After outlining some “bad” trends—the conservative abandonment of budgetary restraint, the new liberal-Wall-Street nexus, the rise of therapeutic excuse-making for substandard behavior—I now offer three “ugly” trends. These are not merely bad, but sort of creepy as well. Don’t despair—I’ll end with some good developments on the next posting.
I) The Corruption of the Press. We have no media—at least as we once knew it. Somewhere in late 2007, it disappeared entirely, and became something akin to the old Pravda, or the livelier Baghdad Bob’s broadcasts, or the rants of Lord Haw-Haw. (We got everything from Judith Warner about the dreams of women having sex with Obama to “I felt this thrill going up my leg” Chris Matthews).
For the short-term thrill of ensuring the coronation of Barack Obama, it gave up all hard-won standards of journalistic objectivity—so much so that it is hard to adjudicate whether the rise of the Internet alone, or the clear bias of the print media, has nearly destroyed the newspaper industry.
Few any longer connect with a Newsweek editorial, a Time essay, a riff from NPR, or commentary on PBS. The front pages of the New York Times or Washington Post are op-eds in thin disguise. The faculty of the Columbia School of Journalism is not objective. We live in an age of affluent, rather inbred ironists who punch in at the Ministry of Truth, and the result is that about half of the population still wakes up every morning and sighs when they turn on the television, listen to the radio news, or read the newspaper, “He’s lying” or “She’s biased”. The utopian ends of social egalitarianism for the new media lords justified the tawdry means of distorting reality
Now we have those in Congress talking about saving the newspapers by making them “non-profit,” tax-free entities that will drop political endorsements! That rather insane notion would have three deleterious effects:
1) The papers would become even harder one-sided and Left, once market forces were eliminated and the now soon to be unemployed could find federal media tenure doing, at best, what NPR does, and, at worst, having a sinecure at something public, but analogous to Air America. Oh yes, crede mihi, tax-free newspapers will be very biased.
2) A quasi-public print media will become even more incompetent. Think a very big DMV newsletter. Or perhaps a sort of tax-free sinecure for high-paid federal employees who make more at less stress than their private counterparts. Imagine a tax-exempt, quasi-public New York Times, running telethons, praising their public service investigatory work, begging for donations as they sell cups, plates, hats, etc., with scads of G-15 employees manning the phone banks on money-raising day, a Bill Moyers or senior journalist like Marvin Kalb extolling the courage of the new Times.
3) More fossilization of the economy. Not all the harness-fabricators morphed into tractor producers, but in our new wisdom all newspapers will become—what? I simply don’t know. We are trying to ossify American society at about 1965 in the age of LBJ, as Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid prove to be the most reactionary politicians in a half-century.
In the meantime, we are beginning to see that the media is about to add humiliation to its moral failure, as it grasps that once you worship a Messiah, you cannot leave the cult. Mr. Obama tolerates no dissent among the believers. The recent Obama press conference showed what happens to the shunned New York Times or Washington Post once you even consider climbing over the fence of the compound. What were these sycophants thinking as they watched Obama produce all sorts of bogus figures in assuring that tripling the deficit, then halving it will translate into lessening the present red-ink? Again, imagine a sequel to the Wizard of Oz, where everyone goes on thinking that the floating image on the screen with the smoke really is Oz, despite seeing the tiny man behind the curtain with his hands busy with the levers. The media knows what they’ve become, and already have seen the flip side of their one-eye Jack—and is now trapped in culthood.
II) Uglier still is what is going on in universities. Higher education in the humanities has devolved into a sort of indoctrination/reeducation camp, on the following apologia: the corporation, the family, the church, the military, the government are illiberal. So in our precious, rare chance to have the nation’s youth for a brief four years, we the professoriate have to offset, balance, offer an antithesis to these dominant conservative cultures. So, presto, we cannot be biased since we the anointed are the corrective to the bias.