Mark Levin has done it again!
Rediscovering Americanism: And the Tyranny of Progressivism (2017) was Mark Levin's sixth New York Times bestseller. I reviewed it and applauded his scholarship and conservative advocacy here at American Thinker. Now I applaud his seventh New York Times bestseller as of June 15, 2019, Unfreedom of the Press, where Mr. Levin provides a scholarly historical discussion of American journalism, and exposes current journalism as a source of progressive socialist partisanship that poisons American political life.
Levin starts at the beginning with the nascent American journalism of pre–Revolutionary War America. The press was then actively promoting independence. Mr. Levin discusses those early-day print media that were quite active and influential. Pamphlets and newspapers were energetic pro-independence sources of information for the citizens.
Mr. Levin educates the reader on the partisan nature of newspapermen and reporters in 18th- and 19th-century America, but his book moves forward in time to explain the problem of increasingly activist ideological journalism and media that have negatively impacted American politics and brought on an age of intellectual totalitarianism.
Levin moves forward to the 20th century to explain the peculiar development of what I would call arrogant journalism — journalism of an elite group of image-makers and ideologues who wrote highly partisan and politically drenched "news" that was progressive in tone and attitude, intended to influence public opinion and certainly never shy about framing news and selecting news for a political motive or agenda. News became a setup in terms of bias, the bias of an elite and progressive oligarchy that didn't hesitate to slant and select and editorialize on stories and vilify or denigrate any opposition or opposing viewpoints. The goal of journalism and the media became to control the political environment and influence politics, to tell people what to think and what to value, imposing an ideologically progressive slant to news.
Levin provides the history and tells the story in 226 heavily referenced pages, and he exposes the current mainstream media as unable to live up to their claims of being objective, fair, and impartial reporters. So mainstream journalism and editorial commentary have become indistinguishable, with front-page news always carrying a heavy dose of partisan advocacy that has resulted in a collapse of the media's role as advocates of civility, conscientious government, and republicanism in the political science sense of the word. Journalists are now trendsetters and influence-makers, not reporters of events.
Todays media, print, and electronic news reporters claim objectivity and impartiality, but that is just not the case. They not only participate in politics as advocates, but report on politics and other matters as advocates from a particularly leftist ideology while pretending to be fair and not advocates. The problems of media political activities and the revolving door from progressive government enclaves to the media is not to be denied, and it always revolves best for the leftist progressive ideology. Media vote Democrat, lean Democrat, and even move in and out of Democrat positions of power and influence, back and forth to media positions, so there is no chance the media would be objective and impartial in reporting and framing stories and reports. The influence and effect cannot be ignored.
Levin pursues the issue when he tracks the movement for "objectivity" in journalism that was a popular journalistic notion beginning in the early 20th century, riding on the crest of the Progressive Era that accelerated during the Wilson presidency and continued into the 1920s. Journalists were urged to adopt objectivity by developing a consistent method of testing information so personal and cultural biases would not undermine the accuracy of their reporting. Media were clearly influenced by government during the regime of FDR, and so the concept of "objective" reporting was easily cast aside in favor of pandering to a government monolith created by FDR and the powerful Democratic Party. Selecting and slanting the news was well developed by FDR, but it started earlier with other presidents, and the influence of government and ideological movements was always present. "Scientific journalism" of the early 20th century suffered an early demise and gave way to "interpretive reporting" in the '30s and '40s, well developed in the '50s. Facts, opinion, slant, bias, preconceptions — all became justified by the media's sense that it was their duty to educate the ignorant polis. The result was news with a slant and an attitude that made for biased selection, gathering, and reporting of the news with no effort to restrain the most ideological, not even from the editors. The result is that more than 90 percent of the media vote Democrat and are leftist-, socialist-, progressive-leaning in a country that is half and half, but moving left because the media are pushing left.
As Levin explains, a tunnel-vision, monolithic political group in charge of modern media results in a propaganda-type situation with biased selection and even misrepresentation of the news. The media are so committed that they believe that those who disagree are evil, a classic sign of the True Believer syndrome described by Eric Hoffer. They think there is only one way of thinking: leftist-statist-progressive. Moreover, as with all True Believers, the goal is suppression or destruction of opponents and opposing those who disagree with them, embracing the activist progressive philosophy, using the media power they have to promote their ideology opposed to American founding principles and the traditions, politics, mores, and fundamental elements of Western civilization.
Now that journalist are part of the progressive True Believer movement, espousing advocacy in the manner of John Besides, today's self-righteous liberal media elites have graduated from such trifling concerns as pursuing objective standards while pretending to adhere to them. They have fully embraced the philosophy of progressive intellectual John Dewey, that the Progressive Movement must aggressively use the power of media to influence the poplace. The goal is progressive socialism and suppression of dissent or opposition.
Levin says the press is essential to educate and communicate ideas while assessing ideologies and political ideas, but it is also is important to create community and promote civil and social comity. The press is doing just the opposite, creating a totalitarian and intolerant progressive ideology and agenda. The media advocacy is founded on propaganda and intellectual bullying carried out socially and certainly is dependent on the reach and the power of the media. The media of today are threatening the survival of America, and they relish their role in the destruction of what is in favor of what they want — a progressive totalitarian future.
Levin warns that the republic requires a functional and honest media, not a propaganda organ for progressivism. A great republic cannot survive without a media committed to constitutional limited government by the consent of the governed. The social and political fiber of America cannot survive a media establishment that is a propaganda organ of the socialist statists.
John Dale Dunn, M.D., J.D. is a physician and inactive attorney in Brownwood, Texas.