Feeding time at a press conference
I was recently grumbling about being denied Ministry Of Defence clearance to travel north. Today I think I found out why. The person submitting the letter put ‘journalist’ as my occupation. Aside from being false, this is a guaranteed rejection in Sri Lanka. Being a journalist used to open doors, but now more than ever it’s closing them. Globally, journalists are getting attacked both by governments and via corporations and the profession is also reviled by many consumers. WTF is happening?
The Nature Of Journalism
The weird thing is, I don’t even like journalists. I have been shanked by them before and I’m pretty sure the story comes over any human beings involved. Many people I’ve talked to are always looking for a negative story and often pushing for it in the face of facts. I’m honestly surprised that journalists have many friends. Furthermore, the elitist culture of the mass media offends me, mainly because I’m left out. The people on CNN are often really dumb and they have so much money and power. I’m both jealous and appalled.
That said, I consume an insane amount of media and I love it. As much as I’m involved in blogging, I only read one blog regularly. The rest of my media diet is pretty much New York Times, Slate and whatever people link to on Twitter. As the world periodically explodes, I check the mainstream media to see what’s going on. As annoying as this priestly caste of scribes is, they still deliver.
The bigger issue, however, is that governments are also annoyed on a much bigger and more brutal level. A free press in the American Constitution is there to help overthrow the government, as is the design of that odd document. This understandably makes established governments nervous. Like human rights, a free press is very useful when you’re in opposition, but quite irritating once you’re in power.
At some point governments figured out (or refigured out) that you could just control the press. Even the mighty Internet can be humbled, vis-a-vis China. Given a certain amount of guns, pliable courts and a bit of finesse, it’s not that hard. In fact, I’d say that real free press is a bit of rarity worldwide. Being tied as they are to physical things (presses, towers), journalists are subject to physical repression.
Like dinosaurs, journalists are marvelous multi-colored beasts that suffer greatly under violent government impact. Bloggers and Twitterers, however, are like the rats scurrying about beneath the dust clouds of asteroid winter. They’re still rats, but rat-like creatures once also evolved into humans. At some point blogs and human beings living the news will get commodified and corporatified and then governments will figure out how to smash it, but until then it’s a bit of a new thing, and a bit free.
So, next time I ask for permission to travel around my own country I’ll make sure they put my occupation as ‘Blogger’. I am not a journalist and I never want to be. For all the security reasons and stuff, but really because I don’t think being a journalist is that cool anymore. At least not for me.