The Cost of a “Free” Press

One of the most obvious advantages of a free press in a free society is that in expressing opinion, we can express dissent. Yet what most of us fail to fully appreciate is that dissent is seldom encouraged and is in fact inherently discouraged in that same society. It is one of our most blatant hypocrisies.

Indeed, aside from institutionalized dissent, the voice of the panderer and the provocateur, the devil’s advocate and the nihilist, genuine dissent, especially at the grass-roots level, is most often rewarded with inevitable failure.

For example, growing up we are told not to criticize, that if we can’t say anything good to say nothing at all, and finally that complaining will get you nowhere. Those who do criticize, say bad things, and complain, are shunned and labeled as troublemakers, whistleblowers, and disgruntled, ‘former” something or the other. On the other hand, those who show a willingness to conform and at the same time criticize others’ dissentions are most often promoted, encouraged, and let into the inner circles of administrative control and management.

The unforeseen consequence of such a hypocritical approach to free speech and a free press, is that we are inevitably led by those who are unable to consider alternatives, those who reward loyalty and stagnation and strive to maintain the status quo, spending far too much of their time trying to hide their obvious mistakes.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the failure of governmental bureaucracies such as public education and other institutions vital to the survival and growth of a free society. As a result, today we are being led by the most cooperative and the least talented. We listen to and take the advice of the most popular and the least insightful.

Finally we struggle along, repeating our mistakes, getting nowhere, and all the while fooling ourselves into believing we are open-minded and making real progress. Until we can manage true dissent successfully, we are doomed to a lack of progress in all things.

     

Mark Lee

About Mark Lee

Editor, author and writer with career spanning print, radio, television and new media.

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