There’s a very thin line between political correctness and outright misrepresentation.
In 2019 America, political correctness is shorthand for pandering to white supremacy.
Because fragile white egos need to be mollycoddled lest they should take offense. If you have susceptible readers and you want to keep them then you tone down your op-eds and you strive for false equivalence and neutral coverage. Thus racism becomes cultural insecurity.
Copy without a strong editorial line perpetuates apathy, which in turn upholds the order of things. Instead of gutsy journalism with a heart that speaks truth to power, we get wishy-washy bilge that fails to foster critical thinking.
When the focus is on the feelings of the oppressor rather than the impact of their bigotry, the oppressor remains comfortable and the oppressed continue to suffer.
Not only is this editorially irresponsible, but it goes against what journalism should be. Such coverage isn’t fair. It doesn’t differentiate between fact and opinion. And it furthers hatred and discrimination. In short, it breaks many rules and doesn’t serve its purpose.
And we end up with propaganda instead of information, unable to tell the difference because of how it’s presented to us.
The current political climate means information has become weaponized.
When your news sources are alt-right hate-mongers posing as bona fide news outlets, information isn’t what you’re after. Those sites serve a purpose and it’s most definitely not journalism, no matter what free speech advocates will tell you.
Alas, in America free speech equates spewing hate and getting away with it.
To a French-born US citizen like me, this is as abhorrent as it is intolerable. There isn’t a single EU citizen alive not fully conversant with the ravages of Nazism because those are drilled into us as children at school. More or less forcefully, depending on what country you live in. In Germany for example, student field trips to concentration camps and Holocaust museums are enshrined into law.
This isn’t to say some EU nationals aren’t nostalgic for what they look back upon as golden times. Those individuals even hold political office throughout the EU both at local, national, and European level. But they stand to be prosecuted if they step out of line, as happens to Jean-Marie Le Pen on the regular, be it for calling gas chambers a “detail” or making homophobic comments.
Go out wearing a swastika in France and chances are cops will want a word if no one punches the living daylights out of you first. Take your kid trick or treating dressed as a Nazi for Halloween in the US and people will look at you funny. And you might be a news headline for a day before everyone forgets about you again. Because following up on stories isn’t exactly a strong point on this side of the Atlantic where the focus is more on entertainment.
The misery of the oppressed sells; white supremacy is excellent business.
The capitalist monsterhood that is America has a lot to answer for when it comes to oppression.
Public media is a toothless tiger, always rattling its tin cup in the hope that the well-meaning, privileged classes might want to pitch in for yet another tote bag. Although those organizations embody the ethos of journalism as service, they seldom rock the boat for fear of losing government funding.
NPR’s unwillingness to call Trump lies lies made me switch off. If this has changed since 2016, I wouldn’t know. As far as I’m concerned, legacy media had a hand in installing the current regime when they either mocked Trump for clicks or failed to take a stand. It was their job to take him seriously but instead they fanned the flames of outrage to feed the clickbait mill.
We the people are the ones paying for this lapse of editorial judgment, not the media-industrial complex. Trump remains a boon and a blessing to them, he sells.
But when The New Yorker invites Steve Bannon to be a speaker at a conference and only disinvites him because other attendees and the public push back, you need to stop and think. It was the only magazine I subscribed to. Suffice to say we’ve broken up and I’m not sure we’ll ever get back together but the tote bags remain surprisingly sturdy and useful. And I really don’t care if I trash them.
And for now, my anger needs some space.
Alas, journalism’s woes have trickled down to writers of all stripes, both professionals and hobbyists.
Clicks and claps and cents and followers are the new currency, content quality takes second place. Without editorial oversight, it falls to the writer to hold themselves accountable and it doesn’t always happen.
On a self-hosted blog, you are the king of your own castle so you can fly your freak flag at leisure so long as you respect the terms of service of your hosting provider. On Medium, all partner program posts are subject to curation, which acts as quality control. If you’re a professional freelancer then you’re at the mercy of publications’ editorial standards and those vary wildly. In my experience, they can be highly questionable.
Between online writers who are little more than typists and have no real message and those who fear alienating others, we‘re not doing as good a job as we could. The internet has democratized self-expression however many of us are scared of diving in at the deep end. And yet, it’s time to get wet because America is drowning and Europe isn’t far behind. But instead we frequently rehash popular opinions ad nauseam because, well, they’re popular and they pay.
If you have a platform, no matter how small, then you owe it to yourself and to your readers to use it responsibly. We’re not just typing on the internet, we’re thinking out loud, together.
But with a little courage and attitude, we can make a difference.
Please let’s make words matter again, for all our sakes.
I’m a French-American writer and journalist living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.