authoritarian societies, is crisis-oriented by its very nature,nwhich is only to say that in it establishments of power andnprivilege are constantly and excitingly open to challenge. Innsuch a political environment, a certain dependence on crisesnis inevitable and even desirable, and the inability often tondistinguish between small and big crises is, for better ornworse, part of democracy’s ongoing effort to remind itselfnthat it is embarked on a precarious enterprise. Perhaps this isnwhy Jefferson once wrote to Madison that “a little rebellion,nnow and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in thenpolitical world as storms in the physical.”nNow as always the media make their contribution to thennation’s effort to identify itself through the management ofncrises. The success of a democracy depends on the free flownof information and the capacity of citizens to bear a heavynburden of interpretation — a burden that has increased asnthe media have multiplied and become more sophisticated.nThe First Amendment makes the nation crisis-prone, andnmay have been the Constitution’s way of saying whatnJefferson in effect said to Madison, that we ought to love ancrisis, and perhaps too its way of identifying boredom as anmajor enemy of democracy.nSince the earliest days of the Republic, the media havenbeen accused (often enough rightly) of misevaluating crises,neither by blowing small ones into big ones or missing the bignones altogether because they developed without newsworthynhandles or appeared small because their implications fornthe future could not be foreseen. This is not that the medianare fundamentally irresponsible, biased, or shortsighted, butnin considerable part it is that the media, fearing and hatingnboredom as they do, are themselves crisis-prone. Thencommunicator in any democratic medium is especially freento take into account the strong possibility that his hype-warynaudience is listening with only half an ear, is distracted byncompeting messages with competing interpretations, or isnlikely for one reason or another to miss the full import of thenmessage. As a consequence, the media resort to thosenproven boredom-resisting and attention-getting devices ofnthe storyteller, the poet, and the advertiser. As the ancientnrhetoricians knew, these devices are not necessarily incompatiblenwith clear and honest communication. If they were,nit would be impossible to try to relate the National Inquirernto the New York Times on a credibility scale, and meaningfulncommunication would be impossible.nNevertheless, given the proliferation of and competitionnamong the media, it is inevitable that media people willnoften and rightly be accused of encouraging in the public anmisevaluation of a crisis. To judge from such publications asnPravda, Soviet Life, Soviet Literature, and World MarxistnReview, the media of the Marxist-Leninist world should getnmuch higher marks for crisis management. Unhampered byna First Amendment, the party can benevolently assume thenburden of interpretation of events and control the crisisnscale. Indeed, to judge from such controlled media, thensocieties they report on do not have to distinguish betweennbig and small crises since such crises that get into printnappear small and easily manageable. The big danger, then,nis that someone will leak the suppressed truth, as the truth ofnthe Gulag was leaked, effecting a major crisis on the FrenchnMarxist left.nThose familiar with the excitements of a crisis-pronendemocratic society may suspect that life in totalitariannsocieties is a very dull affair, but they fail to take into accountnthe extent to which shortage, privation, and surveillance canncompensate for the excitements of a First Amendment. Itnmay be apparent enough from the outside that totalitariannsocieties suffer from economic, social, and managerial crises,nbig and small, but within those societies crises tend to be soninstitutionalized that they cannot be isolated for publicnscrutiny and divided into big and small. And that whichnceases to be subject to division soon ceases to have a publicnexistence. The excitement associated with crisis in a freensociety thus goes underground and comes out as the thrill ofnthe riskily obtained extra ration of meat or bottle of vodka.nUnder these circumstances, there is not much chance ofnlearning from small crises.nIt is worth noting, however, that Professor James’s essaynclearly assumes that there is something like a universal wishnnot to be put in the situation of having to learn from evennsmall crises. There is a sense of fragile all-aloneness in andemocracy relative to older and more authoritarian forms ofngovernment. Democracies normally begin in a crisis relationshipnwith one of these forms and from that point neverncease to be a test of nerve. In these circumstances, a crisisnthat would be small in a monarchy can be big in andemocracy and bring with it the fear of a demoralizednreturn (as has happened often enough in Africa) to annearlier authoritarian condition. Therefore, people in andemocracy may experience a particular crisis as exciting,npurgative, and therapeutic and yet hope that the last one willnindeed be the last one. That “should” in James’s titie is,nafter all, only a subjunctive, and inside every subjunctive isnan indicative trying to free itself from the clutch of thensubjunctive — so that “We should love a crisis” gives way ton”There will be no more crises.” James’s essay is thennunavoidably a preachment against the Utopian impulse, andnan assertion that the desire to get beyond crises can be asngreat a threat to democracy as it is an exploitable advantagenfor the indicative totalitarians.nTo expect that a democratic society can be crisisless is tonexpect from it what is commonly expected from religion.nReligion is what you are supposed to get when you passnthrough a crisis experience, after which you are able tonobserve the crisis-racked secular world with an ironic ifncharitable equanimity. This is why theocracy, that conditionnwhere religion and government have interpenetrated onenanother, has so often seemed to be the ideal response to thenfear of crisis (and why it is the very model of the secularizednand crisisless terminal condition that Marx imagined). As wenknow from our own New England beginnings, theocraciesncould break up in the big crises that developed during thensmall crises from which they had learned nothing. However,nthis development has not kept Americans from identifyingnthe experience of true religion as a crisisless affair.nAmerican democracy, which to exist must find ways toncheck its Utopian impulse, has thus been the spawningnground for religious and pseudo-religious groups in whichnthat impulse, being protected by the Bill of Rights, is free tonexpand — even to the point where it threatens to breaknthrough the barrier separating Church and State. Ironically,nthat barrier, one of whose aims is to protect democracy fromnthe temptations to theocratic totalitarianism, is itself annnMARCH 1988 / 17n