When Karl Rove resigned from his White House job last week, to a chorus of yowling cat-calls from furious news writers around the country, some scribblers were particularly offended by a word Mr. Rove used for his good friends in the media: The word "mob." Rove was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying,
"I'm not going to stay or leave based on whether it pleases the mob."
Not just one, but two separate Washington Post staffers split the peaceful summer night with howls of outrage. Eugene Robinson and Monica Hesse tore at Mr. Rove's flesh in two WaPo columns, just for using that little word, "mob."
Their united outrage proved his point: They are a mob. Funny, because the Media Mob commonly describes itself in just those terms: as "sharks" looking for "blood in the water" to start a "feeding frenzy." "What bleeds, leads." Sounds like a classic lynch mob, doesn't it? But the victims aren't supposed to answer back. They must hemorrhage silently, while the drooling newshounds bay at the moon to celebrate yet another kill. Well, Mr. Rove didn't play along this time.
In 1991, Supreme Court Justice-to-be Clarence Thomas struck back with the words "high-tech lynching" to describe the smears hurled at him by the liberal media to kill his chances at the Senate Judiciary Committee. For a few days the white Media Mob froze in its tracks. Perhaps at that magic moment it recognized itself as a mob in a Black man's eyes. Because Justice Thomas was born in the Jim Crow South, and he knew exactly what he was talking about when it came to lynch mobs. Clarence Thomas' nomination passed the Committee within days of his verbal counter-attack. Then the Media Mob just fell back into its old ways.
The Big Media are a mob. That should be Politics 101. They are a tiny, unchecked power elite, locked into life-long careers in the remnant of a crumbling monopoly over America's national conversation. Like other unaccountable elites, they are monumentally fickle, self-indulgent, snobbish, vain, vulgar, entitled, incestuous, arrogant, ignorant, unprincipled, hysterical, and demagogic. They sound like a unified chorus for the same reasons that street mobs run as a group -- because by and large, they don't dare to stand alone. Media snobs are always looking over their shoulders to see if they are still singing from the same hymnal as The New York Times. The US media have been one-sidedly Leftist, while piously proclaiming their devotion to impartiality. Thus, they are also institutionally mendacious. Telling the truth is hardly their job. They're just not qualified.
During the Stalin era the New York Times sent Soviet boot-licker Walter Duranty to be its correspondent in Moscow, and after careful reconsideration of his genocide cover-up stories for the Times, for which he received a Pulitzer Prize, the Pinch Sulzberger mob decided that the NYT deserved to keep Duranty's Pulitzer. (As indeed it does; nothing is more revealing than the prizes these frauds keep awarding themselves.)
But we don't have to look all the way back to the 1930s. On any given day, any similarity between the headlines and the most important events of the day is purely coincidental; it's all a matter of "editorial judgment." My local liberal rag just had a page-one color cover of the earthquake tragedy in Peru, taking an estimated 500 lives. That is entirely appropriate. On the same day they blacked out the Al-Qaeda truck bombing of Iraqi Yazidi Kurds, which also took some 500 innocent lives. A natural tragedy receives page one treatment with color photos; a simultaneous mass murder by America's most threatening and savage enemies is stashed away in a dark corner. Our entire national thought process has been twisted as a result.
Who would you say has made the greatest contribution to human welfare in the world in the last half century? Was it Hillary Clinton? Rachel Carson? Bill Gates? A stronger case can be made for Professor Norman Borlaug, the scientist who started and spread the Green Revolution across the world: food plants that are well-adapted to Third World conditions. Professor Borlaug won a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts, but sweeter than that must be the hundreds of millions of lives he has saved. Children in India whose parents suffered from repeated famines are growing up today with plenty of protein and vitamins in their diets. They are healthier, taller, and better able to learn, and therefore to educate themselves. India's take-off as an economic power is in important measure due to the Green Revolution. All because of some comparatively unknown guy at Texas A&M.
Mass killers make up the most famous names in history: Attila the Hun, Caligula, Hitler, Napoleon. But few of the famous can claim to have saved lives. Perhaps Louis Pasteur, and of course many unknown scientists and inventors in medicine, agriculture and engineering. But who is celebrated by the Media Mob? Paris Hilton. Dan Rather. Hillary Clinton. The next Democrat for president. None of them have real achievements to their credit. None of them come within miles of Norman Borlaug.
The Big Media just aren't interested in stories of profound human significance. Life-saving scientists are boring, and besides, don't we have too many people walking on the planet already? That's the vaunted "editorial judgment." It reflects the snobbish values of the vulgar Media Mob, and it's utterly subjective and selfish. Mobs don't think. They just hyperventilate at pseudo-scientific superstitions, like Global Warming.
Our country used to have an intellectually varied media. The differences between Alexander Hamilton and Tom Paine are as basic as the difference between Rolling Stone and the Wall Street Journal, and those views were argued out in articulate, printed articles. The US was founded by the most extraordinary intellectual elite we have seen -- Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Washington, Paine, Franklin. They were largely self-taught, and delighted in vigorous political debate. Even when Jacksonian Democracy took over fifty years later, a rich tradition of political debate continued, in good part because thousands of small-town newspapers populated the United States. And many Americans seriously read the great works of Western civilization: Gibbon, Shakespeare, the Bible, the Federalist papers, novels, literate journalism.
There was no centralized intellectual monopoly. Political arguments were often heated, with news sheets flaming each other like the best of the blogs. The newspapers produced geniuses like Mark Twain and H.L. Mencken, both self-taught news writers. Twain may be the foremost American novelist of the 19th century, and Mencken is one of the greatest essayists in the English language. That was before anybody had a degree in journalism.
Things have not improved. The decline of quality media in America can be traced to two things, (1) professionalization of the news business, and (2) a former technological monopoly in electronic and print media. With industrialized technology it became possible for a single ideology to exercise control. Colleges were accredited by bureaucracies, which enforced liberal uniformity where diversity used to flourish. Journalists became careerists, like teachers and other bureaucrats.
Intellectual monopolies can be justified in medicine or sanitary engineering. You can really prove that doctors should wash their hands before touching the patient. Plumbers need to separate the water supply from human wastes. People end up dying if you don't to that; it's a point of fact.
But journalism doesn't thrive on a forced consensus. News conformity is always artificial, a matter of ideological indoctrination, not fact. Indeed, the average newswriter today is a shallow and gullible BA in English, with no knowledge of (or interest in) science, technology, history, economics, international affairs, or politics, nor any practical experience of real human nature. That is why we now have just one single national story line, repeated hundreds of times a day in all the major dailies. It is mental Coca Cola --without the nourishment sugar provides.
It's all very effective; with a more truthful media the Democrats wouldn't stand a chance in electoral politics. The entire American Left owes its existence and power to the Media Mob. And our national dialogue would be saner, better-informed, and more rational. We would have a much healthier world. Until then, a vigorous New Media provide our best hope.
James Lewis blogs at http://www.dangeroustimes.wordpress.com/