I think we have all seen this. An institution has gone off the rails. It started with one their members going in the wrong direction, ignoring ethical standards, taking shortcuts, causing harm. Because they were doing their job, but not very well, they were accepted. This person or group of people might be called “pushing the envelope” but not in a favorable way. The rogue elements are stretching the standards. When there is a failure to enforce the established standards in an organization, unethical behavior becomes acceptable. If known, nothing is done about the bad behavior. But let’s be clear; the insane are never aware that they are insane, it’s always everyone else that is insane to the insane person.
Let me describe the descent into madness, step by step. First, behavior by some members that is borderline unethical or just barely acceptable. Second, the rationalization of said behavior, in that the mission is so important that disregarding ethical standards, while not encouraged, is understandable, at least to the members of the organization. Third, the gathering of support, which is usually rationalized by the “us or them” mentality, where the members of the organization take the stance that they are unique and everyone is against them, and that their mission should be granted ethical or moral exception. Fourth, the silent treatment, where none of the group or organization will criticize another member, only exacerbating the misconduct, as well as increasing the mistrust of the public.
The people who stray from the ethical standards often do not understand what they did wrong. The mentality of getting the task done takes over and the idea of standards goes away. The television networks for years said that the news department had no responsibility to generate revenue. News reporters became icons, and they became as trustworthy as your mother of father, at least in the era before cable television. Eventually, some of the cable networks abandoned any pretense of objectivity and, while, of course, never mentioning their preferences, still tried to give off the impression of objectivity. I have no objection to following a certain ideology; I just resent claims of objectivity when it is clear that the information is not being presented objectively.
Justice has become twisted in this descent into madness as well. The term for the degeneration of justice is called “mission creep,” with the application of greater and greater force, and eventually using military equipment against civilians becomes de rigueur. Where members of the justice system who are not held legally accountable imprison innocent civilians, not in the name of justice, but because of their own ambitions. As a nation, we, the people, have incarcerated and even executed innocent people. While one might argue that this would be inevitable, there is no accountability for the egregious crime of incarcerating the innocent. We have degenerated to the point where only ambitions matter, while the people who represent us consistently claim that accountability would disrupt the process. For the record, I am not only for disrupting the process, but for ex post facto accountability for those who have violated the rights of citizens, knowingly or unknowingly. Ignorance of innocence is no excuse. The personal freedom of individual citizens is not something to be treated with reckless disregard, by authorities of any nature or stature.
Whether this descent into madness was predicable remains to be seen. Institutions, or more precisely the people who run institutions, end up so caught up in their mission that they think that anything they dream up becomes sacrosanct, and that any outside review, perspective, or investigation is unwarranted. Historically, there have been institutions that went off the rails into uncivilized and unwarranted behavior in the firm belief that they were “doing the right thing.” In many cases, it took an objective perspective from outsiders and no small measure of force to correct the situation. As I have been given to understand, along with my anecdotal evidence and experience, most institutions do not appreciate outside opinions, and deeply resent people who change how things are done; no matter how unethical the previous practices. As an example, in the late nineteen century, before the Progressive Era, it was not unusual for city officials to hold meetings at brothels or in the back rooms of taverns.
I have advocated for a new progressive era for some little time now. Societies change, and institutions change. I am not calling for a civil war, or a Balkanization. I am calling for a reasonable examination of some of the institutions of America. In the late nineteenth century, businesses formed “trusts” that controlled markets and cheated customers. While I know that some would say the trusts simply had a competitive advantage, there is a distinct difference between a competitive advantage and excessive charges, and or fleecing someone. Our government has consistently rejected the idea of only a few firms controlling a market for good reasons, with only a few exceptions. Cornering a market and fleecing customers has been illegal for a long time, since the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890.
At present time, the five largest banks own forty-five percent of the industry; we should question whether that is a good idea, and the same goes with other firms that have such a prominent position in the market. We experienced what happens when a few firms control a large part of the market in 2008, and we do not need to see it again. The best way to prevent another meltdown is to have assets distributed throughout many entities, so one entity cannot crush the market. In case you think 2008 was an anomaly, Google the Panic of 1907.
I am not in favor of suppressing the media, and will not advise it. However, the media, which are all competing for attention, have become corrupt, misleading, and at times, outright liars. I am not in favor of “official” government media that corrects false reports, and it appears that even the president has been reporting things that did not happen. It seems that the government is scrambling to uncover the truth more and more with Russians hacking, or not, and Trump campaign officials making deals with Russians, or not. Journalism can and does use websites for evaluating the truth, and establishes measures for the accuracy of reporting.
This is the descent into madness of journalists, most recently led by the ideologues of the Clinton Syndicate, especially Donna Brazile, whose degenerate practices and outright deception of the public should be addressed by the journalists themselves; or at least the organizations who consider themselves populated with journalists. Until now, the credentials of journalist were mostly just academic, but in the age where you can become a certified hypnotist, (one of my favorite websites, just look at all the credential that they offer) perhaps we need to certify journalists and remove their credentials for unethical behavior. At least if someone was a certified, credentialed journalist, we could make some kind of determination if they were ethical. As it is, every neo-progressive alt-reality quasi-historical neoliberal who has a blog considers themselves an expert and a journalist as well, and the equine excrement that they are expelling is misleading many people. Of course, as is so typical of the conspiracy theorists, they viciously attack anyone who proposes a reasonable objection or presents any alternative theory or explanation of their propaganda.
I am afraid that we are watching this society’s descent into madness. We are seeing professionals that compromise their integrity because of ideology. We are watching the ambitious run roughshod over their fellow citizens, believing that they are somehow exempt from accountability; hopefully not for much longer if we choose to remain a free society. As a society, I am not recommending that people take up religion, but there are some that would say a lack of religion is why we are in our present situation. It is not that I do not like the technological advances that we have made, and certainly technology has made all of the flaws in our society much more visible. Technology, however, is not an excuse for unethical behavior. As institutions get bigger, fewer and fewer people consider themselves responsible, as they consider themselves just a cog in a great big machine. It is the big technology that has made the scrutiny of the smallest of things observable, and it seems that personal ethics, doing the right thing as an individual, has become devalued.
Credibility is becoming harder and harder find, as almost everyone has an ulterior motive; a goal that they will compromise the most precious of their ethics to attain. The rationalizations are becoming more and more Byzantine, and can be described simply as greed. Perhaps there weren’t any ethics before, and we just live in an Information Age that is revealing all of the slimy characteristics that were hidden before. I would like to think not. I would like to think that we are an honorable people who wish to do the right and the best thing, but those examples are becoming scarce. The descent into madness is obvious, and the solution difficult, but we have had harder times. The choices are still ours to make.