Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the US Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, was so alarmed by The New York Times Co.’s threat to close his financially distressed hometown paper, the Boston Globe, that he called a hearing of the subcommittee to order on May 6, 2009 to consider the future of organized journalism.
The New York Times Co. bought Senator Kerry’s beloved Boston Globe from Affiliated Publications for $1.1 billion back in 1993. The Globe, a full service newspaper, was founded in 1872, and went public in 1973. The Jordan family and Taylor family maintained a financial interest in the paper since its founding; the families received substantial New York Times Co. stock at the buyout. The descendants of Charles H. Taylor continued to manage the paper after the buyout, until late 2000.
Now the paper is suffering. The advent of the Internet long before the Great Recession gets a large share of the blame for diminishing advertising revenues. The Times Company is blamed for financial mismanagement during good times. Frank Phillips, one of the Globes’s most respected reporters, has charged the Times with “Wall Street journalism”, and with squeezing profits out of the Globe even during an economic downturn. He said that during bad times the Taylor family used to operate the paper for slim profits or even a loss rather than let the Globe wither, but not the Times Co.
Of course the future of journalism is a topic of inordinate concern to a number of corporate newspapers throughout the country who are drowning in red ink and consequently blame their predicament on the Great Recession and the Internet. They are watching the Globe/Times controversy intently because they believe some workable compromise may be forged that may become a model for their viable future. Their worst critics claim that the mainstream press is getting exactly what it deserves for buying into free-market deregulation ideology, and for selling out its readers and the truth to the corporate power elite including warmongering profiteers, greedy real estate developers, and avaricious Wall Street paperhangers. (1) Let the papers fold, they say, blogging citizen journalists will take up the slack for what passes for truth.
Much of the opposing criticism during the rush to war was well taken although repressed by the National Establishment’s propaganda organ, the jingoistic mainstream media. Carl Schmitt, theorist of the ‘Total’ and the jurisprudential godfather of the Bush Administration’s pre-emptive attack and emergency suspension of constitutional safeguard policies, had advanced the notion that leaders must fabricate truth to get anything done in a democracy with all its conflicting factions. Newspaper readers gradually became wise to the deception, thanks in part to newspapers that did leak the truth from time to time, and to alternative sources of fact and opinion on the Internet – which at this writing the Obama administration for the National Establishment would “nationalize” for national security reasons because America’s hacking enemies have cost Americans $200 billion over the last two years.
The fact of the matter became increasingly plain for all who had eyes to see, that the news was being routinely manipulated and slanted to suit the ideological prejudices of the power elite who own and control the Establishment and its mass media trumpets. We know very well that some of the editors, reporters, and columnists of our local corporate press subsidiaries associate with operatives within the “intelligence community” – after all, the corporate media is towards the top of the apex of the Establishment, a key component of the military-industrial-energy complex. Notwithstanding their familiarity and identification with the power elite, the media controllers, when terrified by the officially defined enemies within and without, believe they have a duty to press the orthodox dogma while suppressing dissent, wherefore we are not surprised when it is eventually revealed that media managers and employees actually censor objections and press patriotic dogma. And some of them do this not only because they feel they must be patriotic or altruistic but because they receive payments and favors from employers, government agencies, and war profiteers.
Wherefore intelligent newspaper readers have become cynical, read their papers with a jaded eye, and learn to never believe outright anything they read in newspapers, especially in the editorial pages. They increasingly turn to the Internet as a source of diverse perspectives on crucial issues. In fine, readers do not trust newspapers anymore – they have gotten a bad reputation since they were consolidated into publicly-owned newspaper chains and the public trust obviously betrayed locally. But we still want them around for the good they have done and might still do – opinionating bloggers, citizen journalists, and Web2.0 news aggregators need major newspaper reports as grist for their mills because, despite all their faults, they are cloaked in legitimacy by the authorities people love to envy if not admire. I recall being told by my sixth grade teacher that everyone should read the newspaper every day if she or he wants to know what is going on and how to succeed.
No, we cannot succeed without our newspapers, whether they are online or in our hands. Senator Kerry said that his subcommittee would discuss the implications of the closing of newspapers such as the Globe on the future of journalism and the country. It is important, he said, to "preserve the core society function served by independent and diverse media" and to question whether online journalism will "sustain the values of professional journalism the way the newspaper industry has." Maryland Senator Ben Cardin chimed in later on, stating that online journalism does not supply the in-depth reporting and investigative journalism provided by traditional newsrooms that are essential to a free society.
‘Regulation’ is the key word again now that the power elite, including their cabinet, the United States Congress, and their press, have blindly led the world towards a supposedly inevitable, disastrous uncovering of the truth they managed to suppress for quite awhile, a veritable apocalypse inviting, if you will, the wrathful doom of the god sometimes identified with the ultimate truth, The Truth. If the dwindling major papers are to be bailed out in order to survive, some critics say they should be regulated. Yes, the government may have to intervene in some way or the other so that the newspaper business can be profitable in the future. Maybe taxpayers should fund a nonprofit press in the interim, a Public Press System. Alberto Ibarguen, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Knight Foundation, testifying at the hearing on the future of journalism, said that nonprofit status for newspapers might allow them to "extend their useful life until we figure out what's next and what online model can afford professional journalism."
Mr. Ibarguen, a lawyer with a financial background, was the publisher of the Miami Herald until succeeded by Jesus Diaz Jr., an accountant. Mr. Diaz, much to the credit side of our general ledger, fired three journalists for accepting payments from the United States Government for working in anti-Cuba propaganda media organs –seven journalists who did not work for the Herald were also implicated – but he caved into pressure from Miami’s government-supported anti-Castro elite, rehired the journalists, and resigned, claiming that the journalists violated the ethical principle of independence. Mr. Ibarguen is a well known member of the Big Business-Big Government Establishment: His most recent relationships include positions such as an advisory council member of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board; as a director of the Council of Foreign Relations; as director on the boards of AMR Corporation, PepsiCo, and ProPublica; and chairman of Newseum.
The Knight Foundation has granted grubstakes to several Internet journalism experiments, including $1.1 million to hyperlocal information aggregator EveryBlock.com, which, in the name of journalism, links databases of news stories, crime reports, police crime logs, building-permit records and the like together. Yet Mr. Ibarguen apparently feels that it is wise for taxpayers to bail out corporate newspaper journalism until the corporations figure out how to make a profit on journalism, whatever its form, i.e. how to control journalism for the greater good of the corporatist system. But in that case, say those who are under the illusion that newspapers are really independent, we might as well kiss the independent press goodbye. (Can the truth ever be independently told, or fully told for either private or public profit?) The truth is better told independently, or so they say, by so-called “citizen journalists” on the Web instead of by press prostitutes adhering to the beck and call of their pimps, the bean-counting gatekeepers who preside over the press for the godfathers in Wall Street’s shadows.
We may abhor derogatory terms, but perhaps the term ‘prostitute’ would be better applied to derogate those who sell their souls instead of their bodies, including so called press putas or professional journalists, an act even worse than selling one’s body unless one is a soulless materialist or a wage slave. Eileen McNamara, a Pulitzer-prize-winning, former columnist for the Boston Globe, implied that the Globe is a whore when she called its owner, the Times, a pimp: the highly regarded Brandeis University teacher confessed that the Times “pimped” the Globe out for profit in the booming 1990s, and then “pillaged” her during lean times. (NYT 5/8/09) At this writing we don’t know if Ms. McNamara participated in the alleged prostitution ring she presently declaims.
Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post, testifying at Senator Kerry’s hearing on The Future of Journalism, said she opposed government intervention into journalism, and testified that the future of journalism is to be found in “a linked economy, its search engines, it's online advertising, its citizen journalism, and the foundations supporting investigative journalism. That's where the future is, and if you can't find your way to that, then you just can't find your way." She said newspapers must adapt to the Internet and make their money from clicks instead of subscriptions – alas, Internet users are used to getting information for nothing, and their clicks do not provide enough revenue for a real newspaper to live on. She rightly pointed out that the conventional media missed the truth about the biggest stories of our time: the coming of war and financial disaster.
Her antagonist at the hearing, seasoned newspaper reporter David Simon, said that Huffington Post journalists do not show up for zoning hearings and the like, and that the Huffington model, i.e. armchair journalism, would provide corrupt politicians with lucrative field days: “You do not – in my city -- run into bloggers or so-called citizen journalists at City Hall, or in the courthouse hallways or at the bars and union halls where police officers gather. You do not see them consistently nurturing and then pressing sources. You do not see them holding institutions accountable on a daily basis.”
Mr. Simon did not mention that the ‘hyper-local” news site, Patch.com, created and funded by AOL’s chief, Tim Armstrong, hires journalists in each locality covered, to attend school board meetings and the like, and to hang out in coffee shops with their laptops and cameras. Patch also solicits information from local readers. Nor did Mr. Simon discuss Rue89, a successful French site that includes input from skilled journalists, expert knowledge, and amateur participation that is fact-checked and edited by the site’s reporters. Readers, who, as in the United States, believe the mainstream press is incredible, find Rue89’s stories and investigations quite credible.
Notwithstanding the notion that citizen journalists could care less about the facts, never mind distorting them, and would probably, because nobody would remain to dig into facts or files, pollute our “democracy” with toxic journalism, subjecting this great nation of ours to a tyrannical, uninformed opinion poll, the “citizen journalist” is still held up as the hero on the leading edge of the publishing revolution – some call it devolution. The Knight Foundation of Miami has awarded $837,000 to Printcasting, whereby “citizen journalists” can create their own publications and hustle advertisers for support. “Printcasting” is an “aggregator” of information from Web sites that have agreed to the scheme. The Bakersfield Californian is testing Printcasting, getting the bulk of its content from 3,600 blogs written by readers.
Mr. Simon said the very phrase “citizen journalist” struck his ear as virtually “Orwellian.” This statement elicited in some conservative hearers at the hearing a conservative’s standard image of illiterate French rabble marching on the Bastille, waving copies of Rousseau’s ‘Rights of Man’ overhead, overcoming the guards, sticking their heads on pikes and tearing out their hearts and eating them, proclaiming that members of every nation who joins them in the sacrifice of rejected authority shall become liberated citizens of the free and ‘republican’ (democratic) world.
What the citizen reader who still reads religiously would really like to hear is the honest-to-goodness truth, and not truths fabricated by citizen journalists from fragments collected by machines from all over the World Wide Web. Alas, the constructivists, who claim that truth is manmade and has little to do with any thing-in-itself or reality, because human nature is essentially fallible, are having a rather pernicious, long-term influence on the world, for in the end the truth will be known, and those made intimate with it in their falseness shall be crushed as flat as matzo by reality’s doom. The truth is a means to an end, that end being the happiness of the human race, yet some folks would ignore truth because it does not correspond to their immediate needs and wants.
Why even bother with facts if only opinions count? Did not President Wilson say “to hell with the facts” when said facts flew in the face of his divinely intuited schemes? Furthermore, says the devil’s advocate, if there are opinions without facts or events to support them, and simpletons like to hear about facts, why not just make up facts? In any case the activist historian and journalist will interpret whatever facts he chooses to report in such a way to persuade his readers to accomplish some great good.
Now we should know that any perception of an object is in part judgmental, so the selection and perception of any fact is in part prejudicial; but newspaper reporters who collect, filter and report objective information are not supposed to deliberately falsify facts to suit their prejudices or personal interests, or to fabricate facts that have never occurred. When a “fact” depends too much on someone’s opinion, an independent journalist will, like an ethical lawyer, report contrary opinions for our considered judgment. Many bloggers or armchair journalists who consider themselves “citizen journalists” could care less about such ethical issues because of their inability or unwillingness to concentrate on abstract subjects for very long; they may believe that whatever feels good to them at the moment is good for everyone else.
Even writers for reputable newspapers such as the Boston Globe have occasionally fabricated stories on their desktops, tales that somehow passed muster with their editors. Globe columnist Patricia Smith resigned in 1998 after it was discovered that she had fabricated people and quotations in several of her columns. And Globe’s Mike Barnicle resigned after he fabricated a story about two cancer patients. The Globe apologized in 2004 for printing fantasy pictures lifted from an Internet porno site, graphic pictures of U.S. soldiers supposedly raping Iraqi women – not that any such rapes, part of the warrior’s traditional booty, never occurred. In 2005, the Globe was forced to retract Barbara Stewart’s story describing disturbing events of a seal hunt near Halifax, Nova Scotia, before the event had even taken place – when you know what is going to happen from previous experience, why bother seeing it happen again?
Those most glaring incidents along with other, allegedly quotidian fabrications and distortions of local events offended many Globe readers, who blamed the rag’s predicament on “poor reporting…laziness… deference to officialdom – it’s easier to quote a spokesperson than to do the actual research….” An anonymous reader said s/he had to compile the real facts about an issue and send them along to the misreporting Globe, who then changed its tune but with no thanks in return: “What the hell good is a newspaper if the readers have to fact-check it all? That's what the paper itself is supposed to be doing - it began when every writer began to see himself/herself as a “journalist” and not a reporter. Your days of fabricating stories are over. The cost of these unreasonably high profit expectations, in the form of diluted and less serious, less substantive news, could be high for a nation whose democracy literally depends on an informed citizenry.”
Now, then, with the supposedly impending demise of the gate-keeping, hardcopy mainstream press, which has always been the propaganda organ for the Establishment despite its internal, oligarchic conflicts, and occasional external opposition from a few newspaper intellectuals, we may mistakenly suppose that the citizenry may inform itself even better via unorganized citizen journalists. The “free” press that was never free will be replaced by what? Anarchy?
Hardly! The Establishment must not let the mainstream media fail it, because the majority of authoritarian-oriented people, despite their ambivalence, respect it and believe the most of what they are fed. The corporate press is too important to the survival of the Establishment hence the Nation to fail. The official gospel, no matter how costly, must be disseminated. Freewheeling, freeworking bloggers must not get the upper hand; if they are to constitute the future of journalism, the corporatists must organize them and take control on behalf of their masters at the apex of the national pyramid – a licensing scheme would certainly be helpful, and only those who received an education from a certified corporation should get a license. A way must be found to bail out the professional marching band. The hogs at the trough claim that the future of journalism does not hang on the issue of money but on its quality, yet that quality must be purchased. Knowledge, as Bacon said, may be power, but money is more powerful, for it can buy and control the vital information. Yes, the bomb is more powerful than the keyboard when recruits are wanted – the ancient Chinese inscribed the “news” on their swords.
Journalism, to be effective, Mr. Simon claimed at the hearing, must be a paid profession. Post-modernists may rally around the cry that information itself wants to be free, he said, but “it costs money to hire the best investigators and writers…the best editors.” Recent history proves beyond a doubt that unregulated free-market capitalism produces “little of social value.” Moreover, “laissez-faire” theories have “burned the poor, the middle class and the consumer… bloating the rich and mortgaging the very future of the industry (and) the country itself.” Whether funded publicly or privately, “High-end journalism can and should bite any hand that tries to feed it.”
Another publisher on the leading edge of that bright future happens to be Web publisher Helium Exchange Inc., the Andover, Massachusetts owner and operator of Helium.com, which claims that it is the “face of the publishing revolution” where “great writing rises to the top,” and is “the first true meritocracy in the publishing industry,” was touted in a March 1, 2007 New York Times podcast as a budding organizer of “citizen journalism,” “separating wheat from chaff, providing some hierarchy of value to the booming, buzzing confusion out there.” To that end it relies on the magic of “Web2.0 tools,” which turn out to be, when carefully examined, an incestuous writer-rating and -ranking system employing a traditional scalar consensual method that has little scientific merit except to create a “buzz” and provide a great deal of user-generated “content,” the overwhelming bulk of which is unpaid for – only participating writers are allowed to rate contributions to topics the corporate administrators and their minions believe will be of interest to real publishers, who are expected, in turn, to buy some of the content on the cheap, saving them the cost of hiring professional writers; a pittance of the fees paid, after Helium’s cut, will be remitted to the few lucky writers who make the grade by furiously rating other writers when submitting hundreds of articles. A supposedly top Helium™ writer who has identified herself as ‘Candace’ in an external blog, created by another Helium™ writer to praise Helium™ as a means to earn money at home, and to criticize writers such as HE™, who criticizes Helium™ policies and claims that the Helium corporation is exploiting writers for content on the cheap and mostly for nothing, claims that she has posted 900 articles at Helium in 31 months. As of yet ‘Candace’ has not fully identified herself so we may examine the quality of her articles, nor has she revealed her average monthly earnings.
In other words, the “community” of Helium’s citizen journalists, to obtain status, must not only write but must also rate one another’s written opinions on such topics as "Is the New Contraceptive Pill That Stops Menstruation Healthy for Women." So the Helium™ brand of truth is established by a popular opinion contest among presumably the most sophisticated opinionators or sophists, who, in this instance, may be males that have had no medical education nor must they have any experience menstruating whatsoever. Newspaper editors are expected to swoop into the Helium™ Marketplace to pick up the best articles under that topic or another, such as "The importance of self-image in the business world.” If the subject is real estate, evidently the writer needs to know next to nothing about real estate, at least according to Helium’s oft-quoted Senior Steward, Rex Trulove: "It is surprisingly easy to write about real estate if a person lives in a town or knows someone who does. Not a lot of research is required.” All the real estate researcher needs to do is call that someone, perhaps a single friendly realtor. This constructivist knowledge will be passed on to the public as knowledge of reality by Helium’s publisher-partners such as Hearst, which recently signed an agreement with Helium.
“Think about the main argument against user-gen out there,” effused Helium CEO Mark Ranalli during the Times podcast. “Sure, there's a tiny amount of great stuff among so much junk, and how can you find the good stuff? Helium's answer to that is to throw a set of 2.0 tools against the problem. User rankings, star ratings, a meritocracy that rewards the best stuff with money and recognition. It's a set of tools – but more importantly, a way of thinking – that should have a lot of resonance with those news sites trying to figure out how to engage and to apply quality-centric standards to non-staff written content.”
William B. Huff, former president and 25-year veteran of the Boston Globe, is listed as Chairman of Helium’s Board of Directors. Peter Newton, Helium’s Vice President of Business Development, enjoyed an 18-year career with the Boston Globe. Both men are accountants who initially served the Globe as internal auditors and controllers. We do not know whether or not Senator Kerry is familiar with these esteemed gentlemen or with the Helium™ model, hence we are sending along our files for his subcommittee’s consideration. The subcommittee shall see that the Helium™ model, in the name of “civilized” discourse, i.e. commercial civilization, does not tolerate self-criticism whether it is hand-biting or back-biting. Writers who refuse to be loyal ‘Helium Heads’ have their criticism deleted. Indeed, any sort of criticism whether positive or negative that Helium administrators believe may harm their image is routinely deleted. Freelance author and website critic Craig Kohler, who holds degrees in Religion, Philosophy, and Architecture, studied Helium’s censorship program and concluded:
“Helium.com has been actively removing questions and answers that address valid issues pertaining to the website or are otherwise relevant to Helium.com content or contributors, all without warning or explanation. This systematic deletion has taken place despite the fact that Helium is a user-driven site for writers that claims to celebrate multiple viewpoints…. Helium.com also claims that all articles are of value to the site and can earn people money indefinitely. Apparently, these claims do not always apply to articles that point out negative or problematic aspects of Helium.com.” (2)
Critics have been banned from the Helium site; their intellectual property, however, has been seized and displayed pursuant to an unconscionable adhesion “agreement” that not even lawyers bother to read until burned – its fluctuation terms are designed to massively exploit the writing community with big-opportunity rhetoric for very little or no pay. In some cases writers’ bylines have been replaced by numbers; e.g. “Name Withheld No. 9”. A former Helium Head, an advocate of the Power to Delete whose service mark is HE™, alleges that the Helium™ User “Agreement” is an invalid adhesion contract hence Helium’s refusal to discontinue displaying writing, for which it has paid no consideration, on its website against the will of writers may constitute violations of civil and criminal copyright law.
Again, those most interested in the future of journalism, that it be competent and truth, testify that the main concern is the quality of journalism; but in the next breath they imply that good quality cannot be had without a good business model, i.e. a profitable system. Mark Ranalli, the president of Helium Exchange Inc., referred contemptuously, in the Times podcast mentioned above, to the low quality of content “contributed” to his site: "Of the first 100,000 contributors, thousands of them should have their computers removed.” John Rozen, Helium’s Vice President of Operations, did not respond to suggestions for the installation of a heuristic program whereby the self-taught citizen journalist would follow specific “pop-up” rating guidelines based on generally acceptable journalistic and critical literary guidelines for each article rated, thus inculcating the standard in himself for application to his own journalism.
Some of the best journals in the history of our race were kept by unpaid journalists – good journalists had the prestige of their names, but no legal copyright Why should the collection, filtering and reporting of information be a sort of trade secret to be monopolized by graduates of certified schools so the graduate can obtain a job and press credentials with a respected journal?
Why? For Business-as-Usual! Some folks worry that the Senate will do nothing about the future of journalism, while others worry that it will do something. We may rest assured that, whatever the Big Business-Big Government partnership does, we will have Business-as-Usual in America and plenty of free airtime for its national president short of a true publishing revolution. People are going to have to pay, one way or another. They are going to have to make sacrifices, one way or another, to keep the power elite in business, for the main business of our government is business, and they are not going to let their advertising and propaganda organs go down the tubes.
(1) Indeed, corporate newspapers, in their haste to please both Main Street and Wall Street at the same time, put the accountants in charge and became little more than advertisements posing as news for the power elite’s pet projects – not that accountants cannot tell a good tale, especially when keeping tallies for the powers-that-be does not pay well enough, in which case the proverbial tyrant’s bookkeepers, who learned to give their own accounts of events instead of keeping inventory accounts for kings, have at times incited the people to riot.
Knight Ridder’s Miami Herald, until McClatchy took over, was a case in point – about the only reason a poor man would subscribe to the old Herald is because people would know he was dead before he began to stink, by the papers piled up at his door. But we take another example of press prostitution, where the scribes subscribed to the will of the dynasts: Knight-Ridders’ Kansas City Star.
The Star, following the lead of its city mayor (Kay Barnes) and city manager (Wayne Cauthen), prostituted itself out whole hog to real estate developers in the name of revitalization, decorating its front page with “news” articles and features blatantly boosting whatever the downtown developers desired. Just for starters, the corporate welfare included a complimentary downtown headquarters for needy H&R Block, whose revenue was then a paltry $2,100,000,000. The Kansas City Star’s cut for its unbalanced boosterism was a $200,000,000 downtown printing plant facility. The power of imminent domain was invoked to seize downtown properties from longstanding, profitable businesses to make way for the businesses favored – just as imminent domain was invoked in Manhattan to deliver a new Times Square headquarters to New York Times Co, over the objections of a longstanding profitable business.
As over $500,000,000 was committed to the revitalization of downtown landlords, bankers, and big corporations while basic services to the poorest city dwellers were slashed, objections to the plundering were ignored pursuant to the Ignore Naysayers doctrine, which had been officially proclaimed by Mr. Cauthen in the press. Take for instance this representative example of the arrogant and dismissive attitude of the mayor's office, expressed in a June 4, 2004 letter by Mayor Barnes' Director of Administration, Richard DeHart, implying that anyone who begs askance of her proposals is not, like her, an optimistic progressive helping the community but is rather a pessimistic regressive who wants to hurt the community: "She has to frequently battle naysayers who think Kansas City can't do this or shouldn't do that. The Mayor is more focused on helping Kansas City move ahead instead of looking for reasons why we can't or won't."
No doubt the mayor and the city manager thought it would be more productive to just ignore naysayers than to do battle with them, and their major propaganda organ, the Star, seldom published naysaying –that was left to bloggers, and to a free sidewalk paper that the elite who did their thinking in the upper boxes in the office towers scoffed at as beneath their dignity to respond to. Eventually the Star recognized the fact that there were “a few” objections to the downtown makeover. Steve Glorioso, one of the mayor's aides, belatedly responding to questions about and objections to the mayor's rush to development, summarily dismissed the questions thus: "The questions raised.... will be answered, we believe, to the satisfaction of everyone but the self-interested." That is to say that the mayor and her clique are altruistic people. while those who disagree are selfish people. Of course we became familiar with that approach, and on a grander scale, during the national government's rush to war, almost universally supported by the press putas and media moguls: all those for the war were patriots, all those against, traitors.
Star reporter Kevin Collison called Walter Cronkite’s cousin, Mayor Kay (‘Mayadevi’) Barnes – who had previously made a career in the positive mental attitude business as president of Kay Waldo Inc., the “best supporting actress” for obtaining development approvals. Finally a big business, a car rental company headquartered in St. Louis, actually objected to the development, hence the Star could not ignore its major advertiser’s concern and at last took up the other side of a downtown revitalization issue at length. Mayor Barnes wanted a new sports arena downtown; it would be supported in part by a rental tax. Mr. Collison said she would have to be the “leading actress” to get a new sports arena approved without a major league team to go with it. She finally publicly recognized the existence of a Naysayer, the car rental company, though she said she could not understand why anyone would actually say Nay. She praised taxpayers for being “brave” enough to fund the proposals that she was making on behalf of the People – better said, the dynastic, paternal clique that runs the city – implying that to do otherwise would be cowardly. She skipped doing her duty at the Democratic Convention in order to stay home and fight Kansas City’s great rival, St. Louis. By diverting attention to this historic civil rivalry, she got her way.
Sports economist Robert Baard had analyzed the arena proposal. He concluded that “People of modest means would subsidize attendance at arena events for the financial privileged.” The same might be said of the new concert hall plan. The downtown development as a whole, bolstered by the tax slush fund, was more for the privileged than the underprivileged. The notorious “white flight” would be finally reversed – the housing department, allegedly corrupted by blacks in favor of blacks, would be shut down for financial mismanagement.
Perspicacious Kansas City individuals, albeit totally ignored due to the Ignore Naysayers doctrine – as a matter of policy the mayor would not meet with ordinary individuals but only with the cooperative leaders of groups – had already arrived at a similar conclusion in respect to most of the downtown revitalization projects that were being rushed to construction. The vested interests and power elite would realize immediate gains in the form of profits on land deals, condominium conversion deals, bond deals, consulting fees, investment banking commissions, architectural fees, construction profits, and the like. As hundreds of millions of dollars were being handed out for the benefit of the already affluent, millions were being cut from the fire and police departments and from health care services to the desperately poor. Intermediate-term, lifestyle advantages were expected from the downtown revitalization as homeless people, working poor and lower middle-class people would be pushed out of the "blighted" downtown by higher housing, food, and entertainment costs during the gentrification process. Homeless people who remained would be contained in shelters in the so-called Compassion Zone on one side of town, near the police station.
“Jonathan’s Building” is also worthy of mention here. Jonathan Kemper, an illustrious member of the Kemper dynasty, is CEO of Commerce Bank and Board President of the Kansas City Library. He deserves credit for getting part of the collection from the “vagrant library” moved from the blighted downtown government center to a beautiful old bank within eyeshot of his Commerce Bank. The renovated bank is the centerpiece of the downtown residential-commercial area dubbed the Library District. The collection was dumbed-down somewhat for the transition. A private security force was installed to protect the new digs and preclude social misfits from misbehaving. The vagrants must now walk across town to attend, but their main concern is still with the restroom facilities, which are greatly improved.
All told, the gem of a library deserves everyone’s respect, and this writer would enjoy living in a condo right across the street from it. But the cost of the renovation and relocation was costly and the new operating costs in comparison to the old are high. The Star trumpeted the new library every inch of the way, and blacked out objections to the cost and to the dumbing-down of the collection. Apparently none of the $50,000,000 raised by Mr. Kemper was devoted to the collection itself or to human resources. The Kansas City Star knew about but did not explain why the cost of physical improvements were over $1,000 per square foot of net added library space, in comparison to a cost in Denver of less than $200 per foot for net additional library space. The newspaper monopoly must have known about but ignored the fact that a brand new building could have been built at the same or less cost, and that the old building might have been renovated for far less money. And then, after the new library was opened, the editors of the Star, under the rubric, 'Library must pursue more ambitious path,' disclosed that the library trustees cut $500,000 for purchasing books and other materials, and said that library hours might be cut back. And what should be done to save the library? "Library trustees should consider asking voters for additional funds." Was not that the plan all along?
The voting public eventually caught on. The web of illusion that ‘Mayadevi’ Barnes had woven over the Heart of America was demolished by Mark Funkhauser, who objected vehemently to her mollycoddling of developers, and was duly elected mayor in 2007. Fortunately, Knight Ridder sold the Kansas City Star to McClatchy in 2006 – Knight Ridder’s trumpet for Miami developers, the Miami Herald, was also thankfully sold to McClatchy, whereupon much dirt was exposed, albeit much too late. The newly owned Star endorsed Mark Funkhauser, and to this day it is amusing to behold the journalist who cottoned to Mayor Barnes most of all flatter him to no end instead. Yes, Madame Barnes had lost her magic power: her maya also failed her in her dismal run for Congress.
Now we must refer to the other side of the story for the sake of balance. We observe that, although force wrongly applied may not get the work wanted done well, it still takes force to get anything done, and it is unfair to criticize the work until projects are complete. Of course we would like the means to be as nice as the ends, but means do require sacrifices for the greater good supposedly at the end.
We might criticize illiterate Tamarlane for his barbaric advertisements, his towers of skulls, but his capital city was grand indeed, thanks not only to physical booty taken, for example, from backsliding infidels in India who had taken up the worship of golden idols again, but to captive intellects also seized – artists, architects, scribes, etc. Tamarlane loved the truth, but it could only be told by the members of a small tribe descended from the Prophet – other critics, including tenants of his shopping center who objected to revitalizations, were beheaded.
Now the jury is still out on the revitalization of the Heart of America. The new downtown Kansas City may very well be recognized as the Jewel of the Midwest in the future, at which time the cost, in comparison to inflated future prices, may seem well worth the result, and then the fact that naysayers were ignored will not matter but to anyone but the naysayers, if they have lived that long: They will not want to be identified as those who said no to such a wonderful thing. After all, Kansas City, Missouri had become a one-cow town since the stockyards were shut down and Sprint fled to Kansas, and that sole cow was mounted on the top of a pole barely to be seen at the edge of the Bottoms (the lower flats, where the railroad yards were). Many Kansas Citians wanted something to be done, anything at all, to break the boredom of their once thriving downtown.
Likewise, for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, now spreading to Pakistan: A good history may not be told for 25 years; observe Germany, Japan, and South Korea – where the “forgotten” war was not wrong in the end, at least not in comparison to North Korea, although many objected to the means.
(2) Mr. Kohler presents his analysis of key examples of Helium’s censorship at:
June 1, 2009