A Leftist Media for Obama
The national media likes to present the left, even the radical left, as more or less mainstream, even as it depicts the Tea Party as a fringe movement. Politicians who espouse Marxist ideas, like Barack Obama, are treated as if they are centrists, well-suited to solve the crises that their own policies have created. As the liberal media see it, the debate is over. America has become a European-style social welfare state, and there is no going back. There is only going forward, or what Obama calls "forward," toward the hardcore communism of the past.
From this perspective, socialism is the normal and expected condition of mankind, and communism -- the thuggish assault on liberty of Venezuela's Hugo Chávez or Bolivia's Juan Evo Morales -- is simply a less genteel means toward the same end.
In every case, the media ignore the inevitable executions and gulags of the communist state and report instead on the purported advancements of health care and literacy. Early fellow-travelers like Theodore Dreiser, Andre Gide, John Maynard Keynes, and Sidney and Beatrice Webb, among many others, visited the Soviet Union and returned with glowing reports of giant strides forward in industrial development. When it was pointed out that tens of millions had been murdered and that the purported developed was largely staged, these facts were ignored or dismissed. Nothing could be allowed to stand in the way of transformation from capitalism to a supposedly utopian communist state.
As Michael David-Fox writes in Showcasing the Great Experiment, one of the great ironies of modern intellectual history is the fact that "the height of Western admiration ... coincided with the most repressive phrase of Soviet communism" (p. 2). Edgar Snow did the same with his glowing reports of Chinese development under Mao, even as the Great Leap Forward claimed an estimated 30 million lives. American media did the same with the emergence of Fidel Castro, who was interviewed by Edward R. Murrow in 1959 at a time when Americans were not yet certain if Castro was friend or foe, and later by Barbara Walters, among others. More recently, a regular stream of network journalists have filed reports from Cuba suggesting that the American trade embargo is harming ordinary Cubans or that conditions on the island are not as politically repressive as once thought. These useful idiots are just following in the footsteps of Dreiser, Snow, and the Webbs, and of a host of American and British journalists who have found Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Hugo Chávez, and every other communist tyrant acceptable because they, the journalists, shared the same ideology.
Left-leaning journalists like Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather were memorable names because, despite their leftism, they did not entirely compromise their professional journalistic standards. But who will remember the hordes of little Marxists who now dominate the mainstream media? What they share is the conviction that the journalistic profession is the handmaiden of social transformation, and Obama is the transformer. Thus, any sort of bias, omission, or speculative reporting is an acceptable means to the end of revolution.
Communism has been tried many times, and it has failed on every attempt. Yet the liberal media continues with glowing reports everywhere it pops up. Even now, it is astounding how little we hear about the failures of communism. Yes, we hear that the masses are starving in North Korea, but, as it is presented in the mainstream media, this tragedy is not linked to communism. It is the result of a madman, "Dear Respected" Kim Jong-Un, who like his father ("Dear Leader" Kim Jong-Il, also a madman) is the country's absolute ruler. But it is not Dear Leader or Dear Respected who are alone responsible for the starvation of so many, and it is not because they are madmen. The Kims are party leaders who rule at the bidding of the communist faithful. It is communism, not the Kims, that is responsible for mass starvation in North Korea, just as it was responsible for genocide in Soviet Russia, communist China, Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, and communist Cuba.
The Western media and their allies in government and academe share much of the blame for the tens of millions who have died under communism. Their approach is always the same: rush in at the beginning of each new Great Experiment, heap lavish praise on the leaders, selectively report on the "successes" of the regime while ignoring the failures, and walk away when the whole thing collapses. Then start all over when the next revolution crops up.
The media has not yet walked away from Obama's revolution, even though that revolution has failed. But journalists certainly lost no time in getting on board, reporting the "successes," and ignoring the failures. It is incredible that among the national media Obama's economic record remains largely unquestioned, even though the broader measure of unemployment shows 15.4% of Americans unemployed and the nation's labor participation rate at a modern-day low. By that measure, 88 million working-age Americans are not working -- an all-time high.
But the media has no intention of abandoning Obama, even if the unemployment rate goes to 25% and 200 million Americans drop out of the labor market. The unwavering support of Western intellectuals like Jean-Paul Sartre for Stalin demonstrated that, for the left, no price is too high for the great dream of equality.
Now, Obama's socialism is failing, and the liberal media are unwavering in their support. It simply doesn't matter that 88 million Americans are not working, that nearly 50 million Americans are collecting food stamps, or that, having stagnated for four years, the economy may be heading back into recession (as indicated by the June numbers on industrial production slipping below a neutral reading of 50).
Members of the media are unwavering in their support for the same reason that western liberals have supported Stalin, Mao, Castro, Chávez, and every other communist (while they have attacked Churchill, Reagan, Thatcher, and every other great conservative). No matter what it costs, no matter how much poverty and unemployment and rationing of health care, the cause is worth it. That, quite simply, is what is driving media coverage of the Obama presidency.
So when, without blinking, MSNBC reports Obama's comments that the economy is "improving" and that he has created 5.4 million new jobs in the last three years, that has little to do with the truth. A professional journalist would report the crucial facts: the current unemployment rate, the current growth rate, the national debt, and the forecasts of respected and non-partisan economists. They would question the president about these numbers. Instead, liberal reporters continue to make excuses for the worst economic performance under any president since Herbert Hoover. Even Jimmy Carter had an average unemployment rate of 6.525%. And if you're wondering about Obama's predecessor, whom Obama continues to blame for the economy he inherited ("much worse than we expected"), the average unemployment rate under George W. Bush was 5.26%. During the first three years under Obama, it is 9.27%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But no price is too high. Not Stalin's genocidal policy toward "the rich," resulting in the liquidation of an affluent class of citizens known as the "kulaks." Not Obama's failed economy, his obsession with attacking the rich, his assault on American free enterprise, or his destruction of the nation's health care system. No price is too high, because the ranks of the media are filled with true believers, and they are determined to see that the revolution not fail.
Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture, including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).