Ed Driscoll

Some Things Never Change

“Study: Media Coverage of Romney’s International Trip 86% Negative,” Warner Todd Huston writes at Big Journalism.

Yes, those numbers sound about right to me:

Meanwhile, Ace ponders the MSM’s black-out of Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day:

It’s a phenomenon we now know well, and yet it is still worth pointing out how astonishing this all is. Simply because we have become inured to a perfectly bizarre situation does not mean we should not make frequent note of how truly bizarre this situation is.

The situation is this: The last place — not the first place, not the second, not the sixth — you’d want to go to find coverage of news is an American newspaper or an American news broadcast.

They’re not in the business of news any longer. The analogue that strikes me is, if you pardon this weird neologism (and pardon it because what I’m trying to describe is itself weird), news fashion.

See, I wouldn’t expect a boutique fashion store to be catholic in the clothing it displays and sells. I’d expect it to be highly selective, skewing to the proprietor’s own sense of style, his own insistence on what Good Taste consists of. I’d expect that in that fashion shop, what isn’t available is as large a statement of principle than what is available.

And that is perfectly understandable for a tony, boutique, specific-taste fashion shop.

But this same mentality is bizarre when applied to the business of informing the public of the events of the day. The news media seem to be employing the fashionista’s sense of style and taste — the fashionista’s overwrought, half-kidding concealing of her eyes and exclamation of “I do not see that!” when confronted with a dress not to her liking — to the news.

The fashionista is right to “edit” the reality of her fashion shop to accord with her specific, idiosyncratic sense of the aesthetic. In doing so, she creates not only a brand identity for herself, but puts forth a manifesto, and aspiration, a declaration that “This is what the world should look like.”

But a newsman? Is a newsman equally right to edit the reality of the daily record of the world’s events so that it, too confirms with their sense of style, their aspiration as to what the world should look like?

Hey, let’s ask Time magazine’s Joe Klein. Last year, he wrote:

This is my 10th presidential campaign, Lord help me. I have never before seen such a bunch of vile, desperate-to-please, shameless, embarrassing losers coagulated under a single party’s banner. They are the most compelling argument I’ve seen against American exceptionalism. Even Tim Pawlenty, a decent governor, can’t let a day go by without some bilious nonsense escaping his lizard brain. And, as Greg Sargent makes clear, Mitt Romney has wandered a long way from courage. There are those who say, cynically, if this is the dim-witted freak show the Republicans want to present in 2012, so be it. I disagree. One of them could get elected. You never know. Mick Huckabee, the front-runner if you can believe it, might have to negotiate a trade agreement, or a defense treaty, with the Indonesian President some day. Newt might have to discuss very delicate matters of national security with the President of Pakistan. And so I plead, as an unflinching American patriot–please Mitch Daniels, please Jeb Bush, please run. I may not agree with you on most things, but I respect you. And you seem to respect yourselves enough not to behave like public clowns.

And the subtext of Klein’s rant is: who are those strange alien lifeforms who are supporting those candidates, why do I have to report on their comings and goings, and what can we in the media do to bring them to our enlightened, progressive, compassionate and all together fair worldview? Besides, if you wrote up Chick-fil-A appreciation day, you might have to pay lip service to the man who thought the idea up.

But at least Klein is an opinion journalist, no one is asking him to be fair (and no one would, at this stage in his career). But the MSM censoring the underlying news to fit both its worldview, and what it thinks is best for the American people is not all that new a development. In a 1980 interview to explain why he used the phrase “The Victorian Gentleman” to describe the media covering — and often white-washing — the Mercury Astronauts in his then-recent book, The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe told an anecdote from when he was a workaday journalist on the New York Herald-Tribune in the early 1960s:

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.

But the collective politics of the MSM have shifted so much further to the left since the Kennedy era, that, as Joe Klein’s quote above implies, it now collectively sees so much of American life as an alien planet to be first explored and then intellectually terraformed. Or as James Lileks wrote in 2005, “once upon a time the major media at least pretended that the heart & soul of the country was a porch in Kansas with an American flag. Now it’s the outlands, the Strange Beyond. They vote for Bush, they believe in God, they’d have to drive 2 hours for decent Thai. Who are these people?”

(And again, for the MSM, that’s not all that recent a question.)

Earlier this year, in response to MSNBC’s contempt for Mitt Romney’s religious beliefs, Moe Lane offered “Ten Media Truths for Conservative/Republican Legislators” at Red State.org. Number one was “The Media hates you, and wants you to die in a fire.” As we know from the late Peter Jennings, disgraced former CNN reporter Susan RoesgenAnderson Cooper and others still at CNN, and the entire on-air staff and management of MSNBC, the same is also true of the contempt the MSM has for a huge swatch of its customers.

Or– in yet another development the legacy media would no doubt brand a strange, random, “unexpectedly”-occurring business slowdown — their former customers.

At the conclusion of Ace’s post, he references Virginia Postrel’s 2003 book, The Substance of Style, and replies that sure competing aesthetic choices are fine for consumer products such as cars and clothes and personal electronics, but “is the news now an aesthetically-sculpted consumer product as well?”

But how can it not be, when so much of the “progressive” experiment can be viewed as a massive (albeit often unknowing) effort to replace morality with aesthetics?

Related: At the PJ Lifestyle blog: “Cable TV Continues Slow Death, Losing 400,000 Customers This Year –Are Roku, Netflix streaming, and the President’s weak economy facilitating the industry’s decline?”