What remains, when society loses faith in its institutions? America had faith in its political system, Fourth Estate, organized religions, and social mores. Does it still? Does a day pass, when faith in one or another doesn’t fall to a new low?

How many believe that we have equal justice under the law? How many believe that most journalists are unbiased? How many believe that clergy are pious, with rare exception? How many believe that Meryl Streep didn’t know about Harvey Weinstein?

“Gawker Media” posted a sex tape of Hulk Hogan online. Hogan sued for $100 million, claiming invasion of privacy. After a two-week trial, the jury awarded Hogan $115 million. [“NBC News”, March 19, 2016] What did the Fourth Estate have to say about being held responsible for its actions? It complained that a billionaire bankrolled Hogan’s lawsuit. It said the issue should be “about whether people with massive resources get to decide what media are allowed to publish”. [“Mother Jones”, June 15, 2016] As an aside, note that “Gawker Media” and Hogan reached a $31 million settlement. [“The New York Times”, November 2, 2016]

Does “Mother Jones” really believe that the Fourth Estate can do anything it wants, free of responsibility for its actions? Does Congress? Do Presidents? Do clergy? Does Hollywood?

What degree of trust and confidence do we have in our politicians and Fourth Estate? When “The Book Of Mormon” audience roars with laughter, is it laughing at clever jokes or organized religion? Did the term “Casting Couch” arise from thin air?

What’s left of our institutions? What’s left of what bound us together? When was the last time any of us felt comfortable enough to express an opinion about anything controversial, without fear of mean-spirited recrimination?

No longer does anyone get goosebumps, when listening to our leaders. Nor do they. Did anyone ever dream that leaders of one Party would shun the nomination and inauguration of the President from their own Party (as Republican leaders shunned Donald J. Trump)? Did anyone ever dream that a Senator campaigning for his Party’s Presidential nomination would denigrate the size of his opponent’s penis during a televised debate (as Marco Rubio did)? Does anyone have any expectations of anyone? Does anyone respect anyone or any institution? Do we have a society, or are we just sharing a roof?

Stephen B. Benisch, December 24, 2017

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