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Jim Cox on the Responsibility of Writers and Publishers in These COVID-19 Times

Jim Cox has written and maintained the Midwest Book Review since before I was publishing books in the early 1990s. He, like many of us our age, has seen the print industry change remarkably with the influx of online conversations where most anything goes because writers don’t have to look their victims in the eyes as they rant and rave about them.

Many today would argue that print is dead. Newspapers are a shadow of what they once were. Book stores are closing. But the real readers are still there, offline and online, quietly enjoying the print word as the rest of the world screams and hollers with all the renown sound of fury signifying nothing.

I tried to address this issue in my post Reasonableness, Aristotle Style, but I turn the floor over to Jim Cox. He says it much better than I did.

 

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Plutocrats, Plague & Publishing:
COVID-19 and the Publishing World


America Has Become a Plague Nation

How did this happen? How did America become a pariah nation whose citizens are now barred from entering Canada, Mexico, and all 27 nations comprising the European Union?

Can publishing play any kind of role in fixing this sad state of affairs?

Before we seek the answer to this question we need to turn to Wikipedia and define three key words:

Plutocracy:

A plutocracy is a society that is ruled or controlled by people of great wealth or income. Unlike systems such as democracy, capitalism, liberalism, socialism, communism or anarchism, plutocracy is not rooted in an established political philosophy.

Plague:

The rapid spread of disease to a large number of people in a given population within a short period of time. Epidemics of infectious disease are generally caused by several factors including a change in the ecology of the host population (e.g., increased stress or increase in the density of a vector species), a genetic change in the pathogen reservoir or the introduction of an emerging pathogen to a host population (by movement of pathogen or host). Generally, an epidemic occurs when host immunity to either an established pathogen or newly emerging novel pathogen is suddenly reduced below that found in the endemic equilibrium and the transmission threshold is exceeded. When an epidemic spreads to other countries or continents and affects a substantial number of people, it is termed to be a pandemic. The declaration of an epidemic usually requires a good understanding of a baseline rate of incidence; epidemics for certain diseases, such as influenza, are defined as reaching some defined increase in incidence above this baseline.

Publishing:

Publishing is the activity of making information, literature, music, software and other content available to the public for sale or for free. Traditionally, the term refers to the distribution of printed works, such as books, newspapers, and magazines. With the advent of digital information systems, the scope has expanded to include electronic publishing such as ebooks, academic journals, micropublishing, websites, blogs, video game publishing, and the like. Publishing may produce private, club, commons or public goods and may be conducted as a commercial, public, social or community activity. Publishing is also undertaken by governments, civil society and private companies for administrative or compliance requirements, business, research, advocacy or public interest objectives. This can include annual reports, research reports, market research, policy briefings and technical reports. Self-publishing has become very common.

Covid-19 is a plague that has become a pandemic, starting in Wuhan, China and going on to eventually hit every nation on Earth. The virus responsible for Covid-19 first migrated from China to America’s west coast. While at the same time migrating to Europe from where it then found its way to America’s east coast. As I write this (July 30, 2020), in just six months Covid-19 has killed more than 152,000 American men, women and children. The death count in America is continuing to rise to new levels every single consecutive day. In 21 states the infection rates are raging out of control with more than 10,000 new infections every day — filling hospitals to capacity, exhausting medical staff, depleting medical resources, and necessitating the presence of refrigerated semi-trucks to hold the overflow dead that the morgues no longer have room for.

Yet in other countries, many of them, the plague that is Covid-19 is under far better control with the numbers of infections and deaths at a mere fraction of those Americans are experiencing.

Why is America doing so badly?

The answer is a lack of leadership at the Federal level and in all too many Gubernatorial state houses such as Florida, Texas, and Arizona. — But then, how did such a breakdown in leadership come about?

It came about because those political leaders are the product of a social/cultural, political/economic elite that was in turn created by an obscene concentration of immense wealth in just 1% of our country’s population. That financial elite had (and continues to) used their wealth to buy the best state and federal governments their money could purchase through campaign donations and lobbyists.

These Plutocrats bought politicians who would pass laws that would protect and expand their wealth and power. They bought politicians who would appoint judges that would protect and expand their wealth and power. They bought communication systems that would protect and expand their wealth and power.

The result was an American Plutocracy that would absolutely control the Republican party (and to a lesser degree hold significant influence with the Democrat party) and allow someone like Donald J. Trump to become president of the United States — an aspiring demagogue who would be enabled by Republic Senators and House members to take a political wrecking ball to long established American governmental standards, protocols, practices and ethical standards.

Trump got elected because of the kinds of social, cultural, racial, and economic inequities that the Plutocracy had engendered as natural consequences and byproducts of their successful attempts over the past 40 years to advance the kinds of governmental policies that would work to their advantage in increasing and protecting of their ever growing wealth.

Is there any force within America that can help bring our battered country out of the morass it currently is in with respect to Covid-19, as well as the other consequences of this plague including the current (and worsening) economic depression, failed and failing political leadership, the massive campaigns of misinformation and disinformation, broken medical supply lines, inadequate medical facilities and resources, etc.

Yes! That’s Where Publishing Comes In

Basically publishing has been involved with every advance that humanity has known since the invention of moveable type. Publishing dispenses information. It is how reporters tell the American public what their political leaders are up to. It is how medical researchers disseminate their findings through medical journals and CDC bulletins to the doctors working to cure plague patients and protect the public from infection. It is how sound science rebuts fake science, medical charlatans, the ignorant, and the naive — basically, the Donald J. Trumps of the world.

As much a danger to Americans as the Covid-19 virus, is the Plutocracy sanctioned American president, Donald Trump’s continuing decision to tell his fellow Americans that they don’t really need to abide by what medical science has instructed them to do to keep themselves and their families safe (wear masks in public, keep a social distance, get tested and if positive cooperate with infection tracing efforts), telling that the virus will soon disappear on its own, and to continue to vilify, ridicule, mock, ignore, and seek to undermine medical experts like Dr. Fauci.

What I’m recommending as a member of the publishing industry is that we all, in our own ways, seek to promote sound medical practice at ever opportunity. As a book reviewer I’m doing it by trying to bring to the attention of librarians and the general public good books on what the Plutocracy has done to the governance of our country and the exacerbation of our social, economic, and racial justice problems. To bring to their attention good books by knowledgeable authors on and about the current Covid-19 plague.

It is the obligation of those members of the publishing industry who are writers with any expertise or experience with the Covid-19 plague to write the best they can about it in any medium they have access to be it publication in the form of books, pamphlets, newspaper columns, newsletters, or digitally as with on-line blogs, FaceBook groups, Twitter, etc.

It falls upon those members of the publishing industry who produce print publications such as books, newsletters or newspapers, or who host blogs or internet discussion groups, to make their services available to writers (and reviewers) so their messages can go out to a public that is in dire need of as much sound information as possible about why America has become a Plague State and what can and must be done about it!

I suppose that I should provide some personal background. I’m a self-described Goldwater Republican. Back in 1964 I worked on the presidential campaign in Salt Lake City, Utah to elect the Republican Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater. Unfortunately he was soundly defeated by the Democrat Lyndon Johnson. But that did nothing to deter me from being a traditionally conservative Republican. So my rather scathing perspective on the current Republican Party does not come from some dewy eyed Democrat.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

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