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Below is an article I wrote in response to one of those baloney 
editorials we often see in the newspaper... i.e. lots of words 
but with little substance. My response, which was published in
the Stanford Daily, points to some questionable issues that
I believe the news media is partially liable.

-- peer


It is troubling to read Kerry Rodgers article in the Daily, which she calls "Conscientious consumerism" about her regrets of purchasing a certain kind of footwear — a pair of sneakers from Nike.

Her persuasion is allusive of a rather vicious convention, namely; VOLUNTARYISM, where it is up to the individual to do the right thing.  It is quite logical however, that the loudest spokesperson for any group of volunteers is also the most greedy one — and the greater the greed, the more we hear referals to "freedom" — whether it is economic freedom ("thou shall have the right to rip-off other people"), or civil freedom ("thou shall have the right to protect thyself from the people you have ripped-off").  It is up to the volunteers to create justice — e.g., to reduce pollution, to diminish starvation, etc.

As voluntaryism has become a pillow for the greedy to rest their guilt on, it has done little for the majority of the people — neither inside nor outside the US.  One of the most efficient tools to minister voluntaryism is pretty much what Ms. Rodgers has done; thru the mass media.  (Of course almost everything is ministered more conclusive thru the mass media.)  Here is also where the rub lies — the news media's influence and pivotal power on certain issues, carefully selected by journalists.

One of such an issue is voluntaryism, where thousands of airtime hours and space are spent to "interview" so-called celebrities as they, for instance, donate a turkey for thanksgiving or condemn drug use, while no airtime is used to explain why a large portion of the population in the US need food not only on thanksgiving, and why so many have no reluctance for drug dealing, drive-by shooting etc., even if facing years of penitentiary.

What signal does basketball star Michael Jordan send the youth when he thinks he's so poor that he ought to do commercials for hot-dogs to compensate his annual income of $40 million?  Most likely no one will know because there is no critical journalism in the mass media today which would dare draw a parallel between the ethics applied by such celebrities, and, for example, the 40,000 children who starve to death each and every day.  Most journalists are as inept at generating a decisive newscast as KRON-TV anchor Wendy Tokuda is.  It is very unlikely that someone like Ms. Tokuda (with an annual income of $800,000) has the ability, or will, to do any trustworthy news story about economic segregation, this mostly because newscasters like herself are partially the problem.  No greedy person would do anything that goes the opposite direction to their wallet.  However, it is strange that KRON-TV could not see the irony of spending hours of airtime to promote Ms. Tokuda's return from NBC in Los Angeles, on an announcement plug where Ms. Tokuda talks about how she knows "what's most important in peoples lives."  Even more ironic; her first news story was "the big deal for the people to save up to three dollars passing the Bay Bridge."  During an entire week, this "news" was a headline story on all local news broadcasts.

Will we ever see any news stories on "What effect does a self-indulgent newscast have on people today", or stories such as; "News anchors who make $800,000/year donate a turkey to the homeless."   Not likely from journalists who have divorced themselves from the average person to whom they report. 

Lifestyle and ethics are far stronger tutors than any "Say no to drugs" or "Stay in school" announcement.  Helped firmly by the mass media, kids today are constantly presented with the analogy between success and money.  It is very foolish to believe that any poor and uneducated person would not be influenced by those greedy rolemodels who are given unlimited air time and space in the news.  It is even more ridiculous to believe that a large portion of the population would not experience the economic injustice they are subjected to, and in return for that generate quite different criteria about what is "right" and "wrong".  In the US today, forty percent of the wealth is in the hands of one percent of the population.

The greed in this country has created a large sub-culture which mostly is comprised of unrepresented people, making it hard for the rest of us to actually understand and relate to the discrepancy of wealth and human rights.  It is therefore quite sad to see someone who is majoring in philosophy writing so much about so little, even though it seems as if Ms. Rodgers will become a perfect aspirant for the news media.

Peer Landa
Stanford University