“The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
A paraphrase of the the original quote, which appeared in the 1902 book “Observations by Mr. Dooley,” a fictional 19th century Irish bartender, by Chicago Evening Post journalist and humorist Finley Peter Dunne.
Our sad small town newspaper, the Arizona Daily Star (“All the news that Jim Click decides is fit to print“) does not subscribe to this well-worn “job of the newspaper.” Instead, the editors of the Star have abandoned their traditional role for one of defeatism and hopelessness:
I posted the other day about the Star‘s cynical editorial on Prop. 123. More opinions on Prop. 123:
[T]he editors have lost all hope in our democracy, and in particular, you the voters.
The Star editors do not believe that Tea-Publican leaning voters who vote out of GOP tribalism for anyone with an “R” behind their name on the ballot, in reckless disregard for the consequences of their mindless actions, are capable of experiencing an epiphany and come to their senses, and vote to throw the lawless Tea-Publicans out of office to hold them accountable for their repeated violations of law and the Arizona Constitution.
The editors have lost hope that all of you who could not be bothered to vote in 2014 — an historically low voter turnout year — will bother to vote in 2016 to change the course of this state. The editors believe that you are hopeless “sheeple” who are willing to accept eternal abuse from our authoritarian Tea-Publican overlords and live your lives in hell.
Today, Star columnist Sarah Garrecht Gassen continues the Star‘s promotion of hopelessness and despair over Prop. 123.
She writes, Strange bedfellows of Prop. 123:
So. How are you feeling today – about your life, our community, the country?
I’ve been feeling a bit meh, myself.
The undercurrent of hopelessness I sense, and maybe I’m projecting here, but it’s tied to the rise of Donald Trump. The realization that so many Americans agree with this sexist, racist and vapid con man is downright depressing. Add on the realization that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is seen as the “reasonable” and Republican mainstream alternative and we’re in angst overload territory.
* * *
In Arizona we’re facing a decision on Prop. 123, the measure that would get some more money into public schools in the near term, but at a long-term price.
People who are usually on the same side of issues, particularly on education, are divided. The quarrel isn’t over whether schools need, and legally are entitled to, more funding — the disagreement is over whether Prop. 123 is the way to get it done. The proposition would settle a lawsuit over the Legislature’s elimination of inflation funding for schools, which back in 2000 voters mandated be paid.
Alternatives to properly fund schools are out there, proposed by Prop. 123 opponents, including state Treasurer Jeff DeWit and supported by a number of prominent Democrats.
That alliance brings together odd bedfellows — DeWit is the Arizona campaign chair for Trump. But for this, they’re on the same side. That’s encouraging.
But even if the alternatives are the most brilliant ideas ever, they’re not on the table. They’re not an option, and rejecting Prop. 123 as a fulcrum to get the Republicans to support something better is a losing bet.
My dad’s mom had a thing she’d say about circumstances out of her control, like the weather or the bus running late: “Eh, but what are you gonna do?” It was more of a figure of speech, I thought, but it’s evolved into a real question.
I acknowledge the discord in my position on Prop. 123. It’s a bad deal. But there’s no other way, in the near term, to change the atmosphere at the Capitol enough to get significantly more money into public schools.
We need to harness the energy from the presidential campaign into local politics, and to make changes in the Arizona Legislature. Get more Republicans to vote in their primaries, so better candidates end up in the general election. There are ways to improve the system, but they require the long game, and that’s hard to sustain.
“The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” The Arizona Daily Star is failing miserably at its job.
Every newspaper in Arizona should be editorializing about holding our lawless Tea-Publican legislators accountable for their violations of law and the Arizona Constitution, for refusing to comply with a lawful order of the court, for short-changing our children’s education, for extorting the voters of this state into accepting a “robbing Peter to pay Paul” proposition that steals from our children’s future — using money that already belongs to our schools — to pay a judgment for restitution that our lawless Tea-Publican legislators owe for their past theft of education funds, so that they can give even more tax cuts to their corporate masters, etc.
Every newspaper in Arizona should be rallying a movement to “throw the bums out!” and to elect a Democratic “wave” into a majority in the Arizona legislature that will begin to drain the swamp from a decades-long GOP culture of corruption in Arizona. (“Get more Republicans to vote in their primaries”? Really Sarah? That’s your plan?) It doesn’t have to be this way.
Get over your “woe is me” meh depression, Sarah. Rather, get angry and fight back with righteous indignation. Lead a revolution to change things for the better, not wallow in self pity. “Afflict the comfortable” — that’s your job!
One final point: the Star‘s promotion of hopelessness and despair is a form of voter suppression. It depresses voter turnout. The most frequent response from people for why they don’t vote is “Why should I bother? My vote doesn’t seem to change anything.” This kind of editorializing by the Arizona Daily Star only further erodes people’s confidence in democracy and demoralizes them from even voting. This is not the job of a newspaper. It’s job is to “afflict the comfortable” — to hold people in positions of power accountable for their lawlessness. Do your damn job!