The Bright Side Of Fame

I just listened to a podcast on the dark side of fame and I started thinking. I’ve had some fame. It was, overall, a positive experience. I received:

* Free travel
* Easy money
* I got to do more of what I was good at
* I sensed the world opening up to me, I got access to where I wanted access (such as interview subjects)
* I expanded my social circle (making up for the losses of people who turned their back on me because they despised my blogging)
* Successful people in my space treated me like a peer
* I filled up with energy and I passed that energy on to others
* My opportunities to do good expanded (just giving someone my undivided attention seemed to make people happy)
* I had new experiences which prompted me to have new thoughts and feelings that would not have been available otherwise, I got to experience more of life
* Preferential treatment

The first time I realized I could do extraordinary things was a day in second grade when the class sat on a bridge over Dora Creek and we were told to look at the ghostly trees under the water and to write about them. I jotted down a few words, became convinced I was doing it all wrong but had to turn in my paper anyway, and then I was surprised when the teacher said I had written something great and she read it aloud to the class and I noticed my words affected people, including adults. I realized I had insights into life that even adults would appreciate. I was eight years old and I never doubted my writing ability after that even when I got Cs in English class.

I don’t feel like listing off the dark sides of fame for me. I prefer to focus on the good things in my life. I don’t spend much time in regret. I try to use the bad things that have happened to me, and the bad things I did to others, as prompts for me to do good things in the future (including cleaning up my side of the street and living in the reality of my own flawed humanity).

According to this podcast, the dark side of fame includes:

* Difficulty trusting people.
* Has been syndrome (the flame of celebrity always dims)
* Acquired situational narcissism
* The brain gets addicted to a high level of neurological stimulation and hungers for recognition
* People aren’t looking at you, they’re looking through you
* Temptation

Psychologist Donna Rockwell participated in the launch of CNN. She later published this paper, Being a Celebrity: A Phenomenology of Fame: “The experience of being famous was investigated through interviews with 15 well-known American celebrities. The interviews detail the existential parameters of being famous in contemporary culture. Research participants were celebrities in various societal categories: government, law, business, publishing, sports, music, film, television news and entertainment. Phenomenological analysis was used to examine textural and structural relationship-to-world themes of fame and celebrity. The study found that in relation to self, being famous leads to loss of privacy, entitization, demanding expectations, gratification of ego needs, and symbolic immortality. In relation to other, or world, being famous leads to wealth, access, temptations, and concerns about family impact. Areas of psychological concern for celebrity mental health include character-splitting, mistrust, isolation, and an unwillingness to give up fame. Being-in-the-world of celebrity is a process involving four temporal phases: love/hate, addiction, acceptance, and adaptation.”

Becoming famous is a dopamine rush. Some people can handle it and some people can’t. Eating chocolate is a dopamine rush. Some people can handle it responsibly and some people can’t. My father, for example, would never eat chocolate because he found it easier to abstain than to be moderate.

Abstention is a fine coping mechanism but you’re not getting to the core of the issue of why you can’t be moderate. Abstention is a tactic to deal with symptoms, but the cause of the symptoms lies unaddressed.

My therapist once said that when she heard me talk, she imagined an infant sucking on his mother’s breast for all he was worth because he feared he would never get another feed. From an evolutionary perspective, we’re wired to be ravenous. We’re wired to never be satisfied with one sex partner, one slaughtered animal, one berry bush.

My father felt he was going to become much more famous than he did. When we would watch the Phil Donahue show circa 1983, he would often remark that he was going to be on the show one day. It never happened. Dad achieved a level of fame beyond that of 99.9% of ministers, but he wanted more.

According to this podcast, if you can use fame to do something useful in the world, you’ll handle it better.

Here are some excerpts from Being a Celebrity: A Phenomenology of Fame:

* “Most everybody secretly imagines themselves in show business and everyday on their way to work, they’re a little bit depressed because they’re not . . . People are sad they’re not famous in America.” (John Waters, 2004)

* Love/Hate. Relationship-to-world themes are revealed as participants seek effective ways of acclimating to being a famous person. At first, the experience of becoming famous provides much ego stroking. Newly famous people find themselves warmly embraced. There is a guilty pleasure associated with the thrill of being admired in that participants both love the attention and adoration while they question the gratification they experience from fame. “I enjoy parts of it, but I hate parts of it, too,” was a generally reported theme.

Addiction. The lure of adoration is attractive, and it becomes difficult for the person to imagine living without fame. One participant said, “It is somewhat of a high,” and another, “I kind of get off on it.” One said, “I’ve been addicted to almost every substance known to man at one point or another, and the most addicting of them all is fame.” Where does the celebrity go when fame passes; having become dependent on fame, how does one adjust to being less famous over time? “As the sun sets on my fame,” one celebrity said, “I’m going to have to learn how to put it in its proper place.” The adjustment can be a difficult one.

Acceptance. As the attention becomes overwhelming and expectations, temptations, mistrust, and familial concerns come to the fore, the celebrity resolves to accept fame, including its threatening phenomenal aspects. “You learn to accept it,” one celebrity said. After a while, celebrities report that they come to see that fame is “just so much the will-o’-the-wisp, and you just can’t build a house on that kind of stuff .”

Adaptation. Only after accepting that “it comes with the territory” can the celebrity adaptively navigate fame’s choppy waters. “Once you’re famous,” a participant said, “you don’t make eye contact or you keep walking . . . and you just don’t hear [people calling your name].” Adaptive patterns can include reclusiveness, which gives rise in turn to mistrust and isolation. “I don’t want to go out if I don’t feel good about looking forward to meeting anybody or just being nice to people,” another celebrity reported.

* Mistrust. Eventually, the very others who adore the celebrity evoke mistrust. “Th ere is always a part of you that wonders why they are becoming friendly with you.” In an everyday environment, the celebrity wonders, “Do people like me because of who I am or because of what I do? You find out there are millions of people who like you for what you do. They couldn’t care less who you are.” With the development of this operating belief system, the conditions are set for grave mistrust and problems in interpersonal relating. “In the process of losing trust, I’ve lost some of the innocence I’ve had about life, about the world and about people . . .” The famous person seeks to discern the true intentions of others. “I just think with time and a trained eye, for the most part, I’ve learned about certain parasites who want to take advantage of me for whatever reason, whether it’s money or simply the association of hanging out with somebody who’s . . . famous.” T h e difficulties of such discernment may leave the celebrity feeling confused and alienated. He or she may then seek refuge in physical and/or emotional isolation by becoming more detached.

* Demanding expectations. The celebrity must renegotiate his or her relationship-to-world in order to carve out a new operative awareness and set of strategies for living in the spotlight’s penetrating glare. The celebrity copes with intense public scrutiny through character-splitting. He or she divides into two identities by contriving a celebrity entity, a new selfpresentation in the “public sphere.” This “individuating construction of the public personality” (Marshall, 1997, pp. 70–71) allows the famous person to hold his or her more personal “true self” in abeyance, sequestered from all but a trusted inner circle of confidants. “The only way I think you can really handle it is to say, ‘That’s not really me . . . it’s this working part of me, or the celebrity part of me.’. . . So, I am a toy in a shop window.”

Participants report that being a famous person “is a full time job.” Living up to others’ expectations becomes a vicious cycle, in which the celebrity, like a hamster on a wheel, works to satisfy a hungry and demanding public. Th e famous person feels the need to always “be on.” “There’s no going out in sweats and sunglasses and a baseball cap and expecting I’ll get out and not have to see anybody or say anything, ’cause that usually doesn’t happen anymore.” Th ere is an obligation to be “nice to everyone, and that becomes exhausting.” Famous people worry, while playing the celebrity role, “I’m probably going to disappoint them,” so celebrities have “two different dialogues—the one that I’m thinking and the one I’m saying,” so one is “not necessarily as authentic as I’d like to be.” There is not enough time to “show my true self.” T h e celebrity experiences being put on a pedestal, “and there are people who love to knock us off the pedestal.” Paradoxically, along with all the adulation—gratuitous and genuine, no matter what the celebrity does, someone, somewhere, will be disappointed. In order to create a balanced life, famous persons struggle to maintain their own perspective.

* In a world where the celebrity is hardly ever told “no,” a predominantly selfcentered orientation can occur. Th is kind of self-absorbed posture is underwritten by positive feedback from the world. Th e new relational patterns of fame have the potential to unsteady even the most grounded individuals. Isolation and false entitlement make it easier for the celebrity to start rationalizing choices he or she makes. After all, fame changes the way the world responds to the celebrity, who is no longer hearing intimately related others’ honest appraisals “because whether you want to be or not—and there are those who very much want to be, you are larger than life.” Flying high on the rush of celebrity, some participants reported that, blinded by fame’s sudden flash, they lost sight of “the truly important things.”

* Symbolic immortality. Those participants who fare best in the world of celebrity assume their position as an opportunity to “give back,” “inspire,” “role model,” or “make a difference” in the lives of others. “You’ve got to realize that you’re just wearing the suit, that someone else wore it before you, that someone will wear it behind you, and that it’s only a suit.”

* Access. Although famous people try to keep the public out of their personal domain, they are invited freely and openly into an exclusive social world of celebrity. “Th e fabulous people,” as a New York doorman recently referred to celebrities, are ushered into rarefied air where Dustin Hoff man is on the phone, George Steinbrenner is taking the call, or Warren Beatty is free for dinner. Fame is a private club, and famous people are automatic members. “Th e access is unbelievable.” “Suddenly, you’re worth something. You’re important.” In the world of ordinary people, it becomes commonplace for famous people to receive preferential treatment from almost everyone with whom they interact.

* The experience of being famous comes with wealth, unlimited access, and gratifying opportunities to contribute something lasting to the world. Learning to contend with being “entitized,” a loss of privacy, unrealistic expectations, temptations, mistrust toward others, a falsely inflated self, and impact on the celebrity’s family delineates the great challenges in the experience of being famous. The celebrity encounters a world forever changed and must navigate a new course through the unforeseen realities of a famous life.

* The experience of living life as “the star,” separates one from the norm, and begins to weigh on these relationship bonds. This difference from others insinuates emotional distance and contributes to isolation. Fame becomes “baggage.” When he is socializing with friends, Richard’s celebrity lies between them, “like a bloated cod, just sitting there.” Fame chases old friends away at the same time that strangers are flocking toward him.

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The Crisis Crisis (1-24-23)

Andrew comments: So right about Ann [Coulter]. Considering everything, a woman in her 60’s, no children, luckless in love, socially vilified, in political life for years with all it brings,its slings & arrows. She sounds amazingly together content vivacious and energised, no trace of bitterness or weariness or poor me. Remarkable.

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Australian Fatalism Vs American Exuberance (1-18-23)

Virtual Pilgrim writes: Years ago, David Crosby came over to visit and I noticed he was visibility shaken. He couldn’t look me in the eye, so I asked him what was wrong. He shrugged and said, “nothing”, but I could tell he needed to get something off his chest. As I began to rub his shoulders, I could feel the tension tighter than a drum. David arched his back and winced as I drove my thumb into a pressure point inside the cusp of his shoulder blade. I sustained the pressure into the knot until the pain released him from his prison. It started with a hiccup and a whimper, then deep sobbing ensued. I said, “David, please tell me your secret. You can trust me.” He took a deep breath and said between sobs, “Almost cut my hair [sob] It happened just the other day [sob] Must be because I had a flu for Christmas and I’m not feeling up to par. [sob] It increases my paranoia.” I said, “David, the best way to fight your demon is to turn it into a song.” We hugged and shared a bong together. Afterward, he put his clothes back on and went home a new man.

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What Should You Expect From The News? (1-22-23)

01:00 Evaluating the news
02:00 Michael Tracey talks to Richard Hanania about his media essay, https://www.callin.com/room/the-media-actually-honest-and-good-gOmKxZKRBK
14:00 The Justice Department’s Double Standards on Classified Documents, https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-justice-departments-double-standards-on-classified-documents-biden-fbi-trump-raid-private-penn-11674166392?mod=opinion_featst_pos1
38:30 Chabad Rabbi turns Anti-semitic Slur yelled at him into Learning Opportunity
49: Ed Dutton, Almost All Scientific Fraud in Psychology Backs Up Leftist Dogmas

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What Should You Expect From The News?

If you get your expectations right, you’ll feel happier and more in control of your life. One of the best ways to do this is to place people and institutions into their correct genre. For example, I don’t expect politicians and salesmen to tell me the truth. I do expect everyone to pursue power and status. For example, professions such as doctor are continually seeking to expand their own reach and to reduce that of competitors such as nurses.

Ben Shapiro is a conservative pundit. I expect Ben to issue a torrent of words taking the most conservative position possible on every issue that comes up for him. I don’t expect him to know what he’s talking about. I don’t expect scholarship from him. I do expect him to fulfill his audience’s need for reliably conservative opinions.

I expect Crystal Light Classic Orange to taste a certain way and it never lets me down. People are more complicated than drinks, but once I put people in their correct genre, they’re less likely to shock me.

I don’t expect rabbis to be physicists. I don’t expect accountants to be comics. I don’t expect the homeless to be Shakespeare scholars. On occasion, they might be, but I don’t expect this and so I don’t get needlessly disappointed.

I expect a nationally syndicated radio talk show host to be interesting to a 100 IQ audience. That’s it.

I don’t expect rabbis to be more moral than plumbers. I don’t expect Orthodox Jews to be more moral than secular Jews. I don’t expect conservatives to be more moral than liberals. This accords with my experience.

So what do I expect from the news? I expect to learn reporting on “the passage of bureaucratically recognized events through administrative procedures.” The O.J Simpson criminal trial resulting in a not guilty verdict was “the passage of bureaucratically recognized events through administrative procedures.” The verdict had nothing to do with the truth of what Simpson did.

The New York Times front page on January 21, 2023 features these news stories:

* Tech layoffs.
* Dancing with stairs in TV and film
* “Allies Fail to Reach Agreement on Providing German-made Tanks to Ukraine”
* “What is the Leopard 2 tank, and how could it help Ukraine?”
* “After Dobbs, Republicans Wrestle With What It Means to Be Anti-Abortion”

All of these stories proceed from bureaucracies.

When I look at a weather report, that is news filtered down from government bureaucracies. I am in Sydney at the moment. Frequently the weather report tells me it is dry while outside of my window it is raining. The better the quality of the news, the more it vets the reports of bureaucracies, but this can’t be taken for granted.

During the run up to the Iraq invasion in 2003, the Bush administration pushed the narrative that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and the MSM largely went along with this. Aside from Knight Ridder, they didn’t do their due diligence. Just because powerful bureaucracies push a narrative, doesn’t mean it is true. After George Floyd’s death May 25, 2020, various bureaucracies including journalistic ones pushed the false narrative that police were systemically racist against blacks.

Many institutions and people push narratives that deserve critical analysis (placing the narrative in its time and place and understanding the incentives of the people pushing it). Most people much of the time don’t say what they mean nor do they mean what they say. Remarks and reports have to be placed in context. The better the journalist, the better they do at putting things in context.

When I check out the news, whether in the Los Angeles Times or on Fox News, I expect to get information that primarily comes from bureaucracies. This information sometimes has truth and sometimes it is all false. I can’t expect journalists to adequately vet this information on the fly. I expect that much of the time, they will simply get used by those with an agenda. Sometimes bureaucratic information filtered through journalists is more important than what I learn informally from my own eyes and ears as well as from friends, acquaintances and strangers and sometimes it is not.

The better you know a topic, the more likely you will realize that the news on that topic is seriously lacking.

The news is akin to the employee handbook you get when you start a job. If you rely 100% on this handbook to guide your actions in the work place, you will be less effective than if you primarily rely on what you see and hear. So too with the news. If you primarily rely on the news for your understanding of the world, you will be less effective in navigating life than if you primarily rely on what you see and hear informally. For example, a handful of stereotypes about group differences will be more helpful to you than all the news and academic articles claiming to smash stereotypes.

Richard Hanania has published a provocative essay titled “Why the Media is Honest and Good.

My first question is — where is the media honest and good? Nobody is good and honest period. Morality and competence are domain specific. I only expect the media to be honest and good with reporting “the passage of bureaucratically recognized events through administrative procedures.” There’s only a modest correlation between these events and the changes in the world. I expect the news will give me accurate sporting results, rainfall results, stock market results, and jury trial results. When bureaucracies release information that is difficult to vet, such as that Iraq under Saddam Hussein had WMDs, I don’t expect journalists to be able to fact-check such claims quickly and effectively.

Richard’s sub-head reads: “How to critique the press without devolving into nihilism.”

How many people really think that critiquing people and institutions leads to nihilism? I don’t think that is a problem.

Richard: “I tend to get annoyed by those around me.”

OK, so you’re a contrarian.

Richard: “Spend any time among conservatives, and you’ll before long realize that few things get them as riled up as a chance to attack the media.”

Yes, most people like to attack their enemy. In the West today, almost all institutions are controlled by the Left. That leaves people on the Right riled up.

Richard: “Hatred of the media is not simply a conservative pastime, however, but is found among others who feel alienated from establishment centrism, including critics of American foreign policy, socialists, and tech entrepreneurs like Balaji Srinivasan and Elon Musk.”

The media’s main sources for news are our established institutions, which are dominated by the Left.

Richard: “In this essay, I’m going to argue that everyone is wrong, and the media is actually good and honest. You should be glad it exists, admire those who work in the industry, and hope for its continued influence and success. Scott Alexander recently said that the media very rarely tells explicit lies, a view he got a lot of pushback for. My position is more extreme than his. It’s that while the American media has serious flaws, it is one of the most honest, decent, and fair institutions designed for producing and spreading truth in human history.”

The media is not designed for producing and spreading truth. It is designed for producing and spreading “the passage of bureaucratically recognized events through administrative procedures.” That is not coequal with truth. If Richard Hanania is right, then the lives of people who don’t follow the news would be significantly diminished in truth. That’s not my anecdotal impression. Many of the smartest people I know pay little attention to the news.

Richard: “Like any institution, the press has to be judged according to realistic benchmarks, not simply criticized because it is imperfect or makes mistakes. And if you judge the mainstream media by historical standards, or compare it to anything that competes with it for influence – the right-wing press, popular influencers, social media, foreign sources of news, etc. – the institutions of American journalism come out looking extremely well.”

What competes with news for influence? Scholarship, books, podcasts, talk radio, Fox News, bloggers, social media, community, religion, friends, hobbies. Depending upon who you choose, you are just as likely to be better off than worse off compared to people who rely on CNN and its equivalents. If you listen to Joe Rogan instead of reading the New York Times, you are going to get less truth. If you read Steve Sailer instead of watching CNN, you’re going to be ahead of the game.

News is a subset of the attention and business genres. New makes money (or justifies its public subsidy) by getting your attention and news operators have few qualms about hyping (a subset of lying) to get that.

What news organizations dish out is primarily bureaucratic events: The President said this… The Commerce Department said this… The police say… The NFL staged these games and the results are… First responders are on the scene in… Public health officials state…

When you simply report official statements, you’re unlikely to get sued.

I agree with Richard Hanania and other news defenders to the extent that the news is good at reporting what official sources tell them. Reporters are usually good stenographers. When reporting goes beyond stenography, its quality varies. I would disagree with Hanania and company if they make claims for the excellence of news beyond stenography and attention-grabbing presentation.

Richard: “There is a major exception when it comes to the “holy trinity” of liberalism, that is topics having to do with race, gender, and sexual orientation, but even here the problem is not lies as much as that the press is blinded by ideology. The facts they give you even on these sensitive topics are usually correct, but it’s simply that the interpretation of these facts is wrong.”

When you’re aware of the narrative someone is pushing, it is easy to disentangle the facts from the spin. We weren’t born yesterday. We did not evolve to be gullible.

Richard: “People who complain about the media tend to implicitly judge it by the standard of perfection, while either offering no alternative or arguing that people instead listen to sources that are even worse.”

There are valuable alternative sources of news such as your own eyes and ears and contacts.

Professor Sandra Braman published in 1984:

* Most breaking news in Latin America is of little real significance. This is because in this area the forms-the elections, the drawing up of constitutions, family life, the words used in political doctrine-are highly observed and cherished but often do not mirror the substantive life of the society.

* Procedurally, The New York Times generally followed the methods identified with the narrative form of a public locus of consciousness, objective journalism. Bonner’s routine beat took him through governmental bureaucracies, collecting official statements for translation for the mass audience of the paper. Almost all information sources cited are formal bureaucratic sources in the capital city. In contrast, Didion embodied the methods of a reporter who writes from an individual locus of consciousness. Her procedure can be summarized as an attempt to put herself into as many different situations as possible; her information sources included facts as received by any of her senses from any direction. Though she did use official information sources, they were not considered the most reliable, comments at the corner drugstore were considered as valuable as governmental pronouncements, if not more so.

The New York Times’ identification of news pegs derives from the passage of bureaucratically recognized events through administrative procedures. Thus the paper focused on such formal events as the March 28 elections and changes in land distribution plans. Didion remarks, however, that phrases such as “land reform” and “the initialization of a democratic political process”; are “so remote in situ as to render them hallucinatory” (1982, p. 38); elsewhere she comments about the importance to everyone of maintaining such symbolic forms for the sake of the United States. For her, attention is focused on the nonexistence of any solid reality and the ubiquitousness of death and terror. What The New York Times limned as the important events in El Salvador, Didion describes as illusory symbols.

* In this case study, Raymond Bonner of The New York Times displayed a dual allegiance-he wrote from both his own individual locus of consciousness and from the public locus of consciousness of The New York Times He did so by describing the physical horrors and social and political chaos which were the facts of his own experience as well as the procedural viewpoint of his employer and the Salvadoran and the U.S. governments. In the latter case, however, his reporting revealed the failures of normative bureaucratic processes. With the subsequent removal of Bonner from El Salvador, NYT reporting from that country has reported those bureaucratic processes as successes, adhering completely to the procedures of objective journalism in reports of administrative events (Massing, 1983).

Joan Didion, on the other hand, wrote solely from her own individual locus of consciousness about a society which wouldn’t resolve into a sensible pattern. This report is strengthened by her own history as a new journalist-Didion’s reputation was largely built on her ability to clarify the myriad ambiguities of the 1960s. The keynote of her writing about El Salvador is terror and the desperation that results from dissolution of tenable social forms.

In 1997, I noticed that porn stars in the San Fernando Valley were regularly testing HIV positive, and by April of 1998, I had concluded that Marc Wallice was the likely patient zero of the outbreak that had infected at least dozen women. I didn’t get this information from official sources. My unofficial sources were superior to what the official sources were saying.

In 2007, I reported that the mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, had stopped wearing his wedding ring and his marriage was over. I didn’t get this from official sources. I got this tip from a Los Angeles journalist, and when I checked it out and it held up, I published the story on my blog. The Los Angeles Times followed up several days later and got a denial from an official source – Mayor Villaraigosa. A few weeks later, it was apparent the mayor was lying.

I’ve been blogging since 1997. My biggest stories have come from unofficial sources. In 2004, based on unofficial sources, I reported that Rabbi Aron Tendler of Los Angeles was under investigation for sexual misconduct that dated back decades. He stayed in his position and everyone told me I was crazy for reporting something untrue. In 2006, I reported on the experiences of two women who while in high school were the subject of Rabbi Tendler’s advances. That week, the rabbi resigned. For years, my unofficial sources had been more accurate than the official sources.

On August 6, 2022, I blogged:

The News Is What Bureaucracies Report

If you can’t base your news on a bureaucratic report, you’re swimming outside the normal news business (because you can’t normally get sued for reporting what a bureaucracy reports).

I’m reading Paul Pringle’s 2022 book (Bad City: Peril and Power in the City of Angels):

“But a key line [in the Pasadena police report] was not redacted—the one listing witnesses to the overdose. Entered there was the name of a single witness: “Puliafito, Carmen Anthony.” His relationship to the victim was described as “friend,” and the rest of the line noted that he was a sixty-five-year-old white male. Finally.

I now had an official record that placed Puliafito at the scene of the overdose. The most important element of Khan’s tip was now confirmed. The pressure on USC and Nikias to tell the truth about the dean was about to become crushing.”

In 1974, Robert Caro published The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. According to Wikipedia:

As a reporter for Newsday in the early 1960s, Caro wrote a long series about why a proposed bridge across Long Island Sound from Rye to Oyster Bay, championed by Moses, would have been inadvisable. It would have required piers so large as to disrupt tidal flows in the sound, among other problems. Caro believed that his work had influenced even the state’s powerful governor Nelson Rockefeller to reconsider the idea, until he saw the state’s Assembly vote overwhelmingly to pass a preliminary measure for the bridge.[3][4]

“That was one of the transformational moments of my life,” Caro said years later. It led him to think about Moses for the first time. “I got in the car and drove home to Long Island, and I kept thinking to myself: ‘Everything you’ve been doing is baloney. You’ve been writing under the belief that power in a democracy comes from the ballot box. But here’s a guy who has never been elected to anything, who has enough power to turn the entire state around, and you don’t have the slightest idea how he got it.'”

According to the biography, Robert Moses was the most powerful man in New York City between 1930 and 1960, but the news media, with few exceptions, never investigated this during his reign. Why not? Because Robert Moses would not make public the documents he used. The news relies on documents and without documents, there’s no news. I broke big stories because I did not depend upon documents, but this opened me up to five libel suits.

Robert Caro wrote in 1974:

The secrecy cloaking Triborough’s largesse also protected its recipients because the secrecy protected the man who proffered that largesse.
Since 1924, newspapers had, practically unanimously, been describing Robert Moses as a man above politics and deals, a man whose name it would be ridiculous to mention in the same article with any hint of “payoff” or “scandal.” After the war, the New York Post, with publisher Dorothy Schiff taking a more active interest in her paper, began to question not only Moses’ ends but his means, asked to inspect Triborough’s records—and, when Moses refused to open them, took him to court.
But the courts upheld Moses’ refusal, and without those records, the Post could not document its suspicions about the flaws in the Moses image. And for a solid decade after the war, despite the wishes of an occasional reporter or editor, no other newspaper attempted seriously to dig behind that image.
Moses’ personal reputation was reinforced by that of the institution with which, increasingly, it became blended. After as before the war, the public was being informed by Moses and by the press—in a single six-year period, 1946 through 1951, there were more than 1,400 editorials in metropolitan-area newspapers on this theme—that public authorities were not only “prudent,” “practical,” “businesslike” and “efficient” but “nonpolitical,” “outside of politics” and therefore “honest.” “Authorities are free from political considerations,” the Times said. “They are free from the dead hand of partisanship and bureaucracy,” the Herald Tribune said.
Moses’ reputation and that of the institution he did so much to bring to maturity was the final guarantee that the secrecy of its books would remain inviolate. A politician considering accepting a Triborough fee could be assured that should some neophyte legislator ever attempt to open Triborough’s books, Moses would assail the attempt as an attempt by a politician to interfere with an agency whose independence he didn’t like and to get his
hands on some of its funds—that the press would back up that argument, and that the public would be conditioned by years of praise for Moses and for public authorities to accept it. Politicians could be sure that no public official solicitous of his political future would lay that future on the line in a fight with a living legend.* No one could disprove Moses’ reputation without first opening Triborough’s books, and no one could open Triborough’s books without first disproving Moses’ reputation. Any public official thinking about accepting a Triborough retainer could feel certain that his own reputation would be safe in the shadow of Moses’. Robert Moses had $750,000,000 of Authority money to spend. In the ultimate analysis, it was the public’s money. But Robert Moses was not accountable to the public. He was not accountable to anyone. He had $750,000,000 to give away. And no one would ever know to whom he gave it. And this made politicians and public officials—at least those politicians and public officials interested in retainers—all the more anxious to make sure that he gave some of it to them.
Such politicians and public officials noted another fact about Moses’ money which, in their eyes, made it even more attractive than the city’s: Moses could give it to whomever he wished.

Was the media “honest and good” in its reporting on Robert Moses when he had power? Well, they honestly served as his stenographers and lapdogs. Did they do a good job placing his actions and words in context? No. Informal channels did a better job of informing people about how New York City worked than newspapers.

Steve Sailer notes that “Biden is the second Trumpiest man in politics.” That context is probably more useful analysis of our president than anything the New York Times offers.

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