in our times has announced itself as something quite foreign to the American political system over its history of more than two centuries.

The Founders of our American system attempted to set up an “immune system” that would work to defend the integrity of the nation from the attack of a “foreign” element of this sort. The framers of our Constitution were well aware of the ways that a corrupting and destructive power might arise to subvert the governmental structure of liberty and self-government that they’d established. One of the elements of the “immune system” they gave us was a free press.

They went to the trouble to provide — in the First Amendment — a special protection for the press not because they believed that journalists were especially noble people but because they understood that a free press was essential to the health of the democratic system they were setting up. They understood that maintaining a government that drew its powers from the genuine “consent of the governed” required that those “governed” — i.e. the American citizenry — have unfettered access to the information and insights necessary for giving informed consent.

The press gets special protection, in other words, because it has an essential role to play in safeguarding the entire system for the wielding and the control of power in the United States.

It is part of the immune system. Yet this “evil force” on the right has nonetheless succeeded in entering the core of the American power system largely without the press announcing this foreign element’s dangerous presence, and mobilizing the force of the rest of the body politic to repel it.

The press is, in essence, the people’s guard dog keeping a vigilant eye open for intruders who might damage the people’s government and steal from the people what is rightfully theirs. But, except for a few on the relative fringes of the American mainstream media, the American press has failed to bark while this force has damaged almost every aspect of American civilization and is working to rob our children and our grandchildren of their birthright as Americans.

If I am right about the unprecedented — and consistently destructive — nature of this force that’s taken over one of our two major parties, there is hardly anything that would be more important for the citizens of this nation to be informed about than this development. But the average American citizen is not hearing this story.

If I am right — and I would not be doing any of this if I had doubts about it — the crisis that has been manifest in our political system for more than a decade is one of the three or four biggest crises in American history, more grave than the Depression and World War II, and right up there with the conflict over slavery.

With all these other major crises, the national conversation was thoroughly focused on the problem at hand. No American lived through the struggle over slavery, or the Depression, or World War II, without hearing all about the crisis at hand. The newspapers of the times were focused on those stories.

Not so with the crisis of these times. One of the biggest stories in America’s history, and it’s largely going untold in the major news media of the nation.

The Dog That Didn’t Bark” is a famous phrase from a Sherlock Holmes tale, where the silence of a guard dog proved the essential clue, for it showed that the dog was on friendly terms with the culprit. One might reasonably suspect that’s part of what’s going on today with the failure of the American press to bark in this emergency.

(There are other likely reasons as well for the press’s failure. And the problem of “America’s Compromised Immune System” has other dimensions as well not having to do with the press. Indeed, no other major part of the American body politic — not the other major party, not Liberal America, not the American people as a whole — has responded to this unprecedented political pathology as our Founders would have hoped.)

In any event, the substantial failure of the press in this crisis is one more reason why we who can perceive the “evil force” before us need to find ways to get the national conversation to focus on the central reality of our times: “The Republican Party has become the instrument of an evil force, and the response from Liberal America has been woefully inadequate.”

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  1. I believe that the greatest segment of so-called reporters and the greatest segment of the American audience are under the care of one
    Rupert Murdoch
    . He is very big in Britain also.

    We knew that, most of us.


    Now, suddenly, our bravest reporters have to face going to jail to protect their sources. That’s kind of asking a lot.

    “An Assault from Obama’s Escalating War on Journalism,”
    by Norman Solomon,, May 29, 2014

    “Support James Risen,”
    by Brian Karem, editor, The Sentinal (Montgomery County, Maryland. Founded 1855), June 5, 2014, 2014


  2. I guess that means that world-famous reporter Julian Assange had better stay right there in that Embassy of Ecuador in London, don’t ‘cha think? :-7

  3. Robin M. Pettit

    When one party substantially controls the press and works in lock step to reinforce the message it can be very difficult to fight against the lie. As you, Andy, should know, running against Bob Goodlatte, the lie is a major obstacle to winning an election. The only places where the lie is seen through is where the populace is either immune to the lie because they can see the lie for what it is or the local press isn’t complicit in the lie. In large parts of this country these conditions are not true. In Virginia, the Northern Virginia area is fairly Liberal, same with most of the major urban areas in Virginia. It is in the rural areas, where they can ignore reality because it doesn’t impact them directly much yet. There will come a time where it effects them more directly. Right now it is just increased vitality of noxious weeds such as Poison Ivy (I have poison ivy sores on my arm even now) and a warmer than normal summer and, in some areas, a colder than normal winter. Why more robust Poison Ivy, because of the increased CO2 in the atmosphere. Also, historically unprecedented droughts. Many who grew Rosemary lost theirs this past winter in the east. This happened to me in PA and even in Northern Virginia. Rosemary is marginal in PA but it is well within it’s range and is normally robust in Northern Virginia. I will reestablish some rosemary again but this time, I will make protective domes to provide some protection for the plants over the winter. These are the signs to look for, in a sense.

  4. If Edward R. Morrow were still alive and active; and what is Seymour Hersh doing these days; seems Hersh is not in the US anymore for any period of time.

  5. Don’t know how important this is.

    Mixed metaphor in the title. How automatic or reflexive is the notion “mixed metaphor = bad” in most people? I don’t mind ’em so much myself, but what about everybody else?

    If a mixed metaphor in the title is bad, how about “The American Press: the Dog that Didn’t Bite”?

    Re the rosemary thing Robin M. Petitt mentioned — here is an analogous observation in a different area: brush firefighters in Australia. Primary catch phrase is “you do not find many climate change sceptics on the end of [fire] hoses anymore”.

  6. Robin M. Pettit

    Thanks for the Australian reference ToddR. Yes, it is also true here, in our American Southwest, but parts of that area are filled with Global Climate Change deniers. I don’t know any wildfire firefighters anymore. I knew one many years ago but I have lost contact.

    As time goes by more and more and more serious effects will start happening and many will be not reversible in our life time. Like an ice free northern shipping route. Many corporations are salivating at a northern route. A great way to bring oil from the North Slope direct to the east coast without going the long way through the Panama Canal or via long distance pipelines 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 12 months a year, every year. Even Russia is trying to stake claims in the Artic to mineral wealth because of the imminent demise of the northern ice cap.

  7. Robin M. Pettit

    Also, here is a good article illustrating the evil. Bribing a Democratic Senator in Virginia to change the VA Senate from majority Democratic to majority Republican.

    I wonder if anyone will get into trouble on this one. Probably not.

  8. Oops — “Freudian slip”: my “dog that didn’t bite” should have been “dog that didn’t bark”.

    On the climate side, note the recent publication of the .S.A.’s National Climate Assessment:

    My reading of this from as far as I have gotten into it, is that it boils down more to “bad stuff is already happening” than “the potential for bad stuff happening in the future is serious”.

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