The Ghost Media
Rush Limbaugh is tired of a term he used for several years: the Drive-By Media. He wonders what our feckless, reckless media should be called now.
The question is not easy. The media have become bizarrely the opposite of what they were. What label would capture the curious absence of truth, vitality, and intellectual excitement? The goal now is to control news, not to find news. Today's journalists have much in common with meter maids and elderly bureaucrats. Fatigue and desuetude hang in the air.
The Moribund Media — that's perfectly accurate but perhaps not enough.
Where can we look for inspiration? How about an immense cemetery with tombstones row on row as at Flanders Fields?
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Or perhaps we should contemplate a deserted city, with nothing left but buildings constructed long ago, now empty and collapsing.
Years ago, the American West was dotted with abandoned towns. Everything had been left to rot and steadily fall to dust. Snakes slithered through once boisterous saloons.
These places were called ghost towns. On the one hand, they were ghosts of their former selves. Equally, the name announces that nobody lives there now but the unhappy dead. Once hell-bent gunfighters or unhappy prostitutes, now they puzzle over where they went wrong. Ghosts are commonly said to be stubborn and immature. If they want to hang around placing invisible bets in invisible games of poker, they will do it. If they want to report what isn't there, they will do it.
Ghosts make us think of people creepy and spooky. There are few things more spooky than the modern journalists who live inside the abandoned structures and pretensions of a once respectable profession. They can embrace a position for or against any set of circumstances.
The New York Times made this the establishment view 40 years ago. The people running that paper announced that there is no objective reality, only a reporter's feelings and prejudices. Nothing is real but the reporter's unreality. In the past few years, the Times announced that defeating Trump is all that matters. Journalists should lie 24/7. Obsessions so grandiose are spooky.
So what is the official name for this weird state? Solipsism is one name. (Nothing exists but you.) Insanity is another name. (You're nuts.) Gross immaturity is still another. (You're 40, acting 15.) Or maybe the whole thing is just more dishonest agitprop from people who claim the ends justify the means. (You are a communist.)
Education has declined like journalism, apparently mismanaged by the same sort of pretenders. So now we have ghost education, curiously dysfunctional like our ghost media. Venerable methods have been hollowed out and no longer work, but they're kept standing by new marketing slogans, new so-called research.
The forms, the structures, the nomenclature, the purposes, all built in the past; but now they're empty husks, slowly disintegrating in desert winds.
Ghost Media makes us think of empty people, like the big media bosses whom T.S. Eliot describes so well:
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
This is the dead land...
Ghost Media are like the Ghost University, that stopped emphasizing discernment or wisdom or knowledge. Now many brains remain lopsided, headpieces filled with straw.
It's poignant and funny to think of today's Harvard adopting the motto Veritas. Couldn't happen. That was the Truth that higher education and most journalists claimed to pursue — the truth and only the higher truth. That's a long-ago structure from the past, now inhabited by spooky little dust devils such as Rachel Maddow and Don Lemon.
Journalism's formula used to be factual: who, what, when, where, and why. Now reporting is different. You fabricate. You tell what George Soros wants you to tell. You create alternative realities, not even knowing that this is what you do.
Once upon a time, a reporter needed to know history, geography, and science. Now those things only get in the way. They too are becoming ghosts.
Ghost Media — it's a convenient term for talking about something that was once honorable and lively but is now a dead zone.
Bruce Deitrick Price is the author of Saving K–12: What happened to our public schools? How do we fix them?, a lively short explanation of problems in K–12.