My colleagues and I often care for patients suffering from hallucinations, prophesying, and claiming to speak with God, among other symptoms—in mental health care, it’s sometimes very difficult to tell apart religious belief from mental illness…. Our conclusions frequently stem from the behaviors we see before us. Take an example of a man who walks into an emergency department, mumbling incoherently. He says he’s hearing voices in his head, but insists there’s nothing wrong with him. He hasn’t used any drugs or alcohol. If he were to be evaluated by mental health professionals, there’s a good chance he might be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia. But what if that same man were deeply religious? What if his incomprehensible language was speaking in tongues?
Because of the way our constitution is skewed towards the incumbent government, for a lot of the time the press is a de facto form of opposition. New Labourites would routinely refer to the editor of the Daily Mail as ‘the most powerful man in the country’. That was an exaggeration, and it described something whose effects were almost entirely malign; and yet we would miss this countervailing force if it were gone. Governments are constantly accumulating more power: one of the most glaring trends in the last 30 years of political history is that all governments arrogate more power to themselves, even when (it’s tempting to say ‘especially when’) their ideology is overtly right-wing and explicitly anti-government. The press is just about the only force which resists that, and for that reason alone it is now a necessary component of modern democracy. Without it our democracy would head the way that papers themselves risk heading, and become hollowed out, with the external apparatus of democratic machinery but without the informed electorate which the press helps create. And one beauty of the current arrangement is that it functions without the press having to be well-meaning or high-minded. – John Lancchester in the London Review of Books on the UK printed media.BACK TO TOP