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.”