When I taught as a Language Studies professor, I was still an active journalist. I did both, and I realized from the get-go that my job was to ensure students learned and could think, not get an A. I would have mommies (always mommies) calling me about the fragile and delicate sons (always sons) to try to get me to just give their children a pass.
In other words, I had seniors call to negotiate with me how to deal with their adult children.
There would be no sheltering from reality with me. There would be no special treatment. I had students who had severe disabilities, language problems, cognitive impairments, tragic and stressful environments, and overwhelming poverty not only not ask for any special treatment, but do their work without fuss and hand in something innovative, brilliant, original, and awe-inspiring.
And here were these women calling to buffer their sheltered and lazy, but otherwise perfectly normal and capable brat, trying to spin some sort of pitiful tale to justify him getting an A without doing the work because mommy was doing his assignments for him, while I had single mothers with serious degenerative physical disorders hand in quality essays without fuss.
It wasn't just bypassing the enabling parents. I was dealing with other pitfalls, such as cheating. I discovered that if I left the seating arrangement up to students during a test, the marks would be solid...
But if I arranged the seating order, keeping friends away from each other, spaces between students, and moving desks to face the walls, the average would plummet to thirty percent less than if I left things up to the students.
So naturally I made up the seating arrangements for every test, and had multiple versions of the test where the order of questions was different to ensure cheating wasn't rewarded.
Then there were the Pop Assignments.
They were like pop quizzes, but more complex. For instance, a student would have to give a speech in front of the class, but not know the topic until they were standing at the front.
It had a profound effect on the quality of the speeches they gave: they could handle obstacles, be more persuasive, answer unexpected and hostile questions, and get them more confident -- if they could pull off a speech on a topic they knew nothing about with no time to prepare, then doing a routine speech where they did to the research and rehearsal was mundane in comparison.
I gave a lecture on that method at one college's development conference for professors. I found that it made students more alert, critical, and able to handle whatever chaos got thrown their way.
Journalism, in theory, was supposed to be that kind of profession: breaking news is supposed to be those kinds of troubles you have to fight to file a story.
But over time, that's not what happened. Journalists relied on authorities, PR firms, canned events, and press releases and conferences. They were phoning it in with no deviation from a set script.
And then came Donald Trump.
Journalists were so not used to someone who did not fit a set script that they kept making mistakes, reporting false facts and then repeatedly having to retract. They would outline all the things that he said that weren't true, while ignoring all the things they said were true, but weren't.
But even before then, I wrote a entire book on hoaxes and propaganda that journalists reported as true. There were many big and breaking stories where the first account of events in the press turned out to be completely wrong.
They had problems functioning when an event deviated from the pre-set scripts.
It is easy to seem right when everyone is following the rules. You can "predict" things because you have the script and everyone is following it to the letter.
And then you get someone who looks at the script, sees it is not working for him, throws away the script, and then gleefully does his own thing, even when everyone else tries to shame him for following his own instincts and not someone else's self-serving script.
Journalism collapsed because of the adherence to scripts where there are fixed stories, angles, interpretations, and narratives.
But why are those scripts so appealing?
Because they tap into fear; more precisely, the sense of order and predictability. They appeal to the intellectually lazy who do not want to own their decisions: they can defer to someone else who will do all of their thinking for them with the reassurance that if they follow the rules and the script, they will always be right, and appear smart, even if they are faking it.
If scripts were an As Seen On TV product, they would be called Think Erase.
Scripts are the enabling mommies of the adult world -- but they hinge on a single inherent assumption that I call TORTEE.
Just imagine having to memorize one rule that applies to everything without exception: you don't need to think or gather data. TORTEE is the original app on the smartphone of life: just swipe the icon, and reality and truth bend to your will with none of your effort, but that of They: that mysterious and benevolent group of hard-working altruists that slave away for the Middle Class in order to solve all of their problems, so that societal caste can drink beer or wine and watch whatever posh new micro-show is rolling on Netflix.
The problem is there is no such thing as TORTEE. There are exceptions galore, and they often shift and change. We do not explore our facts and knowledge fully to know with any certainty what the deepest truths of the universe actually are.
Journalism is too simplistic. It is based on TORTEE. It is binary and hinges on too many erroneous assumptions to be of any genuine value.
It has created complacency in society over time, and when the Internet became mundane, those old habits of seeking TORTEE exploded, taking the profession of journalism along with it.
But that doesn't mean there can be no replacement.
Of course there can be. There must be. We need facts. We need data. We are absolutely required to see reality and glean truths from it.
But it has to be done without the assumptions and truisms that felled journalism.
Such as looking for a TORTEE.
Or expecting some chumps called They to clean up our messes.
F.R.E.E.D. is not based on the theory of TORTEE. It is a repudiation of the idea of a single, unifying rule created to encourage passivity and dependence on others to do our critical and skeptical thinking for us.
E.O. Wilson speaks of the concept of consilience: the unification of all knowledge. That is patriarchal thinking: a slavish adherence of The One in a world of The Infinite.
It is tempting to tame Infinity with the One; so everyone can stop seeking, demanding, challenging, and thinking, and just brainlessly follow the designated leader whose decrees lift the burden of thinking.
The Universe was not created to make things easy for us.
Knowledge is not be unified: it is to be inter-connected. There is a big difference. A school of thought that is driven by the underlying inspiration is monomania is a flawed and system that is not aligned with reality; ergo, not a path to the truth.
Truth is not orderly. Truth is chaos -- it is Love that is orderly. You can find love in The One, but the Truth is in every grain of Infinity.
We can always improve. We can always refine. We can always progress. We can always learn. We can always grow.
We can't always find something or someone who we love so much that we become a better person.
The myth and illusion of TORTEE is a horrific one that did damage to much of Western thought, and destroyed journalism.
F.R.E.E.D. rebels against TORTEE. It is the key that turns over the lock that shackles us.
Journalism is slavery. F.R.E.E.D. is intellectual and emotional liberation from those shackles and prison that confined journalism to death.
If you want to report on the world, you should be able to do it without electricity in the middle of chaos with language barriers in the middle of a war zone -- because that's when information is the most important to humanity.
Not babbling to some coked out celebrity wearing borrowed clothes on the Red Carpet about their fake sex life.
We need to know things when everything is going hopelessly wrong.
The time where TORTEE proves to be the biggest lie of them all...