Why, exactly, has the media establishment become so unpopular with so many people? Here are just a few examples of what provokes American anger. They suggest that the public has good reason to think that the news media are not doing their job.
Washing Their Hands of Responsibility:
In the late 1980s, public television stations aired a talking head series called Ethics in America. For each show, more than a dozen prominent thinkers sat around a horseshoe-shaped table and tried to answer troubling ethical questions posed by a moderator.
From the respectability of the panelists to the superseriousness of the topics, the series might have seemed a good bet to be paralyzingly dull. But the drama and tension of at least one show made that episode absolutely riveting.
This episode was sponsored by Montclair State College in the fall of 1987. Its title was "Under Orders, Under Fire," and most of the panelists were former soldiers talking about the ethical dilemmas of their work. The moderator was Charles Ogletree, a professor at Harvard Law School, who moved from expert to expert asking increasingly difficult questions in the law school's famous Socratic style.
During the first half of the show Ogletree made the soldiers squirm about ethical tangles on the battlefield. The man getting the roughest treatment was Frederick Downs, a novelist who as a young Army lieutenant in Vietnam had lost his left arm when a mine blew up.
Ogletree asked Downs to imagine that he was a young lieutenant again. He and his platoon were in the nation of "South Kosan," advising South Kosanese troops in their struggle against invaders from "North Kosan." (This scenario was apparently a hybrid of the U.S. role in the wars in Korea and Vietnam.) A North Kosanese unit had captured several of Downs's men alive - but Downs had captured one of the North Kosanese. Downs did not know where his men were being held, but his prisoner did.
And so Ogletree put the question: How far will Downs go to make the prisoner talk? Will he order him tortured? Will he torture the prisoner himself? Suppose Downs has a big knife in his hand. Where will he start cutting the prisoner? When will he make himself stop, if the prisoner just won't talk?
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