That all rich people are equal, but some are more equal than others, is an unspoken axiom of American politics. It has created all sorts of confused and sloppy reporting of which the Bezos story is only the most recent and high profile example. And it has led reporters and editors to overlook one of the most important stories of our time: The connection between the liberal ideology of the global financial elite and the social pathologies—inequality, communal dissolution, family breakdown—that plague liberal society. Inward looking and self-obsessed, status seeking and conniving, the press is all too eager to ask what the sale of the Washington Post means for its industry, and all too complacent about what the deal says about power in America.
When the sale of the Post was announced, writers, editors, and producers sought to determine Bezos’ politics for a simple reason. How the media judges one’s billions determines whether one will be celebrated or scrutinized. Which sort of rich person is Bezos: a Bloomberg (good) or a Koch (bad)?
All the president’s stenographers at the Post are assuming it’s the former; Bezos is considered a welcome white knight as he is considered a true believer in “The Doctrine of Liberal Privilege,” Jeffrey Lord writes at the American Spectator:
Why is it that Rush Limbaugh continues to flourish (make that thrive) — and the fabled Washington Post is being sold in a fire sale?
The answer: The Doctrine of Liberal Privilege.
Every single soul on the Post’s editorial board or in the newsroom of Newsweek had exactly the same set of “maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools, and blank checks” that are provided by Liberal Privilege. There was no one there to say, over the years, you, Post management have more than readers who are part of the Liberal Privilege. Your content is killing you.
And in truth? Had Rush Limbaugh himself walked in the doors of the newsroom and said “I will help save the Washington Post” the Grahams would have politely — OK maybe not politely — shown Rush the door. And continued right on down the road to selling the family jewel.
How ingrained was Liberal Privilege at the Post? Listen to famed Post reporter Bob Woodward on the sale to Bezos:
This isn’t Rupert Murdoch buying the Wall Street Journal, this is somebody who believes in the values that the Post has been prominent in practicing, and so I don’t see any downside.
This is amazing.
Rupert Murdoch, like the Graham family that is selling the Post, comes from a newspaper family and has been running newspapers all his life. Unlike the Grahams he wasn’t handed a major league journalistic inheritance in the Post, one of the most famous newspapers in America when the latest batch of Grahams took over the paper. No, Murdoch inherited the tiny Adelaide News out off the beaten path in Australia in a day when Australia itself was off the beaten path for most Westerners. Today, the Grahams are losing the Post. And the Murdoch News Corporation, named after that lowly Adelaide paper literally bestrides the globe with newspapers, a movie studio, Fox News, and more. And what is the condition of the Wall Street Journal, purchased a while back from another American journalist family that was struggling to keep their inheritance going? Here’s this release from a couple month’s back that captures the point in a headline:
WALL STREET JOURNAL REMAINS #1 NEWSPAPER IN U.S.
WITH RISE IN TOTAL AVERAGE CIRCULATION
And the Post? Said a saddened Donald Graham, the Post’s publisher:
Our revenues had declined seven years in a row.
So somehow, the despicable — read: conservative — Rupert Murdoch is running the Number One newspaper in America and the Journal’s circulation is on the rise. But the Post has had revenues decline for seven years in a row. And Bob Woodward thinks Rupert Murdoch is the problem with journalism? Why — shocking! How could that possibly be?
It can be because, as Woodward says correctly, the Post has been “prominently practicing” certain “values.” Or, as the Post’s Erik Wemple headlined his blog:
Don Graham sells, but doesn’t sell out
What Woodward and Wemple are talking about is the language of Liberal Privilege. What are those mysterious “values” at the Post that Woodward mentions? What is Wemple so pleased at that has him writing that Don Graham didn’t sell out?
That would be…. Liberal Privilege.
In January of 2005, after Dan Rather was disgraced by the proverbial “guys in their pajamas” and he and the rest of the MSM failed to transport John Kerry over the finish line, Howard Fineman wrote in Newsweek (then still owned by the Post):
A political party is dying before our eyes — and I don’t mean the Democrats. I’m talking about the “mainstream media,” which is being destroyed by the opposition (or worse, the casual disdain) of George Bush’s Republican Party; by competition from other news outlets (led by the internet and Fox’s canny Roger Ailes); and by its own fraying journalistic standards.
As Orrin Judd responded, “Just think of how significant it is that the media itself acknowledges that it is in effective opposition to the Republican Party, never mind to the American people.”
The late Ginny Carroll, bureau chief in first Detroit and then Houston of the Post-owned Newsweek mentioned wearing a button that said “Yeah, I’m In The Media, Screw You!” when she appeared on C-Span’s Journalists’ Roundtable in 1992:
“My reaction to that button [`Rather Biased'] and others, in part, is a button I bought yesterday that says `Yeah, I’m In The Media, Screw You!’….I do understand why a lot of people are upset with us, why we rank somewhere between terrorists and bank robbers on the approval scale. We do criticize. That’s part of our role. Our role is not just to parrot what people say, it’s to make people think. I think that sometimes I want to say to the electorate `Grow up!’”
No other profession insulted its readers — and its rare successful competitors such as Murdoch, Ailes, Matt Drudge, and the late Andrew Breitbart, and potential saviors such as the Koch Brothers as Old Media. And that worldview, Continetti writes at the Washington Free Beacon, is shared by Bezos and his fellow Silicon Valley billionaires, who now have their eyes trained on DC, in an effort to make permanent the gains they made during their more entrepreneurial salad days:
They share the worldview projected onto the front pages of the Washington Post, the worldview of the men and women that manage the world, the worldview of the rich and famous and powerful. It is a worldview that treats those who disagree or have different priorities as threats, yet wonders why ordinary Americans seem alienated from authority, bereft of confidence, and distrustful of institutions.