Ed Driscoll

Our Advocacy-Obsessed Apparatchik MSM

At Commentary, Peter Wehner explores “The Left’s Epistemological Closure,” beginning with his take on Byron York’s latest column on how the television’s MSM have jettisoned the role as newsreaders to become, as Wehner writes, “fierce advocates for gun control”:

In his column Mr. York quotes Frank Sesno, a former CNN reporter and Washington bureau chief who is now director of George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs, who said there should be a “media agenda” on guns to push the issue until government action becomes a reality. “The media themselves have a huge opportunity and power and responsibility to channel this,” Sesno told CNN’s Howard Kurtz. And the Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg–an NRA critic who wrote an intelligent article on the case for more guns and more gun control–pointed out, ”Reporters on my Twitter feed seem to hate the NRA more than anything else, ever.”

A few thoughts on all this:

1. The elite media are more open in their advocacy than at any time I can recall. There are probably multiple reasons why, including the fact that Fox News has been so successful in breaking the previous liberal monopoly that existed in journalism. When there was no real counter-weight to ABC, NBC, CBS, NPR, PBS, the Washington Post, the New York Timeset cetera, journalists were content to advance their worldview in more subtle ways–for example, through their story selection rather than out-and-out hortatory. But the “New Media,” which has injected new voices and different points of view into the public debate, seems to have convinced many journalists that something more is necessary. And so increasingly we see supposedly dispassionate anchors on supposedly neutral networks like CNN toss aside any pretense of objectivity. They are as political and dogmatic in their advocacy as the NRA is in its advocacy. It’s just the NRA has been more honest about its goals than progressive journalists.

But gun control is but one advocacy position the MSM have taken in recent years. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Reuters infamously concluded that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom [sic] fighter.” Concurrently, the New York Times‘ Howell Raines — presumably, with Pinch Sulzberger’s full backing — decided that opening up the Augusta National Golf Club to women was a much more important topic than the GWOT in its formative stages. In October of 2004, as the presidential election was entering the final stretch, and with RatherGate then freshly in the media’s collective mind, Mark Halperin, then the ABC News political director, drafted an internal memo that stated both political parties were not equally accountable, as Matt Drudge noted at the time:

The controversial internal memo obtained by DRUDGE, captures Halperin stating how “Kerry distorts, takes out of context, and mistakes all the time, but these are not central to his efforts to win.”

But Halperin claims that Bush is hoping to “win the election by destroying Senator Kerry at least partly through distortions.”

“The current Bush attacks on Kerry involve distortions and taking things out of context in a way that goes beyond what Kerry has done,” Halperin writes.

Halperin’s claim that ABCNEWS will not “reflexively and artificially hold both sides ‘equally’ accountable” set off sparks in St. Louis where media players gathered to cover the second presidential debate.

Halperin states the responsibilities of the ABCNEWS staff have “become quite grave.”

In August, Halperin declared online: “This is now John Kerry’s contest to lose.”

Back in 2007, Editor and Publisher, the house organ of the legacy media, ran a column titled, “Climate Change: Get Over Objectivity, Newspapers.”  And in early 2009, Newsweek declared “We Are All Socialists Now” — which likely didn’t come as much of a shock to its then-parent company’s ombudsperson, who admitted immediately after the election that the Washington Post was also deeply in the tank for Mr. Obama.

While grizzled old vets such as Dan Rather and Andrea Mitchell might not ever publicly confess to knowing how to define their ideology, a few more examples such as these just might lead a cynical person to conclude — as difficult and as shocking as it might seem — that the media might just ever-so-slightly lean a miniscule, infinitesimal amount to the left.

There are of course countless more additional examples than our handful above, where the media long ago concluded that simply reporting straight news was much less satisfying than serving the cause of the good and righteous left. (Feel free to explore the topic further in the comments.) 

Or to put it another way, replace the word “student” with “viewer” from this quote from William F. Buckley’s 1959 book Up From Liberalism, as posted today by Stacy McCain, and it neatly sums up the MSM’s goals:

In the hands of a skillful indoctrinator, the average student not only thinks what the indoctrinator wants him to think . . . but is altogether positive that he has arrived at his position by independent intellectual exertion. This man is outraged by the suggestion that he is the flesh-and-blood tribute to the success of his indoctrinators.

Fortunately, as a new video from Canada’s Sun TV explores, it’s still possible to punch back twice as hard against such tactics. As the Instaprofessor writes, linking to the same column by Byron York that inspired Peter Wehner’s post at Commentary, “Don’t be surprised, journalists, if many Americans view you as the enemy as a result. Don’t blame them. You’ve taken sides. When you act as agents for the apparat, don’t be shocked when people think of you as apparatchiks.

Update: “Gun Control Debate Exposed The Media’s Bias, David Gregory Exposed Their Hypocrisy.”