Ed Driscoll

Closed-Circuit TV for the Ruling Class, Revisited

MSNBC is declared “Washington’s cable news network” by BuzzFeed, which looks at how the low-rated far left cable opinion network serves as the safe, low-risk home for the JournoLista, Politico, and Washington Post staffers (and yes, there’s plenty of overlap in that Venn diagram, including BuzzFeed itself).  (Link safe, goes to Hot Air):

With Jeff Zucker’s CNN drifting away from politics and toward celebrity stories and true crime — and Fox News sticking closely to its stable of “Republican strategists” and in-house conservative pundits — MSNBC has its pick of the entire political press corps. And it has made itself central to the online political conversation by sending its black town cars to collect younger, web-savvy politicos who spend all day chattering about the ins and outs of the game online. …

More than a few Washington Post reporters, like blogger king Chris Cillizza and Nia-Malika Henderson, are almost ubiquitous with the network’s programming, sometimes making multiple appearances on different shows throughout the day and night. Some Post employees moonlight as paid MSNBC contributors, meaning you’ll definitely see Ezra Klein, Jonathan Capehart, Gene Robinson, or all three on any given day.

Politico’s deal with MSNBC seems quite different, even though the desired results are the same for the network. Including the longtime branded “Playbook” segment on Morning Joe, Politico blankets MSNBC’s dayside programming — literally from dawn to dusk — with its reporters, minus that pesky “contributor” status.

The Hot Air commenters also point out one flaw in the story’s premise, that Fox has many more liberals on the air than MSNBC does conservatives. (That can happen when you view them all as terrorists. And vice-versa.) But that aside, notice what’s missing from that equation? The notion of you and me, the viewers at home.

And didn’t Rush Limbaugh make the exact point of this BuzzFeed piece three years ago? In August of 2010, we ran a post titled, “The MSM: Closed-Circuit TV for the Ruling Class,” with this quote from El Rushbo:

When you turn on MSNBC and watch anything on that network, you get the sense that they’re doing that show not for an audience but for fellow journalists and for people in the White House and for elected Democrats in Congress. That’s their audience, that’s who they’re doing their shows for. Same thing for CNN; same thing for the New York Times. There is really a gulf. The media in this country really do look at the people of this country as an enemy. We’re not just a bunch of rubes, folks, we’re not just a bunch of unsophisticated Neanderthals. We are that to them, but we’re now actually the enemy. When they get this poll from Pew that says the number of people that believe Obama is a Christian is shrinking, the number of people that think he’s a Muslim is increasing, they do not look at the media themselves for maybe an explanation. They don’t look at the White House or Obama to try to find an explanation for this. They knee-jerk conclude that we are a bunch of imbeciles, or reactionaries or racists, bigots, or what have you.

I think the divide between media and public is as stark as it has ever been. Stop and think about this. The relationship that the media has with the people of this country is adversarial. It used to be that their relationship that was adversarial was with people in power. It used to be that people in power were those that had to be examined, had to be accountable. But now since they’re leftists, they’re not really media people, they’re leftists first, we know that, we are the enemy. We are a bigger enemy than Iranian nukes. We are a bigger enemy than Middle East peace. The American people, particularly American conservatives, but I think the American people at large. You read one of these newspapers, read Sheryl Gay Stolberg’s piece today. She’s not writing it for you. She’s not writing it to inform you. The New York Times is not concerned with informing you. Neither is MSNBC concerned with informing you. When F. Chuck Todd does his stand-up at the White House, F. Chuck Todd is talking to other White House reporters who he hopes are watching his work and making sure that they approve of what he’s saying. He’s also hoping they’re watching in the White House and approving what he’s saying. And when Chip Reid of CBS does the same thing, the same thing is happening. And whoever the ABC White House correspondent, whenever that guy does his stand-up at the White House he’s thinking of all the other correspondents at the other networks and the White House and making sure they approve of what he or she is saying, not us.

As I wrote in response:

Can a medium completely lose touch with its audience, and start producing product solely for itself? As I have written before, it happened 60 years ago in jazz, eventually transforming that genre from the popular American music to an insular art form called bebop, which eventually concluded that the audience wasn’t necessary. And the audience quickly took the hint, which is why jazz is now seen in small nightclubs and in the mausoleum of Lincoln Center, and not at your local hockey arena.

A few years ago, the news industry built a mausoleum of their own — remember the Newseum? And that’s not the only place where they’ve entombed themselves. Their news product, particularly on TV, is essentially a a closed-circuit system designed to assuage the ruling class. That you and I can choose to also watch is merely a byproduct.

Of course, increasingly, we’re choosing not to watch, which is why MSNBC and CNN have so low ratings, Newsweek was sold for a buck after first undergoing a failed ideological purge, and Jeff Bezos picked up the Washington Post out of his walking around money.

Oh, and speaking of the latter publication, we’d be remiss in not mentioning yesterday’s meltdown by the last ombudsman — at least under the old regime — of the Washington Post. Peter Wehner of Commentary dubs it “Former Ombudsman’s Nonsensical Screed”:

The Washington Post’s former ombudsman, a fellow by the name of Patrick Pexton, wrote an “open letter” to the new owner of the Post, Jeff Bezos, with advice on personnel. Mr. Pexton goes after one individual in particular–my former COMMENTARY colleague Jennifer Rubin.

How to describe what Pexton wrote? How about intemperate and embarrassing for starters. If that judgment sounds harsh, allow me a moment to prove my case. Mr. Pexton claims that Rubin’s columns are “at best political pornography.” (One can only imagine what her less-than-best writings conjure up in Pexton’s imagination.) We’re told she “peddles every silly right-wing theory to come down the pike.” (“Every” is quite a lot.) She is guilty of “treachery” against the Romney campaign. This isn’t an open letter; it’s an open screed. Mr. Pexton’s claims are so ludicrous, in fact–so filled with transparent rage–that they shatter his credibility.

As someone who worked on the Romney campaign, allow me to clear Rubin of the charge of treachery. Mr. Pexton has worked himself to such a lather that he apparently forgets that he once defended Rubin for statements that he now attacks her for having made. (See this piece by Slate’s David Weigel.) I also got a chuckle out of the fact that “Rubin was the No. 1 source of complaint mail about any single Post staffer while I was ombudsman,” as if that is supposed to mean anything at all. What it undoubtedly means is that a lot of liberals complained to Pexton because Rubin is a conservative.

We’re also told that among others, “Thinking conservatives didn’t like her.” Really now? I know a lot of thinking conservatives–perhaps more than even Pexton knows–and many of them like Rubin. And even some of us unthinking conservatives like her as well. Nor does it help Pexton’s argument that during his ombudsman days, he said of Rubin, “She has excellent sources in the House and Senate leadership, and lots of Republicans read her and trust her.”

Jennifer Rubin has been, in fact, a wonderful addition to the Post. Her writing is intelligent and informed. She isn’t afraid to engage in intra-conservative debates. She’s opinionated and fearless, a fine writer and thinker, and well plugged in to the Hill.

Before her stints at Commentary and now the Post, from 2008 through September of 2009 Jennifer wrote here at PJM, producing near daily articles, and was a frequent guest whom I interviewed on PJM Political, the weekly hour-long Sirius-XM radio show I produced for PJM from September of 2007 through the end of 2010. At PJM, she wrote sparkling clean, ready-to-run copy, and was always hyper-prepared for an interview or group discussion on the radio show. (As anybody who has ever heard in years since during her appearances on the Hugh Hewitt Show and the Ricochet podcast can attest.) If Jennifer is unacceptable to the Post as conservative commentator, then no one is acceptable. (With the possible exception of George Will, who’s been grandfathered in.)

But then, as Ace writes, in addition to perhaps settling some sort of personal vendetta, ideological purity is the former Post ombudsman’s goal:

When [Pexton] says the right is deserving of serious coverage, I take this to mean he wants an impartial outsider — by which we mean a Liberal — to document the Troubling Social Phenomenon we call “the right.” That is, he wants it treated like a dangerous movement to be studied and perhaps, one day, cured.

Why do I think that? For this simple reason. Jennifer Rubin does indeed pop off with some partisan-pleasing stuff. (She also angers people on the right by hewing to her culturally-liberal, reflexively establishment politics.)

And yet Greg Sargent, Rubin’s analogue, in as much as he does the “liberal” blogging (as opposed to every other person at the Post), does the same thing. He does cheerleader stuff for the Left. He tells you what a Great Big Dummy Mitt Romney is, and what a Terrible Liar Mitch McConnell is.

In other words, Greg Sargent “covers” the liberal caucus the same way Rubin covers the conservative side — by indulging her own political vanities and pushing her own line. Sargent does not “cover” the liberal caucus like an outsider, like Richard Attenborough among the lemurs; what he really does is cover the right, but from a liberal partisan attack vector.

So why should Rubin not be permitted to do the same? Why does she have to actually “cover the right” as if she were a naturalist documenting strange fauna, when the liberal blogger is free to do what liberal bloggers do, to wit, promote liberal agitprop they got from liberal blogs and liberal politicians?

The answer is obvious. The answer is so obvious that it should have occurred to this idiot, but of course it didn’t, because someone this deeply dyed in the pink of leftism doesn’t even notice the color any longer.

There was an episode of Mad Men in which John Slattery’s acerbic Roger Sterling character complained about his business by saying something like, “If only we didn’t have to deal with clients, advertising would be a great business, eh?”

Just as MSNBC becoming closed-circuit TV for the Ruling Class left has allowed it to dispense with those pesky things called viewers, the Washington Post’s ongoing ideological purity tests* have eliminated readers from the equation.

Which had the benefit of eliminating profits and growth as well. So it’s win-win all the way!

* See also: The JournoList hit jobs on Bob Woodward earlier this year.