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Letter to the Editor

Writer Senses Nation Becoming "too democratic and mob-like"

web posted November 14, 2011

Dear Editor,
I sense that our nation is becoming too democratic and mob-like in judging people and situations seen in the news media.  We believe our armchair opinions are more important and valid than the constitutional due processes of justice.  We are allowing television and news portrayals of people’s character to mean too much. 

We’re stereotyping people and assessing guilt when they are only accused of wrong doing.  We’ve turned ourselves into witch hunters…the hands of God; it doesn’t matter whether the accused is really guilty—they look guilty, and since we’ve been treated unfairly at some point in our lives—somebody should be punished.  “Damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead”—“Off with their heads”—“Guilty!”

Stop and think.  The news is a business.  Business must market itself and draw in customers.  These 24/7 news shows are paid for with advertising dollars.  Who owns the companies paying the advertising dollars?  Will the news agency deliver accurate news if it is not in line or “acceptable” to their financial backers?  I suspect not.  How can we fairly judge a Joe Paterno or Herman Cain when we’re hundreds of miles away?  How can we really determine guilt or innocence—or even understand circumstances surrounding their situations?  The business of marketing the news knows we crave salacious gossip and scandals.  Gossip gives us conversational fodder and makes us feel important—our opinions matter.

One thing is for sure—we’re turning into an angry mob and we’re dangerous to one another in this mindset.  We’re blogging; whipping ourselves into a furor and righteous anger.  We’ve taken gossip to a global level via our internet connections.   Who cares if what we repeat is true—it feels true.  These “people” are guilty and shameless and need to be punished!  We’re doing more than throwing rocks into glass houses—we’re demanding to crush the houses.  We’re mighty with our keyboard “pens”!
Seriously, how can we judge what’s in a man’s heart?  How can we gauge the measure of a man’s lifetime of work?  How can we determine the balance of good vs. bad that one man’s life has had upon others?  Is a man or woman fatally “bad” before or after one deed?  Can a man or woman be redeemed, repent, and turn toward doing good?  If so, it is definitely too late to rebuild a lifetime of character after the “court of popular opinion” has assassinated a reputation.

The only rational answer lies in examining our own hearts.  Would we want people judging our lives on so little actual firsthand information—or on an accusation?  If we work in the public, we can be accused or sued.  If the accusation is reported in the news, the public judges us as guilty whether we’re guilty or innocent.  Shame on us. 

Is our next step as a society to assassinate everyone’s character—a veritable free-for-all, Salem Witch Trial of the 21st century?  We may become the next victim and ultimately no one will be safe from the murderous, French Revolutionary-like angry democratic mob rule.  Why don’t we all take an hour to re-read the U.S. Constitution to understand the protections our Founding Fathers put in place to protect us from such mob rule.  They witnessed the French Revolution and the murderous effects of unbridled democracy; they gave us a rational republican form of government for good reason.

So—be careful how quickly you believe the news media and set your blogging fingers flying across the keyboards.  You could be the next witch being hunted and drowned!

Ashley Whitlock Burns
Trenton SC

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