“What we’ve got here,” said the Captain as he looked down at a bloodied and manacled Cool Hand Luke, whom he’d just beaten to the ground, “is failure to communicate.” While it’s one of the great lines in movie history, there was no failure to communicate – both the warden and the prisoner got the message, loud and clear. They just didn’t want to hear it.
So here we are, a divided country, talking past each other – and few people seem either able or interested in changing that. We talk to prove our points, to harden our positions. We’re not interested in a national conversation so much as a series of monologues.
Social media, which not long ago was hailed as the solution to our isolation – able to call thousands of people together on a moment’s notice – now seems a big part of the problem. And the news media, which has traditionally been a watchdog of the public forum, is widely distrusted – perceived as resolutely biased and undermined by fake news.
“Between Facebook and Twitter, I have, I guess, more than 40 million people,” Donald Trump told the Today show. “I get it out much faster than a press release. I get it out much more honestly than dealing with dishonest reporters.”
Let’s be candid. Much of what he gets out is fake news.
According to American mythology, we have had one president, George Washington, who never told a lie. We’re not likely to have another one anytime soon. And the big lie is the foundation of all totalitarian governments.
One way forward, as I’ll explore in my next column, is a revived press, one that is transparent to the public and unafraid of the powerful.