The death of American accountability – John McQuaid

But it’s increasingly clear that our “systems” are simultaneously both too complex and not sophisticated enough to deal with the problems at hand. The disappearance of clear-cut mechanisms of accountability is just the most obvious sign.

I have been railing about the collapse of accountability for years. This article sniffs around the edges of the problem, and makes some important points, but it completely misses the role that right wing think tanks like Heritage, Media Research Center, and of course, Fox News and the broader corporate media have played in the deliberate deconstruction of accountability and social responsibility. 

When the public is convinced that there are no empirical facts, and that one version of events is as valid as any other, they become desensitized to the reality of most crimes and their consequences, and are far more compliant and forgiving of those accused of abusing a trust, principle, law, company, office, nation, and population.

The cynical and professional manipulation of the public by the right wing can be seen in this one short video, where  @CNN's Alex Castellanos, a professional PR professional presented as a pundit,  is dispatched to proclaim Obama as "divisive" for trying to reform wall street, and that the "rehabilitation of George Bush is well underway."

The Media—and especially @CNN—have been pimping these faux memes relentlessly for years, as our national dysfunction deepens more and more each week. But their preoccupation with quarterly profits has so deadened their sense of ethics and journalistic responsibility, that such propaganda hawking is done with almost no apology whatever. They've been so conditioned by institutionalized imperatives, and their own self interest, that they—with a perfectly straight face—represent such predatory propaganda as "balance."

How can anyone or anything be held accountable in this maelstrom of self interest which our Fourth Estate has become?

And we're all to blame for it. Even the big names on the progressive publishing team, largely wring their hands about the lack of accountability or ethics.  They waste barrels of liquid and digital ink with the busy work of bullshit that now characterizes the vast emptiness that most American journalism has become. 

Even the most well intentioned of reporters have become more focused on surviving next week's staff cuts, or being invited to the next big Twitterized event, than consistently digging for and exposing truths. There are no Pentagon Papers, or Watergate level exposés anymore, because no one is paying for them, and without that, few journalists have the financial freedom to pursue them even if they wanted to.

For years, many have felt  that a new and smaller scale, less bottom-line oriented media might change this situation. Sadly, too much of that  so-called alternative media is rapidly turning into the same old mainstream media party with a few new faces on the buffet line.

Most of the big blue blogs and publications go from one outrage to another, with almost no follow-up about anything, encouraging and facilitating a kind of national Attention Deficit Disorder about the most important foundational issues of our culture, like war, civil liberties, torture, health/campaign/finance/media reform, etc..

Ever so stylish, and in steep competition in this new "link economy," they will publish thoughtful, well-researched articles about the latest outrage, milk the Technorati and Twitter streams for traffic, and then get right on with chasing the next outrage before the other guy does. There is plenty of high-minded rhetoric and posturing about a higher purpose, but no demonstrable interest in investing in any longer term strategy of truth telling about any big issue at all.

Avenues of change will surely not be opened up by the right wing media. And until publishers on the left start opening a few, working toward fostering a more consistent climate for accountability, I am not sure anything is going to change this situation—or save us from ourselves.

If we cannot count on the press itself to make demanding accountability fashionable, there's not a lot we can count on.  But if anything might serve as a baby step toward salvation, it could be some kind of meaningful campaign finance reform. Removed from the shackles of special interest money, politicians can rise above some of our daily socio-emotional frays, and serve as role models for when and how to stand up and scream, "WTF?"  When citizens and their children start seeing people again addressing real issues without the taint of incentive or special interest, it might nurture a national realignment of priorities and perspectives that foster a kind of second Renaissance. In such a new context of enlightenment, science, ideas, philosophy, facts, and empirical truths might once again be respected just enough that we again start to care about holding those who denigrate them accountable for it.

It's not nearly enough, but at least it's a start toward reforming America.  And without a start, there's only an end.