Thursday, April 12, 2007

Tyranny in Many Unspoken-of Styles

Talk radio has been a-buzz with the Imus controversy these past couple of days, and I have basically steered-clear of it until now. I wasn’t too worried at first because it seemed like a classic case of an overly-hyped reaction to a shock-jock on the radio. However, it seems clear to me now that this is not at all the case and has instead become a sideshow of tyranny in oh-so-many different forms.

I would say that what we are seeing in the calls to have Imus kicked off the air is the very essence of the “Tyranny of the Majority.” In so many ways, the ideas of majority-rule and open democracy are absolutely grand ideas. However, it was against this one fear that the Founding Fathers protected us as a nation: that the Majority would no longer seek the Truth in its actions but instead would act in accord with appeals made by relative powers. In practical matters, we often live in a purely democratic way, using egalitarian principles to govern our actions and choices. This includes how we view the media and truly how the ratings in that industry work.

It goes without question that ratings in the media are based purely on democratic principles, for they are driven completely by the amount of listenership/viewership for a given program. As people become disenfranchised with a broadcaster, they no longer listen and thus eliminate that person from the market. In the Imus controversy, many have called for him to be fired. In a way, this is understandable and remains in the prerogative of the employer to actually answer such calls. However, what vocal minorities may do is usurp the majority on purely emotional bases instead of on ones which are completely rational. In effect, what occurs is a Tyranny of the Mass, a Mass which has been usurped by power-mongers.

Now, I have realized through this day that there is hope in this situation and all is not lost. Many (including myself) have thought this could be the death knell of free speech in the media because of the inordinate fear of groups that speech may be misused. Instead, I believe that this will become the impetus of a greater democratization of the media, so long as people are willing to take the time to work as individuals.

Much of contemporary life is full of tales of an individual striking out in a flat world to make a big name for himself or herself. This is where the hope lies. Individuals, holding the means of communication in their own hands, instead of in the hands of corporate or governmental overlords, will speak their minds and be judged by the many with something closer to impunity, so long as their intentions are pure. Where the Truth is abhorred and not proclaimed, people will not go once they see the light. This will weed out the bad seeds from the good ones. However, this hope requires a full measure of light-bearers.

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