Apophatics of Journalism

man-2399982_1280Free journalism is an essential element in open society and liberal democracy and in fact unless journalism is free is it not journalism at all. Our digitized world is full of online writers and so who is a journalist and who is merely a writer? Is a journalist someone who is paid by others to write or is a journalist a person who while writing endeavors to think for herself with high ethical standards and independently of ulterior personal economic considerations?

The old class of journalists is all paid and to varying degrees corrupt and ruled by fears of not being able to make a living. This resembles a societal class of medieval society more than an independent profession. The new journalists are bloggers and manage non-profit news sites. They may fund themselves through crowdfunding or being/doing something else for a living.

The old class of journalists are in fierce internal competition as the jobs increasingly disappear in the old journalistic sector. At the same time is there also a lot of innovation and new thinking in producing online high quality professional journalism while in parallel much of news media has turned into consensus propaganda and banal “news” entertainment. Conservative news media such as Fox News have come to compensate for the failings of the mainstream left-of-center media and so the new conservative media has arrived in Europe as well to the consternation of European mainstream journalists who treat the new conservative media as if being afflicted with the plague.

Let us therefore redefine a journalist from someone who is paid to write to someone who does not let money guide how she writes. If you are unable to write independently in succumbing to fears of your own economy then you are no longer a journalist and this is certainly not meant to belittle your perhaps relative lack of economic security, not at all, in no way so. Whether someone is paid or not to write is not what defines a journalist but rather that money will not trump her journalistic principles. Rather need every citizen strive to become a journalist and learning to become one requires learning to think and write independently of ulterior personal economic considerations.

There was once a time in Europe when wealth was monopolized by landowners, when morality was monopolized by clergy and when government was monopolized by hereditary heads of state. Similarly need we question the notion of journalism being monopolized by a societal class of paid and thus in most cases more or less corrupt intellectuals. Rather today in our online world are more and more humans becoming citizen journalists. Facebook enables almost any human person with Internet access to become a civic journalist. Blogging platforms allow for starting blogs without paying anything and so as human citizens ought we all strive to become not merely journalists but investigative journalists. Being a journalist should no longer be considered a profession but rather a calling, a civic responsibility indeed. If you get paid to write then you are only a journalist if this does not limit your application of journalistic principles.

In redefining a journalist from someone who is paid to write and thus in today’s world is likely corrupted by ulterior personal economic considerations into someone who irrespectively of being paid or not does not let personal economic considerations limit her commitment to the virtues that are the timeless principles of journalism.

A journalist first and foremost is committed to defending freedom, emancipation and representative governance and is firmly opposed to ideologies/movements of totalitarianism and irrespectively so of ethnicity and denomination of those espousing totalitarian ideologies. Someone who out of economic convenience dares not publicly oppose totalitarian enemies of open society and dares not standing up for freedom, emancipation and representative governance is simply not a journalist.

A journalist in distinguishing between pro-democrats and anti-democrats understands that a legitimate participant in journalistic discourse is someone who is a pro-democrat and not an anti-democrat. A journalist may thus fiercely disagree with opinions of many fellow pro-democrats yet will equally fiercely defend their legitimacy as fellow participants in discourse of democracy. Whether someone is a legitimate participant in public debate on a particular issue is however determined by whether that person opposes prejudice, meaning someone who endeavors to oppose prejudice.

A journalist is committed to moral clarity, meaning defending freedom against tyranny while opposing prejudice. A journalist may hold any political position within the pro-democratic spectrum of political expression, yet also respects other pro-democrats as legitimate fellow participants in democracy.

What is prejudice? Prejudice are simply opinions reflecting structural oppression. This does not mean that a journalist is someone who is free from prejudice but rather is someone who recognizes that prejudice is part of the human condition and therefore is always ready to question not only prejudice of others but importantly prejudice of herself.

How then deal with the fact that not only myself but others too hold prejudice? Just as I should not too strictly castigate myself for holding prejudice or for that reason call myself a sinner ought I not do that towards other individual persons either. Not even saints are perfect and posing as ostensibly being without moral blemish is simply self-defeating hypocrisy. If you think that you hold no prejudice then you are not a journalist. If you believe yourself to have attained moral perfection then you are not a journalist. If you believe yourself to be without moral blemish then you are not a journalist.

If you believe that your journalism is somehow subordinate to ideology, religion, philosophy, nationalism, iconoclastic dogmatism or your personal economic considerations then you are not a journalist either. Being a journalist means being both principled but also open to reinventing principles, yet as limited to the spectrum of pro-democratic expression. If you think anti-democrats are equally legitimate participants in democracy then you are not a true pro-democrat and you are not a journalist either but rather a collaborator with totalitarianism.

Journalism thus is a calling to questioning within the confines of any spectrum of pro-democratic expression as importantly also requiring opposition to enemies of open society. Who then is an enemy of open society and is enlightened despotism sometimes legitimate? These are essential questions for a journalist to pose as enlightened despots are to relative degrees indeed imperfect defenders of freedom against totalitarianism.

Who then is a pro-democrat? A pro-democrat is a person who has internalized the timeless values of freedom, emancipation and democracy and thus has become part of the pro-democratic spectrum of political expression. It is important to understand who is a pro-democrat because if you are not a principled pro-democrat then you are not a journalist. Are you ready to risk your life for the freedom of others? If the answer is no are you not a journalist. Are you ready to stand up for freedom against tyranny? If the answer is no are you not a journalist. Can you tell the difference between a pro-democrat and an anti-democrat? If the answer is no are you not a journalist. Are you able to distinguish when the state is an agent of tyranny and when the state is a protector of freedom? If the answer is no are you not a journalist. Do you oppose social oppression, economic oppression and statist oppression irrespective of who is the perpetrator? If the answer is no are you not a journalist. Do you advocate universal emancipation for all persons irrespective of assigned type of anatomy or assigned type of social unit? If the answer is no are you not a journalist.

Do you believe that although impartiality and objectivity do not exist in a metaphysical sense is striving for those journalistic virtues nevertheless essential? If the answer is no are you not a journalist. Do you believe that journalism is a calling of principled virtues rather than a class of people? If the answer is no are you not a journalist.

Thus while humans generally should be educated to become civic journalists is there precisely no guarantee that everyone will become a civic journalist. Not everyone will want to devote parts of her life to writing for the sake others and there are human beings who are anti-democrats. This is not to say that they are not entitled to hold anti-democratic beliefs but rather that they are simply not part of the pro-democratic spectrum of expression.

In rethinking the question of who is journalist from one who is paid to think and write in accordance with agendas of those who pay her for writing and instead think of a journalist as someone who is fiercely independent and will not allow personal ulterior economic considerations influence what and how she writes can we redefine a journalist as a sort of wannabe saint who is committed to the freedom, security and wellbeing of fellow others irrespective of assigned type of anatomy or social unit.

Is a journalist someone who poses questions rather than answers them? Well, a journalist may certainly answer questions yet does not seek to close the posing of questions in new ways and is ever-committed to the opening of uncomfortable questions and a journalist is furthermore someone who is constantly animated by the posing of questions in new and innovative ways.

A journalist is not averse to personal risk yet is also not selfless for how can you help others unless you help yourself? A journalist is thus not a member of class of professionals but rather the ideal citizen herself.