Part of a Silver City Daily Press ad promoting itself and community newspapers was "People want more - more accountability..." I agree that some people generally want more accountability and that community papers are important in holding local officials accountable.

But it is harder these days for local papers to hold local officials accountable. The staffs of small town papers are limited or non-existent. Small towns, for economic and other reasons, often rely on their local papers to be cheerleaders. And local papers rely on the city, county, police, sheriff, and schools for much of the material they need to print of local interest.

Accurate reports of official meetings and actions are expected, but deep investigative reporting is not. Controversy can build readership, but the local press cannot afford, literally, to be too one-sided

I wonder just how important accountability really is to most Americans. It appears to be commonplace for miscreants to escape serious consequences for their misdeeds. Many headlines on websites cry out for accountability or lament the fact so many have escaped with so little adverse effects on their lives.

I believe accountability has eroded over the years to the detriment of society. I suggest several factors are at work: Defining deviance down, defining deviance up, extreme partisanship, and loss of connectedness.

Defining deviance down

This was Patrick Moynahan's famous term, coined many years ago. It conveys a societal relaxation of putative moral and ethical norms. And if laws are or can be only selectively enforced, there is no real accountability, only persecution.

A radio commercial says something like, "Don't let the credit card companies trick you into paying all that you owe." The sponsor wants to negotiate, for a fee, a settlement. Similarly, there are a number of companies offering to negotiate settlements with the IRS for you if you owe more than $10,000. The messages are that we don't have to be responsible for our debts.

Defining deviance up

If people using firearms to protect themselves, families, and property suffer extraordinary legal or social harassment, then justice is skewed and accountability is thwarted. If political correctness is enforced, a sense of proportion essential for reasonable accountability is lost. If you have been brainwashed into a hyper-sensitivity to micro-aggressions, you might be traumatized just by trying to avoid trauma or avoid living a normal life because that may traumatize others, precluding rational accountability.

Extreme partisanship

True accountability is obviously lost if everything your side does is okay and everything the other side does is not. We see this today politically and also racially in the legitimization of the terror by Antifa, Black Lives Matter, Neo-Nazi White Supremacists, and others. Power suppresses the very accountability that is supposed to hold it in check.

Loss of connectedness

Bessel Van Der Kolk writes in The Body Keeps Score, "Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health, safe connections are fundamental to a meaningful and satisfying life."

Isolation and mental illness get in the way of accountability. Accountability seems to work best as a shared societal norm.

Perhaps accountability goes in cycles and the world will naturally become more accountable as a matter of course. And I could be wrong, accountability may not be ebbing. I hope that is the case.

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