They are not and cannot be run as out-and-out cash cows for the greedy and the idle.
The grand dumb certainty that unshackling the spivs of Wall Street and letting them concoct an alternate economy based on moonbeams and magic pixie dust was going be good for America has collapsed. Poof. Gone. Even Alan Greenspan—idiot-in-chief of that tribe of spectacularly deluded idiots, the libertarians, is talking of the desperate need to nationalize whole chucks of the economy.
Meanwhile, the struggle for the zeitgeist is under way. There are those who’d love this current state of disarray to continue forever—old-school ultrasurvivalist Soldier of Fortune subscribers and zombie comic writers, mostly (did you see the soon-to-be-an-Elton-John movie zombie Jane Austin adaptation?). And the Republicans trot out a Kenneth-the-Page doppelganger to tell us that what we actually need is more of the same.
And Tucker “Dick” Carlson—bowtie-less at last—gets roundly booed by Republicans for making the outrageous suggestion that The New York Times uses fact checkers. Which pretty much tells us everything we need to know at the moment about the Republicans.
Meanwhile, comedian Louis CK provided some much-needed “shut the fuck up complaining, people” perspective, which was delightedly slapped down by metafilter.com contributor “stammer” who mocked a flippant pro-economic collapse comment by CK thus: “The people who will be forcibly reacquainted with good old-fashioned migrant labor and early death are the ones who are right now catching the junkie terror bus to their 15-hour shift at the shit factory.”
Can I get personal for a second? I’ve been sucking up all this oh-no-the-sky-is-falling terror blurt at a time when my own body has been undergoing one of its own periodic meltdowns. I mean, there’s nothing like lying in a hospital bed, looking for a distraction from the fact that you’re lying in your shit with tubes coming out of every orifice and turning on the radio to be reminded that—hey, guess what?—the whole fucking country is lying in its own shit with tubes coming out of every orifice.
And then there’s the fact that so much of the shit news seems to be about the industry I’ve spent most of my life working in—print media. The Inky and the News declare redundancy, the Rocky Mountain News closes its doors. And there’s even an increase in the wailing Greek chorus of doomsayers claiming that we’re mere months away from the entire industry prolapsing like an overripe tomato in a pressure vacuum. KERSPLAT! Recently, the weepers, wailers and gnashers-of-teeth have been joined by a raft of old-guy columnists who seem to be having the same collective brain-fart: “Hey, waidaminnit! How about we charge people for stuff they’re getting online for free?” Uh, because they’re getting it for free, you fucking birdbrains.
The blogs—the alien monster that’s supposed to be in newsprint’s base killing all it’s d00ds—have spectacularly failed to provide a lucrative alternative economic model and have absolutely no chance of providing anything but the merest percentage of the quality and services provided by newspapers and magazines. This is due to the simple fact that they’re nearly all one or two guys working 18 hours a day, seven days a week, just to keep the piss-weak (and faltering) ad-revenue stream trickling so they don’t have to beg for the jobs back from the alt-weeklies that fired them in the first place.
You know what? It’s all utter fucking bollocks. It doesn’t matter if newspapers are generating less profit than they were x years ago. Or at least it shouldn’t. Why? Because newspapers are not fucking toilet roll manufacturers, They’re not fucking McDonald’s. They’re not “businesses.” Oh, sure, they’ve got to make payroll, same as the Boy Scouts and the Catholic Church. But they are not and cannot be run as out-and-out cash cows for the greedy and the idle. Same as sports clubs are not businesses. Same as families are not businesses (do you know anybody who ever had a kid because they could make a profit doing so?).
Here’s the paradigm shift I’d like to see emerge from our current economic, cultural and social meltdown: The re-realization that not everything has a price. Not everything is best run for the benefit of shareholders. Some things—rail systems, public broadcasters, newspapers, locally rooted sports teams, farms (is their an uglier oxymoron in the English language than “agribusiness”?), museums, art galleries, unions, families—need to be run by people who love them for their own sake, who treasure the immeasurable good these institutions deliver, good that can’t be measured in dollars and cents.
This is something the Victorians discovered—after they figured out that sticking kids up chimneys and sending toddlers down mines and generally letting laissez-faire capitalism do what ever they heck it wanted (the libertarian dream!) was in fact tearing the very fabric of society apart.
This was the great era of slum clearance and park and library building—projects that never made a dime for anybody, and yet made every single city dweller massively richer.
The Western democracies, and in particularly the U.S.A, discovered communal values afresh in the 1930s after the capitalist beast was again unshackled and allowed to run amok (released by yet another generation of wild-eyed economic right-wingers who believed in the mythical “free market” the way 4-year-old girls believe in fairies).
And it looks—after the last spectacular round of suicidal libertarian bed-shitting—that we’re about to discover those values again. Let’s hope.
It's easy if you try. With the future of Philly's dailies in doubt, who will feed the insatiable appetite of the city's sports junkies?
It seems—once one has picked one’s way through all the fake crying and strangely Mussolini-like hand gestures—that Glenn Beck is calling from some sort of jihad-style vengeance on those who are destroying some vaguely defined American way of life. Which I’m all for.
Like other young people, Temple University student Grace Dickinson lives much of her life online: Facebook, YouTube and other multimedia sites figure prominently into her daily media consumption. But when she walks into her journalism classes, those popular applications fade to the margins. Are Philly's journalism schools really preparing students for the future?
In an era where the media appear to be falling apart, WalterFootball.com's Walter Cherepinsky just might be the future -- one of a number of Philadelphia-area entrepreneurs who are carving out a significant niche in cyberspace.
Our friend and colleague Steven Wells died two years ago today of the cancer he had documented so well in two cover stories for Philadelphia Weekly. On June 14, he submitted this column.