Two people have been in the news recently. One seems always in the News — Donald Trump. The other is rarely in the News — Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
Their relative newsworthiness tells us something about the media’s judgment about what interests the citizenry and what role models are presented to the younger generation.
All Marjory Douglas has done over the past fifty years is save the Everglades for the people of South Florida. She turned 100 years old on April 7th. Through her skills as a leading naturalist, writer and organizer, she transformed herself from a lone voice in the wilderness during the nineteen forties to a movement of people determined to save the remaining half of what was the Everglades region before the population rush of the 20th Century.
“The Everglades wouldn’t be there for us to try and continue to save if not for her work through the years,” was the concise observation rendered by Roderick J. Jude of the Florida chapter of the Sierra Club.”
Indeed, the Everglades had its share of shrinkers. From state officials to big farmers to the Army Corps of Engineers, vested interests wanted more of this vast, slow-moving water stream drained so that shopping malls, office buildings, agribusiness tracts and housing projects could replace this ancient home of the Seminole Indians, alligators and a uniquely diverse variety of animals, fish and plants.
And how does Ms. Douglas justify her life’s cause. In just two sentences: “Eighty percent of our rainfall depends on evaporation from Everglades. If you don’t have rain and water, South Florida will become a desert — it’s as simple as that,” she said.
Now what has Donald Trump done to earn the title of the most newsworthy businessman in the country? Well, he has bought and sold New York City real estate and built apartments for the Super Rich on Manhattan. He has wrung more tax abatements from the City government than anyone else — thereby becoming a free loading corporate welfare recipient without peer. He owns a couple of casinos in Atlantic City which means he is a gambling baron. And he bought the Eastern Shuttle which he promptly renamed — you guessed it — the Trump Shuttle.
He named the latest expression of gambling gigantism the Taj Mahal, thereby sealing ego with insensitivity to the people of India who would prefer that Taj Mahal remain known to Americans as an architectural splendor in Agra, India instead of a clutch of roulette wheels, slot machines and gaming tables.
He’s been in the News for other achievements as well. He is separating from his wife who wants to keep him and their three small children together. He is dallying with other women while yet married. He seems to revel in all the publicity this family conflict has generated, even saying once that it was good for his businesses.
Last month, he objected to a stock broker in Philadelphia concluding that the Taj Mahal casino may not make it financially and was pleased when his pressure led the firm to fire the analyst.
Why do sterling leaders such as Marjory Douglas receive so little media attention while Trump is given enormous space, not just in the Tabloids but in such staid journals as The New York Times? One reason is that Trump has publicists working the media. Another is shameless enough to be outrageous. And who can attract more attention than someone is a Billionaire, a performer and outrageous?
When titillation so dominates substance, when greed so overwhelms authenticity, when thousands of youngsters want to become empty vessels of gold a la Donald Trump rather than emulate Marjory Douglas in part because they’ve never heard of her, it is time for the media to start getting tougher with itself. Trump, who could yet become a different better person, is a sign of the decline of the Times. Anyone who truly cares about this country will see Marjory Douglas as the sign of the Future.