by Timothy Lane
I refer to the major news sources as the synoptic media, a term I adapted from Biblical studies. Just as the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are very similar (though not identical) in basic content and viewpoint (and very different from John), so the NBC/CBS/ABC/CNN/PBS combination (and the many newspapers and magazines aligned with them) have very similar (but not quite identical) worldviews (as opposed to Fox News, the most popular talk radio outlets, and a few other sources).
This mono-viewpoint is (and has been for several decades) generally supportive of the fashionable causes of the Left, whatever they may be, and of a large, intrusive government controlled by (largely self-appointed, at least as a group) experts. We see this, for example, in the fact that what has come to be known as the “Firemen first” strategy or the “Washington Monument” strategy – closing down something popular or even necessary instead of cutting bureaucracy or crony subsidies when the size of a budget is threatened – can work at all. If the news media (whether local or national) reported honestly on what the corrupt, callous government was doing, the tactic would fail. They don’t, so it continues to work.
Philip Crane pointed out nearly 50 years ago in a book (The Democrats’ Dilemma) that modern liberalism had adopted the tactics of the British socialists of the Fabian Society (Shaw and the Webbs): infiltrate all the information sources (such as the news media and education) until you control all information flow, and then bring about the socialist utopia (which in practice will always be a dystopia) because in the long run no one will know of any other alternative. This carries with it the corollary that other viewpoints will NOT be permitted. This leads inevitably to groupthink, in which the sole viewpoint becomes the sole acceptable viewpoint, and those who hold any other are presumed to be stupid or evil without bothering to go to the trouble of refuting them.[pullquote]This leads inevitably to groupthink, in which the sole viewpoint becomes the sole acceptable viewpoint, and those who hold any other are presumed to be stupid or evil without bothering to go to the trouble of refuting them.[/pullquote]
For a long time, there was a story I vaguely recalled hearing about, that the Washington Post had once failed to cover a pro-life rally virtually right outside its building because NO ONE there knew anything about it – meaning that not only were they all pro-abortion, but so was everyone they knew (even though pro-lifers represent about 20% of the population). It was plausible, but was it accurate? Then I read William MacGowan’s Coloring the News, and learned that the event in question was the 1990 March for Life.
Similarly, one might note the consistent liberal denigration of anyone who follows a religion that seriously calls for sexual morality, so much so that even the token conservatives at the New York Times (first William Safire, then David Brooks) have always been pro-abortion. Certain views are simply not permitted, so by now they’re incapable of paying any attention to those who hold such views (something liberals have never been good at anyway).
This has real consequences, often very serious ones even aside from the fact that modern liberals increasingly have become worshippers of Moloch, the god of child sacrifice, reluctant to acknowledge even the most obvious Tophets (such as Kermit Gosnell’s abattoir). The late, great SF editor John W. Campbell once opined that Lord Acton’s famous dictum (“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”) wasn’t quite right – that the corrupting force was immunity, not power. Of course, sufficient power can provide immunity, and the lust for power (which is one of the two main animating forces of modern liberalism, the other being a long series of objects of Hate) is indeed seriously corrupting. (One must realize that Campbell wrote his editorials to provoke thought, and certainly succeeded in that goal quite often.) But he is right that immunity is a potent means of corrupting people – what we today usually call “enabling”.[pullquote]The late, great SF editor John W. Campbell once opined that Lord Acton’s famous dictum (“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”) wasn’t quite right – that the corrupting force was immunity, not power.[/pullquote]
And no one benefits more from this protection that Barack Obama, the callous, ruthless, dishonest, spiteful monster who was able to seize the presidency partly because the Republicans melted down in 2006-8, and partly because the synoptic media made the choice to assist him in every way they could (subject to their own self-interest in not sacrificing their credibility too obviously).
The question has come up: Who is responsible for the ill-effects and vicious abuses of the partial shutdown. The Kleptocrats, their media accomplices, and thus the public at large blame the Republicans. Others very reasonably blame the Obama Gang, the criminal organization that runs the Executive Branch of the federal government. Both can be justified, the latter much more so than the former. But the true authors are the synoptic media themselves. The Obama Gang could put up its “barrycades” and otherwise abuse the population because they counted on the synoptic media to blame everything on the other side reflexively. And when the synoptic media did so, they were able to keep it up, and also to reject any effort at even the slightest compromise.
It is in fact my contention that “journalism” (which has degenerated into little more than the purveying of propaganda) has become the lowest civic occupation. This is partly because of their total lack of ethics, but some would argue that in this respect they are no worse than trial lawyers (who are basically mercenary warriors, with all their faults) or prostitutes, or even politicians. But then, we expect nothing better from lawyers (hence Shakespeare’s famous line “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers” – though one must note that this comes from one of Jack Cade’s rioters in Henry the Sixth Part Two) and such.
But journalists proudly boast of their standards, that their superiority over bloggers is because they check out their sources and make sure their stories are accurate. But whenever a politically convenient story comes along, this falls by the wayside. No one other than Dan Rather believes that he really made a serious effort to verify his smear of Bush in 2004. We see this same thing in numerous stories about Rush Limbaugh (which, as a listener, I often personally know to be false, something that we can rarely KNOW of any story) or other such figures. (Tammy Bruce once discussed the falsity of many of the accusations of anti-homosexual bigotry made against Dr. Laura Schlessinger – and as a lesbian, Bruce is unlikely to defend someone who really is such a bigot.) I once commented that if a site calling itself IHateLimbaugh.com claimed that he used the blood of black children to make his biscuits, liberal “journalists” (I call them “newsliars” for obvious reasons) would present the story as true without bothering either to check it out seriously or to state their source. (I would expect most readers here to recognize that my example deliberately referenced the infamous “blood libel” against the Jews.)
There was a time, perhaps, when journalists actually followed such traditions, when they really tried to cover both sides of an issue and would actually state their sources, particularly when knowing the identity of a source for a story can itself help one judge its likelihood of being true. A good example comes early in the novel Sarkhan by William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick, in which a mob leader challenges the American ambassador to Sarkhan with a local anti-American news report. When the ambassador denies it, the mob leader asks if he’s calling the editor – a Sarkhanese prince – a liar? The tragic hero of the novel, William Coldstream – like Lederer a retired Navy man – notes to his friend Thaddeus McCauley – like Burdick an academic, though in his case most notably a specialist in Sarkhanese history – that this is a typical Marxist trap, since it’s hard to answer without admitting a lie or insulting the editor. But the ambassador belies this, pointing out that Prince Ngong had merely done what any good newspaperman would do – he reported a story and stated his source.
Very few do that anymore. There are still some good investigative reporters out there, but all too many who simply repeat what those they agree with tell them. But (as the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth found out), they will often ignore those who disagree with them – and when they don’t, they are not merely skeptical (as they should be about everyone) but in fact looks solely for some way to rebut them. Actually thinking about what they report never seems to be an option.