Americans gathered around the hearth of CBS’s 60 Minutes must have been bemused to hear reporter Scott Pelley announce self-importantly that the US Department of Justice is investigating Lance Armstrong’s bicycling team for performance-enhancing drug use. Does it really matter if any pro athlete takes drugs? Why not throw Babe Ruth out of the Baseball Hall of Fame for drinking sixteen beers the night before a World Series opener? Or Ditto Mickey Mantle for that, plus smoking two packs of Marlboros in the dugout during every game.
Notice that Scott Pelley did not announce that the US DOJ is investigating Goldman Sachs, or Citi, or Merrill Lynch, or Bank of America or several other so-called banks for looting the American public and influence-peddling in the halls of government. Or the SEC and the CFTC for failing to regulate the trade in frauds and swindles. The window for that sort of action is closing, and with it the reasonable hopes of citizens in the legitimacy of institutions that manage things.
The failures in journalism are now so stupendous that there are only a few possible explanations.
1. The major media, hard pressed by declining revenues and the extremes of competition on cable TV and the Internet, are in thrall to corporate advertisers who expect cheerleading for the status quo in return.
2. Major media editors and producers – the officer corps of journalism – are not smart enough to tell the difference between what’s important and what’s not and can’t run their newsrooms.
3. Mainstream media only reflects the cognitive dissonance that pervades the collective imagination of a culture – too much noise to think coherently.
4. We really don’t want to know what’s going on – it’s too scary.
5. Sometimes a generation of leaders just fails.