El Paso has a long history of catering to private interest in the name of public good.
That worked before the internet became a public megaphone. Before opinions could be widely, loudly, sometimes drunkenly, expressed.
If government duped/coerced/fooled the public media into believing their story, our elected officials could get away with with pushing rationale as reason. When the gatekeepers of public opinion were self-serving publishers and moderately intelligent editors with educations limited to journalism, the good old boy network could bamboozle the gullible public, and the harangues of non-believers (the naysayers and malcontents, the self-righteous devout called them) were limited to bar stool pulpits and barber shop soapboxes.
Mostly, people didn’t listen because mostly, people didn’t care. Government was an unfortunate accident that happened to someone else.
And then came the internet. Social media. Blogs.
Gradually, democracy was democratized.
(Apparently, our local leaders didn’t get the memo, probably because it was circulated by email.)
With the adoption of the internet, everyone had a voice. Organization sprang from Facebook posts that lingered, or festered. Communication was more enduring. What might before have been an ephemeral bar room rant inspired by that last shot of Bushmills and a waft of secondhand smoke was now immortalized on social media for a day or two, or longer if it picked up the steam of sharing and re-circulation.
All of a sudden, over the course of a decade or two, we were all publishers. We were all editors. We were all columnists.
A whole cadre of politicians was caught out by the technological development. Political careers were capsized by the sea change. A few nimble surfers escaped the wipe-out. Others were marginalized.
In the face of this wave of independent opinion, the value of the hired gun pundits waned. They could only prove their worth by embracing the truth, and they’d been drinking their own Kool Aid so long that the truth tasted bad to them. They tried to bend the truth to fit their own narratives, but with so many people paying attention, the truth wouldn’t bend.
You can’t fight City Hall, the old saw went. These days, you can. These days, the politicians perpetrating municipal malfeasance, and the media peddling their propaganda, out themselves, if the public pays attention. History leaves footprints, and fingerprints, too, sometimes.
At least, we can hope.