Ivan W. Parkins
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Perspectives For American Society
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About Ivan W. Parkins:
Dr. Parkins is a retired professor of Political Science from Central Michigan University. He received his PhD from the University of Chicago and is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy. Dr. Parkins served as a naval officer during WWII aboard the battleship Alabama. He is a recent widower with three daughters, 3 grand children and 2 great grand children. Dr. Parkins has written extensively, having authored 3 books and a newspaper opinion column for many years.
A commentary on the book by Bernard Goldberg
By Ivan W. Parkins
The above book title nearly drove me away, but the authorship of Bernard Goldberg and the picture of President Obama on the jacket had the reverse effect.
Journalist Goldberg, previously a CBS correspondent for 28 years, also the author of BIAS, is for me well worth reading. As usual Goldberg is quite direct and substantive. He is not averse to harsh judgments, but seems to let them follow from his evidence, rather than reversing that order as too many writers do. His account of the Obama-Ayres (terrorist) link was more informative than the others that I have seen.
Like Goldberg, I believe that what we are witnessing is not a conspiracy but the logical consequence of people (for Goldberg journalists, for me a broader range of information providers) who live like fish in the ocean. Fish, Goldberg says, know only “wet.” To them, all else is alien and dangerous. Many journalists (and some other information providers) know only their environments. Of media liberals, Goldberg says, “To them, conservatives are not simply wrong—they are repulsive.”
I would add to the above that a huge and heavily one-sided media is not at all what was anticipated by the authors of our First Amendment. In the late eighteenth century there were keen memories of two institutions that had contested the power of the nation state. They were the army and the church. The Framers limited the roles of both in our Constitution.
What we have now is the emergence of a communication elite, especially in large institutions of journalism and higher education. And that elite, largely united with the Democrat Party, seeks to make the nation “theirs.” President Obama has emerged as the vehicle.
Notes and Comments; RECENT BOOKS AND
MEMORIES OF BOOKS
By Ivan W. Parkins
Books can provide a person with some perspectives not readily available from the more technologically advanced media, For instance SPIES, by John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vassiliev and published by Yale U. P. SPIES is mainly the product of extensive notes smuggled from KGB archives by Vassiliev, a former officer who worked there. It is tedious reading, but contains many new and interesting details. An example: Moscow Center sent to Valentin Markin, chief of its newly created station in this country, the following explanation of why he was here: “In the system of states, the USA is the deciding factor in questions of world politics.” The year was 1934, see page 196.
Early in our marriage, before we had television, my wife and I read books to one another in the evenings. I rely upon my memory rather than any copy at hand for this summary from a chapter in THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF LINCOLN STEFFENS.
Steffens, perhaps the most famous of the journalists who President Theodore Roosevelt labeled “Muckrakers” was visiting the recently elected mayor of Philadelphia. Why?, he asked the mayor, were so many crooked deals being pushed at the same time; did he not hope to be reelected? The mayor replied that it was all part of an agreement with the local party machine. He would crowd as much “business” as he could into one term. The press and the public would be unable to keep up and to organize effective interference. And reelection was not part of the plan.
Now, I sometimes wonder if our President has read Lincoln Steffens.
WHAT HAVE THE PEOPLE
This is a rerun from Feb. of 2008
By Ivan Parkins
Democracy rests upon an assumption that the people are well-informed. Or as Thomas Jefferson put it, “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government. Whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they can be relied upon to set them right.”
A long life of studying, teaching, observing, and writing about American government has left me with two main conclusions. First: that the public has generally been right, and is so now in its belief that “the system” needs changing. Second: that the public is greatly confused regarding what changes are needed.
Authoritarians may deny their people some information, but mostly they brainwash them with disinformation. Old sayings about the pen being mightier than the sword can be misleading. Often the sword has been used first, to control most of the pens. The pens are then used to “disinform” the people in ways that permit most swords to remain sheathed. Once firmly established, authoritarians control virtually all schools, publishing, news facilities, and other sources of information.
Today, that is becoming more difficult. But, what if most of the pens, i.e. professional communicators, were to unite in cooperation with one another and with one political party? That is the transformation that I have witnessed in American society since World War II. Mass communication, especially television, has invaded households to an unprecedented degree. Schools and teachers have been nationalized by union and governmental actions. Possible competitors such as families and churches have been harassed and legally restricted.
The one place in our national system where information has been most extensive and public choice most informed has been presidential elections. There, three recent Presidents, (Johnson, Nixon, and Reagan ) won reelections by the largest popular pluralities and by three of the largest majorities in our history. Johnson was then discouraged from seeking the additional term for which he was legally qualified. Nixon was promptly forced to resign. Reagan survived and in many respects triumphed, but only by facing long and severe harassment.
Since then, President Clinton survived two terms in office, in spite of having been impeached by the House of Representatives and losing in the courts on the several challenges that he brought there. He and his defenders claimed that it was all over a “private sexual matter”. Congress, unwilling to face media friendly to Clinton with another election pending, left most other issues to Clinton’s own subordinates. Even so, the House indicted, and a secure room filled with hundreds of documents showing evidence and testimony of witnesses was provided for the Senate. No Democrat Senator signed into that room before voting to acquit. Coincidentally, Clinton was the only President since Wilson, many years earlier to win the office twice without winning a popular majority either time.
Our current President, Bush, did win a popular majority in 2004, only a slim one, but better than any Democrat since Johnson. He has faced what have probably been the most voluminous and intense media attacks upon his Presidency and his person endured by any President.
Now, talk radio, cable television, some of the new publications, and a few websites offer promise that the people may become better informed. But several decades of public brainwashing by the media have left scars that threaten democracy in America. How can people choose a better course when they know so little about the one that we have traveled recently? I.W. Parkins-February 2008
THE POLITICS OF THE MEDIA ELITE
The following articles some of which are reprints illustrate the powerful role of the media in our society.
The following article is a reprint from November, 2008
It illustrates the role of the media elite.
Intellectuals are keys to the troubles
By Ivan W. Parkins
First: I have long thought that a President who was black could help unite the nation.
Second: I cannot be happy with President-elect Obama, because the political exposure and performance that he has demonstrated are mostly opposite to what I believe is needed.
Our economy is in trouble, and because it is so large a part of the World’s economy, the World is in economic trouble. People, I think, who are much like Obama—no, not blacks—dynamic, well schooled, ambitious, and socially conscious intellectuals are keys to that trouble.
The critical division in America, and perhaps in the Western World, is more an intellectual division than one of either race or wealth. That is not to deny that divisions of the latter types exist. But, the fundamental problem is how we regard capitalism. And, having once been mainly a critic of capitalism, I am now mainly a supporter of it.
Unfortunately, too many people on both sides of this division have permitted the issue to become one of quasi-religious orthodoxy. Some favor almost no government regulation, while others strive to apply regulation of capitalistic markets to accomplish ill-considered, but emotionally attractive, goals.
The clash has become central to our politics largely because of the huge growth and extension of our education and information systems. Whereas those were once largely subordinates to, if not supporters of, capitalism; they have now become self-consciously independent and aggressive in trying to displace the industrial/financial sector as the primary political force in American society.
That would be less of a problem if our system of government had a greater capacity for identifying and serving a majority of Americans, and were less responsive to the demands of particularly well-organized and aggressive minorities.
In short, I think that the present economic crisis is equally a political crisis. If I am wrong about President-elect Obama, and he proves capable of moving us towards solutions to both, he could rank with Washington and Lincoln as architects of America.
Letter to the editor; Morning Sun, 11/20/2004
Parker had correct assessment of what's wrong with Democrats
Kathleen Parker was "right on" with her column in the Sunday, Nov. 14, edition, "Voters want sincerity, not fake values."
In 1968, a year that I voted for the Democrat presidential candidate (my seventh and last instance of doing that), the party split badly over the war in Vietnam. After losing that election, party leaders chose Senator McGovern to head a reformation of their "unfair" nominating process. Shortly before the next nominating convention, THE U.S. NEWS on 6/12/72 reported a Gallup poll disclosing some results of the changes. Of 13 categories (by region, race, job, education and age), Senator McGovern was the choice of Democrat voters in only one, those with more than four years of college. Humphrey won 11 and tied with Wallace for the 13th. But the reformed nominating process chose McGovern, who was an ex-professor and a Ph.D. Nixon won that election by the largest popular plurality and one of the largest majorities in our history.
Since 1972, Democrat presidential successes have been Carter, with 50.1 percent of the vote, and Clinton, the third man in our history to win twice without a majority either time. (The other two were also Democrats, Cleveland and Wilson.)
Shouldn't that history offer to America's self-anointed intellectual elite an alternative to blaming "mindless" followers of traditional values for election failures?
A foot note: Hubert Humphrey, whose nomination for President in 1968, some people thought was so “unfair,” had led most opinion polls of Democrats in that year . Most showed him getting about two-thirds of those who identified with the party, about the same as his initial delegate count in the Chicago Convention. I.W. Parkins 5/08
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