Sunday, February 2, 2014

We're on a Rough Ride Without the Rough Riders

Does this have a familiar ring?
“Notwithstanding the tremendous growth of the industrial age — railroads, telegraph wires, steamships, mines, cities — as Henry George argued in his 1879 ‘Progress and Poverty,’ these vaunted advances made it ‘no easier for the masses of our people to make a living. On the contrary, it is becoming harder.’
“Progress had widened the gap between rich and poor, making the struggle for existence more intense and jeopardizing the stability of a democratic society. ‘To base a state with glaring social inequalities on political institutions where people are supposed to be equal,’ George wrote, ‘is to stand a pyramid on its head. Eventually, it will fall.”
The inverted pyramid of the golden age of American professional journalism was what helped rebalance that dangerously unstable society, as Susan Dunn notes in her article on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “The Bully Pulpit” in the New Yorker Review of Books. The muckraking investigative magazines supplied the necessary “information and exhortation” that spurred corrective political action by President Teddy Roosevelt and others.
And there, unfortunately, ends the parallel between the early 20th century and the early 21st century, between the industrial age and the digital age. Because we are now in what can only be described as a dark age of American journalism.

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