The New York Times’ Ross Douthat is one of America’s top columnists. In fact, last week he wrote one of the best columns I have ever read (and I do mean, ever) on The Secrets of Princeton. Douthat does, though, seem to have a blind spot when it comes to media bias, which was again on display in a Sunday column that attempts to explain away American media bias as the byproduct of “bipartisanthink” and/or “parochialism.”
Douthat explains that bipartisanthink occurs when the media naively assume that the best legislation comes from compromise.
Parochialism, on the other hand, manifests itself in the form of “leading the conversation” (what I call “The Narrative.”). This is when the media’s natural liberalism — especially on social issues like gun control and gay marriage — leads the national media conversation (Narrative) to the exclusion of opposing points of view; because the media’s greater value is “fighting for the powerless against the powerful and leading America toward enlightenment.”
Douthat and I see the same things happening in media. Where we differ, though, is intent.
As I write this, Chuck Todd is entering minute ten of pushing for the Toomey-Manchin background check gun bill on his MSNBC show, The Daily Rundown. And naturally, Todd is refusing to explain why any reasonable person might oppose the bill.
If I’m translating the column correctly, Douthat believes that, for months now, Todd (along with the rest of the media) has abused his position as NBC’s Chief White House Correspondent and Political Director to push for gun control due to a parochial bipartisanthink. In other words, Todd is not consciously abusing his power to propagandize. Instead, Todd is engaging in the act of “feshizing the centrism” or compromise, because…
The core weakness of the mainstream media, in this sense, is less liberalism than parochialism. The same habits of mind that make bipartisanthink seem like the height of wisdom also make it easy to condescend to causes and groups that seem disreputable and to underplay stories that might vindicate them.
With all due respect, that is absurd when it comes to Todd and just as absurd when it comes to Todd’s legion of corrupt colleagues.
Todd, like many in media, is extremely intelligent and capable. On a daily basis, like few others, he carries the flag for his colleagues when it comes to “leading the conversation.” Furthermore, Todd is entirely too bright to not know what he is doing — which is relentlessly pushing to marginalize Republicans and advance the cause of the left.
If Douthat is correct that the media is less of a conscious, living, self-aware propaganda machine and more of a cloistered collective with its well-intentioned but fuzzy head in the clouds over “bipartisanthink,” where then is the “bipartisanthink” for any issue that nudges the country right — for the Keystone Pipeline or the reversing of the ObamaCare medical device tax?
On both issues, Democrats have broken away from party and president, but both of these issues — which are of great national importance — have been all but ignored by the media.
What Douthat calls “bipartisanthink” is in reality a brilliantly-conceived political tactic. Time and again, we have seen the media rally around any “hero” Republican willing to break ranks and move left — be it on social, economic, or foreign policy. These Republicans are always rewarded with media love, always crowned as “virtuous compromisers,” and, most importantly, always used to make the GOP as a whole look out of touch.
This “fetishizing of centrism” is in reality and practice the media’s siren song to crash the Republican agenda on the rocks: Want to feel love, acceptance, and warmth? Want to have your integrity shine pretty on every major network? All you have to do is…this.
If the media really is more about fetishizing compromise and less about consciously pushing left-wing propaganda — name one Democrat who has broken away from Obama that the media has celebrated as a “virtuous compromiser.”
You can’t, because media “bipartisanthink” only rears its head in one direction — left. That is not embracing centrism, that is a tactical ploy in a war of inches to move the country in one very specific direction.
Let’s return quickly to this:
The other is a much more ideological ideal, which treats journalism as a kind of vanguard profession — fighting for the powerless against the powerful[.]
For the last three-plus years, in order to protect the most powerful man in the world (President Obama), the media has willfully, criminally, and aggressively ignored 40 million powerless Americans. Poverty is at a 45-year high, the labor market is as at 30-year low, wages are falling, and ObamaCare is pummeling the working class, who are currently losing their health insurance and who knows how many work hours.
Where is the media on this? Nowhere. Because to make those powerless 40 million a cause means the media is not protecting the most powerful man in the world.
Which is not to say the media ignores the economy completely. Almost every day the media happy talk the rich getting richer in a stock market artificially pumped up by the Fed. No doubt, low interest rates are a beautiful thing — if you can afford to invest. But those same wonderful low rates are brutalizing the elderly living on the margins trying to live off retirement savings.
Where is the media on that? Nowhere. Because to tell that story would mean the media is not protecting the most powerful man in the world.
The media is not failing to cover Obama’s disastrous economic policies; the media is succeeding — at the expense of the powerless.
Douthat no doubt sees everything I do, but he doesn’t seem to see the media for what it really is.
And you can’t defeat what you don’t understand.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC