The New Yorker ponders journalism’s future, ignores Walter Lippmann in profession’s past


A decent essay from Jill Lepore at The New Yorker. Longish, but worth the read.

However, one point where I strongly differ from Lepore:

For Pressman, the pivotal period for the modern newsroom is what Abramson calls “Halberstam’s Golden Age,” between 1960 and 1980, and its signal feature was the adoption not of a liberal bias but of liberal values: “Interpretation replaced transmission, and adversarialism replaced deference.” In 1960, nine out of every ten articles in the Times about the Presidential election were descriptive; by 1976, more than half were interpretative. This turn was partly a consequence of television—people who simply wanted to find out what happened could watch television, so newspapers had to offer something else—and partly a consequence of McCarthyism. “The rise of McCarthy has compelled newspapers of integrity to develop a form of reporting which puts into context what men like McCarthy have to say,” the radio commentator Elmer Davis said in 1953. Five years later, the Times added “News Analysis” as a story category. “Once upon a time, news stories were like tape recorders,” the Bulletin of the American Society of Newspaper Editors commented in 1963. “No more. A whole generation of events had taught us better—Hitler and Goebbels, Stalin and McCarthy, automation and analog computers and missiles.”

These changes weren’t ideologically driven, Pressman insists, but they had ideological consequences. At the start, leading conservatives approved. “To keep a reporter’s prejudices out of a story is commendable,” Irving Kristol wrote in 1967. “To keep his judgment out of a story is to guarantee that the truth will be emasculated.” After the Times and the Post published the Pentagon Papers, Kristol changed his spots. Journalists, he complained in 1972, were now “engaged in a perpetual confrontation with the social and political order (the ‘establishment,’ as they say).” By 1975, after Watergate, Kristol was insisting that “most journalists today . . . are ‘liberals.’ ” With that, the conservative attack on the press was off and running, all the way to Trumpism—“the failing New York Times,” “CNN is fake news,” the press is “the true enemy of the people”—and, in a revolution-devouring-its-elders sort of way, the shutting down of William Kristol’s Weekly Standard, in December. “The pathetic and dishonest Weekly Standard . . . is flat broke and out of business,” Trump tweeted. “May it rest in peace!”

Liberal, i.e. left-wing, “bias” and values — I don’t see Lepore’s distinction — were baked into journalism’s professional ethic when Walter Lippmann decided to develop one in the early 20th century. Lippmann pioneered journalism’s turn to objectivity, a methodological process carried out by technocrats, i.e. journalists, that was supposed to resemble science and emulate its epistemological rigor in scrutinizing society instead of the natural world. This is in large part because the masses, for Lippmann, could not be counted on to grasp what was really going on outside “the pictures in their heads” and accordingly make the appropriate electoral decisions.

So, for the liberal ideal of democracy to have a chance, the right public opinion — or range thereof — had to be nurtured and cultivated by a class of objective experts. Self-rule was perhaps only possible if elites gave citizens the information they needed to be truly autonomous. In other words, social reality was too complex, the electorate too incompetent for everyday people to govern themselves without the expertise of journalists.

That’s the theoretical basis in the 1920s that gets you in no small part the news analysis and “interpretative” coverage that Lepore notes occurred in the second half of the century. It’s also a significant factor in how we get a frantic press corps sallying its mighty influence to take down down a Constitutionally-elected president in Donald Trump in 2019.

This type of professional behavior was and is most definitely ideologically motivated. Modern journalism emerged from the moral fervor of American progressivism and its attendant influences. How could it not have similar values and beliefs? How does this not manifest in bias, particularly in these turbulent days?

To put it another way, Trump is the chosen talisman of the recalcitrant American masses who are repudiating the self-important oligarchical status quo within which journalists are a main player. He is an avatar of the populism threatening the neo-liberal order and their vaunted place in it. Thus, the reported narrative about his election and presidency tells of “white supremacy” and authoritarian impulses endangering democratic institutions — especially freedom of the press — empowered by an ascendant fascism percolating from 63 million “deplorable” voters. Hyperbolic and hysterical, this interpretation of the so-called facts, mind you, comes from those who see themselves as the objective caretakers of the “Marketplace of Ideas.” Yet, as evidenced by their histrionics, like in the above-mentioned yarn, these supposed adepts seemingly possess a disqualifying ignorance of the produce, the exchange of which they’re apparently duty-bound to curate. It’s that old Platonic notion of rule by the wise, except legacy news organizations, the self-proclaimed practitioners of objectivity, are increasingly proving themselves to be lacking the humility, temperance, and open-mindedness indicative of what the ancients called wisdom. So forget Lippmann and press theory. Nowadays, one just has to look at a grandstanding Jim Acosta on CNN or read the self-aggrandizing platitude of “Democracy Dies in Darkness” on top of the Washington Post‘s website — the addition of which occurred after Trump’s election — to discern the Fourth Estate’s dogmatism. No journalist is required to glean the truth here.

Shhhsh! They don’t want you to know that! And that patronizing attitude, dear readers, is the point. Such self-serving elitism is ideological. Moreover, it’s not a bug to be worked out of the operating system; thanks to Lippmann, it is a permanent feature of it. Lepore fails to see, let alone admits, this, projecting instead her own partisanship on the right, writing off conservatives as merely grumbling about phantasms of “liberal media bias” spawned by the specter of Spiro Agnew. It’s poor tact in an otherwise trenchant take on the crisis of modern journalism.

Real it all here.

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David Hogg: The ‘vicious idiot’ who would be king


David Hogg is a real piece of work. Really. It’s time to take off the kiddie gloves.

During the last two months, the teenager-turned-activist who survived the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting has burned through any goodwill he’s had for undergoing something highly traumatic and being wet behind the ears. Hogg’s proved himself to be a vile demagogue and an exception to the saying, “Only bad things happen to good people.”

Here’s a few of his greatest hits, as compiled by Ben Shapiro’s The Daily Wire staff and then mirrored by YouTuber TRUTHBOMBS:

For my mind, Shapiro, who has come down the hardest on Hogg among the conservative commentariat, is still too generous to the brat. He claims he is withholding judgment about whether Hogg is a nice guy outside of politics earlier in the video. Please. As exemplified above, the teenager has serially slandered Dana Loesch, Marco Rubio, the NRA to the point that his tirades push what’s normative for political discourse even in these polarized times. Sorry, Ben, media prop or not, a foul-mouthed, arrogant student who regularly and remorselessly bears false witness against his neighbors is not a mensch. Surviving a shooting is not a license to demand the infringement of people’s gun rights and be insufferable about it.

Hogg’s worse than that, though. This latest episode in which he’s orchestrated an advertiser boycott against Fox News’ Laura Ingraham also shows he’s thin-skinned and vindictive. For those who need to be caught up, Ingraham took time on Twitter to pick on Hogg for being rejected by some colleges in California. Since then, he and Media Matters have incited several companies to pull their advertising from her show, prompting the Fox talk show host to offer an apology, which he’s rebuffed.

On what grounds, you ask? Well, see for yourself the wisdom that spouted wondrously from Hogg’s own mouth:

How gracioushumble, and sincere the left’s new favorite talisman is! “I’m [emphasis mine] not the issue here,” and “when people try to distract, like Laura is doing right now, from what the real issue here is…,” said the precocious prince of the left’s effort to gut the Second Amendment and who could choose to make peace with Ingraham at any time. It looks like our rising star has a taste for exerting power upon people, making them squirm, making them hurt.

Don’t believe me? Well, apparently this dust-up with Ingraham isn’t the first time Hogg has gone out of his way to screw with someone’s livelihood for slighting him or his friends. Go ask the Redondo Beach, Calif., lifeguard who was put under review due in some part to Hogg’s footage of this confrontation between that lifeguard and a member of Hogg’s crew, who was recalcitrant about being admonished for covering a trash can at a beach with his boogie board.

Yeah, the lifeguard’s punishment really seems to fit his crime, if you can call his conduct with Hogg’s associate that. Our boy wonder apparently isn’t a fan of lex talionis. I, however, doubt he knows what that means even though he’s fixated on handing out deserts he believes are just to those who oppose him. A 4.1 GPA isn’t a reliable indicator of knowledge these days, though it might correlate with a grossly inflated sense of one’s capability to solve incredibly complex social problems, such as gun violence, specifically school shootings.

What’s perhaps even more ironic, which I’m sure others have pointed out, is that the left has gone all-in with the caustic, spoiled millennial as the face of its tyrannical gun control agenda, and he is unlikeable enough for it to all backfire. He’s sanctimonious, grudging, self-obsessed, and, worst of all, conceited enough to believe he knows how best to fix what ails society, i.e., “…our parents don’t know how to use a fucking democracy, so we have to.” The left has anointed someone who embodies the sort of authoritarian personality for which the right to bear arms exists—a foolish, self-righteous megalomaniac impulsive and vengeful enough to trample those he believes are beneath him. After the Parkland massacre, that’s gun-toting America and her political representatives. Although psychopath Nikolas Cruz pulled the trigger, for Hogg, everyone else is equally culpable and must have their liberty curtailed.

He’s basically Joffrey Baratheon from Game of Thrones. No, really, the two are more alike than different: Both are entitled, come from well-connected families (it’s not by accident that Hogg has been quickly and regularly thrust in front of the camera across the country), feign either victimhood, heroism, or machismo when it suits their purposes, sic others on their political enemies to destroy them, boast irritating smirks and sneers, and clearly are products of incest—ideological incest, that is, for Hogg. All he needs to do is go blond and murder two whores for fun with a crossbow (I hear, however, he has something against bearing personal arms).

You don’t think he’s that evil? Sure, but hair dye is readily available; plus, given his background and exploits from the last several months, it’s evident he’s got potential.

Am I being too provocative? Too unfair? Too harsh in suggesting that the Iron Throne from the early GOT seasons fits? Well, at the very least, it’s fair to opine that something very sharp and pointy is far up his ass, and he needs to be slapped repeatedly, so to speak, for it. This is in part to show conservatives that their hands won’t fall from their wrists for striking a “vicious idiot king,” but also to drive home the point that civility is for the civil. Contra Matt Walsh, the cankerous Hogg can’t be ignored because he’s not going anywhere, at least not until his handlers realize he’s more trouble than he’s worth. Reasoned debate with him or his enablers is not possible and thereby a losing bet. In order to get rid of him, we mustn’t be afraid to resort to ridicule and mockery, especially because Hogg thoroughly deserves them for his smug demagoguery. Doing so is not character assassination because the boy who would be king hasn’t got any. As Bronn, another character from GOT, observes about Joffrey,
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Indeed, Ser Bronn of the Blackwater. Indeed.

Why I’m not a progressive


In 2000, The Guardian in a profile reported the event that prompted the junior Roger Scruton to be a conservative with the help of the philosopher’s own words:

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Sir Roger Scruton

For Roger Scruton, as for so many of his generation, the Paris riots of May 1968 were the defining political moment of his life. He was in the Latin Quarter when students tore up the cobblestones to hurl at the riot police. His friends overturned cars and uprooted lamp-posts to erect the barricades. Representatives of his own discipline, old philosophers like Marx and new ones like Foucault, were providing the intellectual fuel for the fire raging on the ground.

As he watched the events unfold from his apartment window, and listened to his friends, drunk on revolutionary hope and excitement, Scruton found his own emotions and opinions crystallising. “I suddenly realised that I was on the other side,” he says. “What I saw was an unruly mob of self-indulgent middle-class hooligans. When I asked my friends what they wanted, what were they trying to achieve, all I got back was this ludicrous Marxist gobbledegook. I was disgusted by it, and thought there must be a way back to the defence of western civilisation against these things. That’s when I became a conservative. I knew I wanted to conserve things rather than pull them down.”

Sir Roger’s reason is as good and lucid of an illustration as to why one should oppose the Left. Not that I have such a experience that so encapsulates the nature of Leftism, but I would like to detail a recent epiphany as to why I reject the synonymous progressivism.

Consider the term “progressive.” People who are progressives identify by being for progress. Duh, I know, but note that to identify by something suggests strong emotions for and fervent belief in it. To identify by progress is to advertise robust attachment for progression. Such strident convictions compel action toward their actualization, nurturing an agent for progress. Being for progress, change, by default, is being against the status quo. Hence, a progressive is someone who actively works to abolish the current state of affairs.

Now, change, in it of itself, is not a terrible thing. There are times when it’s justified. Rather, the fetishization of change as a good in it of itself is what’s grossly insidious. Identifying as progressive makes change a fetish; the act extols it. Then what constitutes progress for a progressive, someone, who as a matter of self-realization, is against the way things are? Simply what isn’t — what ought to be, his moral convictions regardless if they’re rational or possible. Taken together, the contrarian nature that inheres in progressive identity and the notion of change as intrinsically good, we have a potent and toxic recipe for radicalism.

Then there’s the problem that not everyone shares moral values and convictions. Disagreement is an obvious feature of the world. So, what then? If progress demands legalized abortion but others maintain abortion is infanticide, then what gives? Well, whoever’s convictions represent the de facto status quo, of course!

The moral stench is now becoming ever more pungent, I think. Behold its foulness: As agents radically pursuant to their own moral dogmas, progressives must impose their change as a matter of righteousness. If other people’s morals hinder it, they have a holy mandate to neutralize them, thus the eagerness to socially engineer. Nor is this crusade content with redefining a society’s morals. The cultural web of films, art, traditions, language, institutions that disseminate information — mass media, schools, churches, etc. — reaffirming these norms must also be dealt with. Every facet of society must be altered. Thusly, we see progressivism entails and justifies totalitarianism in theory, engenders it in practice.

When one examines Hegelian-influenced Marxism, which maintains that change occurs as a matter of dialectic — a clash of contradictions or polar opposites, where Aughebung is the negation or overcoming of the status quo, and with it, its assimilation into the greater totality and higher reality — one finds an intellectual penchant for such all-consuming tyrannical aspirations. Accordingly, everything is interconnected with mediated relationships between one another. As per this progressivism, totalitarian aggression is normalized as well as ennobled. And make no mistake, progressives are the aggressors, and they are motivated to act aggressively.

The point I’m making in a very roundabout way is, no matter how crude or refined, progressivism is totalitarianism. Period.

Like Scruton, it disgusts me,

Modus Pownens