Ed Driscoll

The Proper Victorian Gentleman, Just Doing His Job

Glenn Reynolds (and no, he’s not the subject of the above headline, which I’ll get to in just a moment) writes:

NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE? So we’ve had nearly 8 years of lefty assassination fantasies about George W. Bush, and Bill Ayers’ bombing campaign is explained away as a consequence of him having just felt so strongly about social justice, but a few people yell things at McCain rallies and suddenly it’s a sign that anger is out of control in American politics? It’s nice of McCain to try to tamp that down, and James Taranto sounds a proper cautionary note — but, please, can we also note the staggering level of hypocrisy here? (And that’s before we get to the Obama campaign’s thuggish tactics aimed at silencing critics.)

The Angry Left has gotten away with all sorts of beyond-the-pale behavior throughout the Bush Administration. The double standards involved — particularly on the part of the press — are what are feeding this anger. (Indeed, as Ann Althouse and John Leo have noted, the reporting on this very issue is dubious). So while asking for McCain supporters to chill a bit, can we also ask the press to start doing its job rather than openly shilling for a Democratic victory? Self-control is for everybody, if it’s for anybody. . . .

As I’ve noted before, in The Right Stuff and in subsequent promotional interviews, Tom Wolfe described the press as “the proper Victorian Gentleman“:

I’ll never forget working on the [New York] Herald Tribune the afternoon of John Kennedy’s death. I was sent out along with a lot of other people to do man-on-the-street reactions. I started talking to some men who were just hanging out, who turned out to be Italian, and they already had it figured out that Kennedy had been killed by the Tongs, and then I realized that they were feeling hostile to the Chinese because the Chinese had begun to bust out of Chinatown and move into Little Italy. And the Chinese thought the mafia had done it, and the Ukrainians thought the Puerto Ricans had done it. And the Puerto Ricans thought the Jews had done it. Everybody had picked out a scapegoat. I came back to the Herald Tribune and I typed up my stuff and turned it in to the rewrite desk. Late in the day they assigned me to do the rewrite of the man-on-the-street story. So I looked through this pile of material, and mine was missing. I figured there was some kind of mistake. I had my notes, so I typed it back into the story. The next day I picked up the Herald Tribune and it was gone, all my material was gone. In fact there’s nothing in there except little old ladies collapsing in front of St. Patrick’s. Then I realized that, without anybody establishing a policy, one and all had decided that this was the proper moral tone for the president’s assassination. It was to be grief, horror, confusion, shock and sadness, but it was not supposed to be the occasion for any petty bickering. The press assumed the moral tone of a Victorian gentleman.

And a huge part of that Victorian Gent’s daily job is take a rogue’s gallery such as this, and make you believe that they’re nothing but polite, Ralph Lauren-clad kids just back from playing touch football on the lawn at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port.

Just as it was in 1963, the legacy media’s primary role in its twilight years as gatekeeper is to keep news out. Unlike back then, it’s not because there isn’t enough time or space to report it (bandwidth on the Internet being infinite), but to protect their friends, colleagues, political constituency and their ideology as a whole. And to make their opponents, which prior to the Blogosphere constituted a big chunk of their readership–back when the emphasis was on silent majority–look as badly as possible.

(Jim Treacher boils the schism down to just two words.)

Update: More from Treacher: “I’m going to start calling them the Deathbed Media.”