Going in blind

2024 is already rough. With fewer journalists, it's going to get rougher.

Let’s review what I’m watching today: The International Court of Justice just ruled that claims that Israel is committing genocide in the Gaza Strip—where their forces have killed over 26,000 Palestinians and displaced 85 percent of the surviving population since Oct. 7—are “plausible,” but stopped short of ordering an immediate ceasefire. Israel and its defenders are already howling. The U.S.-Iranian proxy war surrounding that slaughter is both escalating and becoming less “proxy.” COVID is back (it never went away). It’s 80 degrees in Washington on January 26.

Meanwhile, nearly every Republican governor in the United States is backing Texas’ Greg Abbott’s Calhounian attempt to subvert the U.S. Supreme Court, as part of his effort to impale or mutilate as many would-be immigrants as possible. Courtroom scofflaw Donald Trump—who, barring a comet strike will be the GOP nominee for president for the third straight time—is doing his part to incite the Second U.S. Civil War (or, more likely, a more heavily armed replay of 1950s-style massive resistance), by calling on “all willing States” to deploy their National Guard units to Texas for a standoff with the feds.

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Speaking of the election, this will be the first waged under a cloud of hyper-realistic deepfakes and AI-generated propaganda, robocalls, and spam. That would be concerning even if the two candidates were not octogenarians prone to memory lapses and bouts of confusion, and have each earned the suspicion of large portions of their would-be bases. And in which one of whom (the Republican, I guess I have to specify) lied about the outcomes of both of his previous elections and, in the last one (again, apparently reminders are necessary) tried to overthrow the federal government and have his flunkies in the Congressional minority install him for a second, and thus constitutionally unbound, term as national leader. And thus will be guaranteed to use all tools at his disposal — including the above-referenced AI and fakery — and an attempt to ensure that his (again, heavily armed) supporters accept no electoral outcome other than complete and total victory.

These are all situations that cry out for a robust and committed press, capable of sorting out bullshit (of both the old-school and computer-generated kind), identifying dangers, and holding the powerful to account.

Bad news on that front as well.

How bad has the new year been for journalism? The Hollywood Reporter has a take: “Across the industry, contraction, layoffs, sales and labor unrest remind of 2008 — but insiders are less optimistic this time.”

Yeesh. Here’s just a taste of the last few weeks:

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