Like many people, I have more time on my hands lately to muse and ponder and think. I have been bedeviled by a question which popped into my head for no apparent reason: Grace, if you could change one aspect of society right now, what would it be? Of course, I’d like a safe, readily available COVID-19 vaccine, but there will be another virus next year, and my question is aimed at societal structures.
I see posts about gerrymandering, voter suppression, wealth concentration, climate change, public health, corporate greed… all kinds of issue are begging for our attention. I came across a paper, though, that says at least when it comes to climate change, if you offer people a small step they can take that doesn’t really have a big impact (like getting rid of plastic shopping bags), then they are less likely to support the big measures (a carbon tax) that have been proven to have a real benefit.
The paper goes one step further. About 25 companies create half of our fossil fuel emissions worldwide, and 100 companies create more than 70 percent of global green house emissions. These companies are often major sponsors of the highly visible, barely effective measures that help us feel virtuous about our personal green agenda, while we move the global needle barely at all. The big dirty polluters know they are lulling us into a false sense of activism by throwing us these dog treats, and my friends, that really frosts my cookie.
So would I put at the top of my “things that need to change” list holding major polluters accountable? Well, that’s tempting, but that’s only one issue that we aren’t very well informed about. I think instead, I’d put reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine at the top of the list. This was the set of FCC rules that, until Reagan repealed them, required news coverage to be fair, balanced, and accurate. Another provision of the Fairness Doctrine was that people had to be told–prominently–whether what they were reading or hearing was news, opinion, or advertisement.
And NEVER the twain did meet.
Now? The networks cover whatever grabs ratings, “commentary” disguises bias as news, major advertisers provide content to news pages. (Looking at you, CNN…). If we do not have a reliable source of truth, of facts, of informed, disinterested analysis, then how can we intelligently move forward on any issue? We will spin our wheels on campaign finance reform, climate change, and just about every major issue out there, because we’ve been trained to expect entertainment instead of information from our “news” sources.
So that’s where I come down in terms of How to Fix Society: Reinstate the Fairness Doctrine first. Then you have a standard of truth, easily distinguishable from non-truth, and beholden to no one set of interests. It was a good plan, and it worked well for a long time, and from that foundation of truth we can attack all the other sharks swimming in our collective bathtub.
What’s on your mind these days? If you had three wishes, what would they be? To three commenters, I’ll send an ePub file of A Duke by Any Other Name, which is coming out on April 28. (And PS, Darius is on sale in the webstore this month for $3.99, and $4.99 at the major retailers!)