I fear I am living out a perverse version of the plot of the 1957 movie, The Bridge on the River Kwai.
In the movie, a British general rallies the morale of his troops suffering in a World War II Japanese prison camp by getting them enthused about building a bridge for their captors. It works, in the sense that a fine bridge is built and the prisoners recover a measure of strength and dignity.
Of course, there is a problem; the bridge is a big help to the Japanese war effort – hardly the sort of contribution a British general should be making. In the end, the general comes to his senses and blows up his engineering masterpiece, eliciting the comment from a fellow prisoner that the entire affair is “madness.”
Today, the plot has been updated, with the news media playing the role of the British general. They are helping a new presidential administration to push through an economic plan that, like the bridge in the old movie, leads to a potentially unproductive end.
Congress has approved a bill more than 1000 pages in length that nobody in the media seems to have read. And while 1000 pages is a lot of reading, it can be done. I’ve read lots of legislation – they use big print and lots of spaces. So an editor on a big newspaper could give 100 pages to 10 reporters and have the whole thing read in a couple hours. (Ever newspaper reporters can read if forced.)
Congress has approved spending more than $800 billion and nobody in the media seems able to explain exactly what for. That seems to be a rather obvious question for the media to ask.
I’ve heard several reporters say that even though nobody seems to have a grasp on the legislation it is important to do something – even if we don’t know we’re doing the right thing. That’s a little like a surgeon saying he wants to start operating even though he doesn’t know what is wrong with you – he just thinks it would be good to do something.
By its silence, lack of challenge, lack of professionalism, the media is failing it is role of government critic and has become nothing more than a collaborator in a monumental program of government spending and acquisition of power.
I’m hoping the media will come to its collective senses. And if it doesn’t blow up this bridge, at least it should start asking where it leads. Otherwise….madness.