From the VG Bookshelf: Unfreedom of the Press
From the VG Bookshelf: Unfreedom of the Press
Has news press ever been unbiased? Reaching back to the colonial roots and following them through today’s reporting Mark R. Levin paints a picture of a press that has used its position to determine what news is most useful in steering the nation’s views and direction. The finished product is a portrait of an, often unchecked, ideologically driven agenda machine. Staffed with self serving personalities who not only determine the slant of the reporting, but allow their personal bias determine if it’s even “fit to print.”
Mr. Levin does an excellent job of historical fact checking. He reaches back to Colonial America highlighting the early days of print media, and its influence in the steps toward the American Revolution. Touching on the first printing press, and the advocacy agenda even before our Nation was founded. Noting the “Muckraking” reporting against the founders, often supported by their opposing view peers. Successful political operatives have been in bed with the press since the founding of our Republic.
I find no surprise that newspapers were often supported both financially and editorially by political parties. The Allegheny Democrat and the Arizona Republican are two such examples. Levin’s book highlights the party influences over editorial pages, and outright financial support by party operatives. Unsurprisingly, he notes that journalists often toed the line of their financial backers, and those who gave them priority access to politicians or stories. Not many Americans would read the Allegheny Democrat with the expectation of positive Republican overtones.
The political parties held influence over the editorials, but the hard news was mostly reported in an unbiased way. Then, something shifted. Reporters started analyzing the news in their reporting. They merged the editorials with the events, shifting the narrative from the event happening to why it was happening. The reader was no longer presented information in a way to formulate their own opinions, but instead handed a pre-formed package of ideas as to “why” the event happened. A press that leans left is going to serve a news package with their slant. The consumer is given just enough information to feel knowledgeable, but not enough to formulate a differing opinion from the one given by the reporter.
Despite their repeated claims of press abuse under a Trump presidency, some in modern media suffered far more egregious abuse under FDR. I will state upfront that, in my opinion, he was the worst President in our Nation’s history. He weaponized the government against his enemies in ways that border on tyranny. His use of the IRS to remove those who opposed him puts him firmly in the position of a dictator. Mark Levin does an excellent job of uncovering the rampant, and focused, attacks by FDR on those in media who opposed or were critical of his policies. As Mark notes in his podcast,
The Annenberg family which owned the Philadelphia Enquirer which was critical of FDR, so they too were targeted by the IRS for audits, jailing, and endless financial prosecution
An unbiased press would kill for a story like this on their headline. A tale of government abuse of powers, liberty lost, freedom at risk. In this case, FDR had the full support of his allies in the press. They were complicit in not reporting the facts, while stirring the pot against their rivals. Party journalism at its finest.
FDR’s policies were supported by very progressive reporters, and media ownership. They agreed with his agenda, therefore intentionally overlooked and ignored his egregious behavior and abuse of power. A trend they would continue throughout the terms progressive Democrat presidents up to Obama. By ignoring the facts at hand, in favor of furthering their ideological ideals, the press willfully misled Americans. Lies by omission and commission inflicted on an unassuming electorate are weapons in the press arsenal, still in use.
Perhaps the most egregious act of ignorance was the blatant disregard by the NYT of the atrocities inflicted by despots in World War II. The paper of record minimized the mass genocide of millions of people based on their religious and political beliefs. Despite a shared religion, the ownership of the NYT minimized the murder of millions of Jews at the hands of Hitler. Though it was known, and even reported by small independent outlets, they rarely reported on the atrocities. Their recent acknowledgment of this fact does little to help those who suffered and died, while the newspaper reported nothing. Had the paper taken an interest in the plight of the Jews, the American public’s opinion on stopping Hitler may have shifted the American focus on the war. Saving millions of lives.
The 20th century press has a track record for ignoring the failings of people whose agendas it supports. This most often included Democrat presidents, with free rein to engage in egregious behavior and mislead the American public. FDR weaponized the government against his enemies, the press ignored it. Kennedy maintained numerous relationships outside of his marriage, and purportedly engaged in vile behavior with young interns. His use of the FBI to spy on Americans was ignored by the press. His brother’s murder of a young campaign worker was minimized for decades by the press to protect the Kennedy family. LBJ was a rampant racist, whose use of a weaponized FBI was also ignored by the media.
After decades of willful ignorance by the media, reporters suddenly pulled out their heads and took down a President. His egregious crime…. Watergate. After decades of ignoring extramarital liaisons, mass genocide, and a weaponized Executive branch the press finally informed the American public about the abuse of power. Nixon had the audacity to wire-tap the DNC. Hmmm. I can understand the umbrage at the abuse of power. The Washington Post with journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein have been dining out on this for almost half a century. Woodward continues to dip into the pot with his expose style. On those who he dislikes.
Thankfully the press has continued to extol their great work with Watergate. It has allowed them to ignore White Water, Monica Lewinsky, and multiple accusations of rape made against Bill Clinton. GW Bush presented the press with another opportunity to get off their butts and practice journalism. “Practice” being the operative word. W was a target of a newly inspired and angry media. President Bush was supposed to be President Gore. From the last hanging chad, Bush had a target painted on his back. The difference this time is that the landscape had shifted. There were citizen journalists, like Matt Drudge and his online aggregate. There was a conservative leaning outlet, Fox News. However, even those opposing viewpoints did little to stop the machine of the biased press.
Two terms of
King President Obama gave the press a wonderful respite from actual reporting. A break they needed after their time weaving tales from whole cloth during the W years. Obama was celebrated, his virtues extolled by the press in their highest ivory towers. His many shortcomings were blatantly ignored. Questions about his past were ignored, and anyone who was inclined to investigate that direction was immediately labeled a racist. As President, Obama grasped the FDR approach to weaponizing the government against his enemies in the press. He blacklisted a major media outlet from press conferences. An act that surprisingly riled the media. Unfortunately, they were less riled by the overt abuses inflicted on reports James Rosen, Sharyl Attkisson, IRS abuse of power, FBI abuse of power, and the litany of other tyrannical behaviors of his administration.
Donald J. Trump. The press has come full bore, water guns aimed at this President. He earned ire by beating their candidate. Hillary Clinton was supposed to be President. It was obvious that the press was firmly in her corner. They blatantly ignored her actions working in the Obama administration, and as the supportive wife of an accused serial predator. Then she lost. Their anger was palpable because she was their candidate. They threw everything they could behind her, and it still failed.
Their only recourse was to take the W approach, and vilify the winner. Trump has given them some ammunition with his antics. But their full frontal assault on his presidency is unprecedented. The press cries about his bias and aggression toward them, while they are guilty of exactly those actions against him. The counts are too numerous to list. In her book Jill Abramson, former editor of the NYT agrees that the press is creating the story on Trump.
“Though Baquet said publicly he didn’t want the Times to be the opposition party, his news pages were unmistakably anti-Trump,” Abramson writes, adding that she believes the same is true of the Washington Post. “Some headlines contained raw opinion, as did some of the stories that were labeled as news analysis.”
They are writing in an echo chamber where facts don’t matter, and truth is subjective.
Overall Mark Levin does a fabulous job of contrasting the actions of the press between political parties. The information is presented in a way that is entertaining, and straightforward. It is chilling to recognize that the gatekeepers of information are in bed with the ideologically agenda driven people they are supposed to watch over.
Featured Image Credit: Darlene Click for Victory Girls