Following the primaries for the Republican nomination for the United States presidency is a depressing experience.
After all, this is the most powerful state in the world, and most of its people presumably also see their country and government as the most important. So also, for many years, have many people in other Western countries.The advent in recent times of the Tea Party, and the relatively fleeting phenomenon of Sarah Palin seem to have encouraged a raft of strange, reactionary contenders.
Character assassination and bending the truth
Add to that a recent extraordinary decision by the US Supreme Court which has had the effect of allowing huge amounts of corporate funding for candidates, funding which has brought character assassination and bending the truth to new lows.
A few days ago Barbara Streisand penned a strongly worded piece which would have had many voters and even foreigners nodding their heads.
In a piece entitled ‘Where is the Fourth Estate when you need them?’ she complained ‘It seems these days that Republican debates have become a forum in which candidates can assert just about anything.
‘Americans depend on the Fourth Estate to guide them and to hold individuals running for office accountable. Journalists like Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow knew it was their duty to know the facts and to disseminate them to the public. That responsibility in today’s media world seems to be diminishing.’
It is a matter of sadness and concern to see would be presidential candidates of one of the two great parties in modern American politics making such fools of themselves, their party and even their country and able, to some extent, to get away with it.
Parallels in NZ
It is a big jump from the United States to our own political backyard, but there are some parallels.
Compared with the days when we had a public television channel not driven by commercial requirements, today it’s apparent that informed, searching, in-depth interviews and comment have virtually disappeared.
We are often left with little more than sound bites and trivia, all surrounded by (and dependent on) advertising.
Senior politicians can refuse to appear and live to tell the tale. And the country’s wisest political commentator, Colin James, was dropped, first from the New Zealand Herald and more recently from the Dominion Post.
American politics might have descended to a new low, but the owners of our Fourth Estate serve New Zealanders less well than we need them to and deserve. .
 ReaderSupportedNews 4 February 2012