The New Terrapin Gazette
Number 195 3 April, 2011
Treat thus: that you use your humanity, and at the same time that of every other person as well, as an end, never merely as a means.
Journalism Is Not Rocket Science: It’s Harder And More Dangerous
In Number 193 of this newsletter, an internet post was reproduced unedited and in full. It deserves careful analysis, for the way the poster describes the news/propaganda establishment of the USA is of seminal importance.
The author of this reprinted post, Lee Stranahan, refers to “the mainstream and liberal media.” He then mentions what he calls “the supposedly honest media.” Whether he believes these categories are all just terms designating a single type of news medium is not made explicit, but that seems likely (click on the hyperlink in the above paragraph, or request a copy of Number 193).
He then identifies two distinct types of news media: “…I’ve had one foot in the left wing news stream and one foot in the right.”
At the conclusion of his post, Stranahan says, “And then ask why progressives shouldn’t ask more from our media — and ourselves — than we expect from our political adversaries.”
From his remarks, one can conclude that he believes that (a) there are types of media; that (b) at least two types exist, “left” and “right;” and that (c) there are “supposedly honest” media and “mainstream” media as well.
One can not conclude that Stranahan categorizes either the “left” or “mainstream” media as “honest” or “supposedly honest,” nor is it possible to say that he identifies the “mainstream” media as being identical to the “left” media. Nevertheless those implications are present in his text. They are, of course, deniable, for a close reading of the post indicates that the author did not set out to provide a definitive classification. Note as well that Stranahan does not deny the possible existence of other media that can not be properly called “right,” “left,” “honest,” “mainstream,” or “ours.”
For some years, this publication has been at pains to provide evidence for a collectivist (liberal, “progressive”) bias that dominates the great majority of the world’s news outlets. Numerous examples of censorship, distortion, fabrication and slanted reporting have been provided here. The media have customarily ignored this sort of criticism, or they have rejected it explicitly as incorrect and insisted that what individualists, libertarians and conservatives call bias is simply professional journalism.
Rarely, people like Bernard Goldberg would surface and expose the majority of the news providers as narrow-minded ideologues with a hidden agenda. There has been the occasional embarrassment, such as Eason Jordan or Helen Thomas, as well. But overall, in spite of the exposure of Journolist and dozens of other blatant propagandistic tactics, the mainstream media have admitted only the occasional lapse in objectivity and ethics.
Then the Tea Party arrived, puzzling, frustrating and infuriating the collectivist establishment. Andrew Breitbart scored heavily several times, and those body blows have been much more painful than the tight-lipped media admit. The unmasking of ACORN, the GOP gains in the recent election and the unpopularity of the Obama administration have put the USA’s Peronist element under great pressure.
The reaction has been hyperbole, invective, lies and numbing censorship. As this newsletter has complained, the Tea Party is routinely smeared as racist. That is just one libel among many, but it vies with the Tucson blood libel of Palin as the most egregious of a bad lot.
That might lead some to conclude that all “progressives” are necessarily dishonest. Yes, their team plays dirty, and they don’t like the Bill of Rights…but they aren’t all depraved. Endangered though it is, a semblance of a sense of fair play exists on the sinister end of the political spectrum.
Some “progressives” have even come close to the point of being able to say, “Look, you inbred hayseeds: you have your nutty Fox News, and we have virtually all of the rest of the media. We have the BBC and CBS and NPR, we have every major newspaper, and we define the terms of the debate. The mainstream belongs to us because that’s where the smart, educated people are; they understand the world. You knuckle-draggers in Flyover Country are blind to the truth.”
That admission would, of course, play into the hands of the “wingnuts.” Any halfway intelligent collectivist would see that at once. In order to sell the collectivist agenda, the media must appear to be objective. This is why Stranahan has been inundated with angry messages: he’s very, very dangerous to the “progressive” cause. His commentary comes within a hair’s breadth of an admission that the supposedly fair and honest news organizations — the mainstream media — are leftist propaganda organs.
The viability of “progressive” causes depends on the falsehood that the news is reported objectively by unbiased, ethical professionals. To admit otherwise is to admit that collectivism is vulnerable.
How did the political environment degrade to such a dismal state?
History And Politics Made Scientific
The liberalism, “progressivism,” socialism or collectivism of today is the child of nineteenth century Marxism. Its advocates view it as genuinely scientific, by which they mean that it is based in principles of social evolution that are discernible in historical chronicles. They usually don’t add that those principles were discovered and revealed by Karl Marx.
Collectivism is nothing if not bold and ambitious. Redistributionist policies are seen as necessary correctives to poverty, and the rights of society are assumed to be beyond dispute. All collectivist ideological positions lay claim to truths that can be proved (they are dialectically demonstrable descriptions of social dynamics, and not subject to opinion). Modern “progressivism” is held to be the only objective, verifiable and indisputable political theory. It is recommended for the utility it derives from a reliance on hard facts. It is no less exact than chemistry, and no less valid or important than Maxwell’s equations. It is true, and that is all that need be said.
(Parenthetically, note that Marx believed that his reading of history revealed a pattern that was an inexorable manifestation of reality. He was convinced that the mechanistic laws that govern society would produce inevitable, predictable results. In a sense, he was not a fully-fledged revolutionary, but an oddball mystic and a failed prophet.
(His followers should have realized that something had gone wrong almost at once, of course, for when Russia fell into Marxist hands, that was in total contradiction of Marx’s concepts of political evolution. The developed capitalist nations were supposed to go first. And as to world revolution — well, promoting it by propaganda was unnecessary, according to Marxist theory, for the dictatorship of the proletariat would come to pass as naturally as water runs downhill. Politics was science, and it was descriptive, not prescriptive. Lenin quickly ironed out that little wrinkle.)
The Marxist interpretation of history and politics competed, for the most part successfully, with other views such as Ludwig von Mises’s interpretation of economic behavior. Perhaps the revolutionary fervor of the collectivist mindset was its greatest asset in the contest; the style of the radical reformer became an increasingly popular pose. In any event, later economists like Keynes contributed to the statist/unfree markets policies of the USA’s New Deal, and libertarian thought was eclipsed. The theoretical framework of the social sciences became more mechanistic (behaviorist psychology being the prime example) and less respectful of the Liberty of the individual, who was increasingly viewed as a potential troublemaker. Governmental control of incomprehensibly complex phenomena was assumed to be the only way to deal with imperfect outcomes. The individual was subordinated to the group by the collectivist impulse, even as collectivists claimed that history was a process of liberation from tyranny. Hardly anyone on the left noticed that Hitler and Stalin were nearly identical fascists, and equally evil.
The Foundational Claim Begins To Crumble
Collectivists insist that a scientific (factual, accurate, genuinely descriptive) understanding of humanity’s journey across the ages reveals a pattern of increasing sophistication and progress toward better conditions. In truth this linear conception of society, politics and history is a Utopian fantasy. It replaces science with myth.
When today’s “progressive” looks at his world, he sees arrested progress and undeveloped potential; that tells him that if the impediments were removed, growth toward perfection could resume. He is unaware of the fact that he, like fanatical Muslims and nineteenth-century Marxists and the founders of Amana and the Theosophical Society, aims at an end to history.
To Obama, for example, poverty is a function of power. Those who are powerless will be poor, and those who have power are likely to exploit others. If the poor are organized, they can compel the rich to redistribute the wealth, ending poverty permanently. Thus Obama tells Joe the Plumber that Joe’s money must be partially confiscated and given to others as decided by the state, for if Joe has his way, that money would languish (not be “spread around”) and do no one but Joe any good.
Because the necessary reforms are obvious and their benefits are so easy to envision, a collectivist will have great difficulty seeing that his agenda has immediately lost scientific accuracy. For example, Joe’s money has value to Joe only if he spreads it around, and the confiscation and redistribution of that money by the state is an inefficiency that puts nonproductive workers in the economy, thereby reducing prosperity. The failure to understand how money works is ignorance, and ignorance is the antithesis of science.
There is a plethora of examples of Team Obama’s misunderstandings. The administration, rooted in antiquated social and economic ideology, is waging a bitter culture war with Flyover Country — an assault on the individual that mocks the nation’s foundational understanding of human rights. The Obamites’ responses to problems are seldom relevant, and their allies often behave like paranoid bigots. How, one might well ask, have all these facts escaped the notice of the press? How is it that the watchdogs have become lap dogs?
The Impact Of Collectivist Cant On The News Media
According to a thoroughgoing collectivist, the reporting of facts can be objective and truthful only if it is done within the epistemological context of collectivism. Just as one does not report on an automobile accident by writing, “A ghost in the braking system used an ectoplasmic thrust to cause the hydraulic line to fail, and the driver crashed into the bus,” one does not report on Obamacare as a violation of the rights of the individual.
The news, the paradigmatic collectivist tells us, is a chronicle of events coupled with analysis and explanation. Journalism is to be conducted with accuracy, rationality and procedural thoroughness; its methodology is very much akin to that of science. A scientific study of history has led scholars and wise men to understand the path mankind has walked, and we can discern the path that must be followed if peace and prosperity are to be achieved. The goal can be reached if people are properly educated, organized, and led.
For a true collectivist, political objectivity means, implies and requires collectivism. Anything inimical to collectivism is untruth, unreason, or outright madness. After all, a scientific approach to any problem is always preferable to error, isn’t it?
This reasoning immediately plunges through the looking glass. CBS is not cheating or lying or distorting the news, for it is “progressive,” which is to say, rigorously objective (because it practices a scientific methodology of objectivity in gathering and reporting facts). The news outlets controlled by collectivists cannot lie — which explains how the Killian memo hoax could depend on documents that were “fake, but accurate.”
This rationale may be a bit hard to follow, but if you see that the collectivist begins with a claim to a ubiquitous scientific objectivity (as did Marx), you have grasped the essential concept. Collectivism is good because it knows; all other political orientations are ignorant. No other political system is scientific, and since science is objective, collectivist interpretations of history are accurate. The conclusion is inescapable: collectivism is the politics of the educated.
Don’t be distracted by the haughty elitism of this dogma. Yes, collectivists do tend to be scornful of their opponents, referring to them as unlettered and dim-witted (as Bill Maher said, Sarah Palin is a “stupid twat”). Let all those insults go for now; what matters is that you see why collectivism is able to influence and even control the great majority of the world’s news media. Yes, to describe the phenomenon fully, one must deal with the educational systems and their trendy self-delusions, but that is a topic for another day.
There is genuine danger here. It can be discerned in leftist support for anti-business violence in London, as well as in the thuggery of public employee unions, and it surfaces in the media’s reporting on regimes like Cuba’s. The fascism of “progressive” causes condones sins from genocide (in Cambodia; ask Noam Chomsky) to draconian repression (in every hard-core collectivist state in the world). Behind much of the agitprop of the left is a fear and hatred of Liberty, exemplified by the unwillingness to allow the individual to live and let live. Communities must be organized, which is a deceitful way of demanding that people be regimented and controlled by the state. The consequences of imposed solidarity are economically dangerous, as well. That makes “progressivism’s” assault on common sense doubly deadly.
Whistle-Blower, Honest Critic, Or Traitor?
Well. It will be fascinating to see whether a fellow like Lee Stranahan can retain his credibility with the “progressives” after blurting out the fact that the major media do practice dishonest partisan reporting.
He’s certainly atypical. Almost nobody on his end of the political spectrum has been brave enough to admit publicly that ideologically biased journalism has produced a single instance of unethical news coverage.
Note also, please, that though rightist criticism of media bias has been loud and long-lived, the news media in general have hardly noticed. Examples of bias are usually ignored. They can sometimes be explained away as people making mistakes, speaking or writing too quickly, and so on; “We are only human.” Is there a pattern in the censorship, the slanted language, the unwarranted assumptions and the selection of quotes? Never. The press is objective. Scientific, actually.
Stranahan’s candor might inspire speculation that a new breed of collectivist is emerging, namely a political creature who honestly believes in the freedom of the press, rather than in the licensing of the press. This newsletter considers that an extremely unlikely development, for collectivism is inimical to toleration (just as astronomy is dismissive of astrology, or automotive engineers do not talk about ghosts who cause brakes to fail). What may eventually happen to Stranahan will probably be analogous to the epiphanies experienced by Whittaker Chambers and Arthur Koestler.
There is some good related material here, so if journalistic ethics interests you, by all means click. While Stranahan needs the services of a good editor, he manages to get his points across, and they provide valuable insight. Then, if you want to follow up on the topic, read this post, which includes this observation: “(“Progressives”) don’t just need conservatives to be wrong; they need them to be discredited completely. They need them to be crazy and racist and evil….”
John Bolton explains why killing Gaddafi would be legitimate: it’s standard procedure to go after the enemy’s command and control section.
You “wingnuts” will enjoy this stiff, hokey video cartoon. It expresses the frustration of those who want to scream every time Obama is praised for being Obama. Everybody else will find it unfair.
The trial runs, probes and tests of the security systems continue. Muslim fanatics are studying the defenses, looking for weak points. Do not fly unless you have to!
Why has this newsletter been so negative about the Libya mess? In a nutshell, it’s an amateur operation being attempted for bad reasons and without any sensible explanations. There’s a bigger nutshell here, and it contains cogent thoughts. Then there’s this. So how about arming the rebels? No, because all we know about it is that it’s not going to go as assumed.
While this persistent anger is largely directed at the Democrats and Obama, the Republicans can’t assume that people feel good about the GOP. That’s a good thing. Remember, it was W and his party that drove the federal deficit to insane levels.
For a long time, this newsletter has been telling you that there is a sect of Iranian Muslims called The Twelvers who are insane, suicidal, and eager to see millions of Iranians die. It’s true. Everybody needs to know about these Islamist lunatics and their plans for the future, so pass the link on to your correspondents.
Yes, everything is going to hell in a handbasket, thanks to the novices and nutcases in the US administration, so why not have a laugh at the Bozos’ expense? Fortunately Brahmin John “Xmas in Cambodia” Kerry has lost none of his quirky, jerky comedic appeal.
The New Terrapin has long suggested the work of Michael Yon to its readers, and with good reason. Now Michael says this about Rolling Stone: “The magazine has deceptively attacked US Soldiers and intentionally misled readers for sake of profit and power.” Accordingly, he’s asking people to put pressure on the publication. This newsletter has dealt with one or two pieces that have appeared in Rolling, and remains negatively impressed by the editorial policy behind them. It is not a violation of the concept of a free press to withdraw your support from media that you consider dishonest, unfair and biased.
For a true “progressive,” this post must be just about the most rotten, unfair and cruel attack on Team Obama possible. For everybody else, it’s thousands of Gallus Domesticus returning to stink the place up, as is only proper.
Boy, this looks like a really cool foreign policy! So when do we invade Zimbabwe, and whack Mugabe? Come to think of it…why don’t we invade Arizona and Texas, and chop up those drug cartel thugs? First things first, right? After all, the bastards are occupying US soil and harming decent citizens! Yeah…that sort of military action would be better than some of the alternatives.
Is Alitalia really the worst airline in the world? Evidently it was in 2009, and the staff of this newsletter can affirm that it was not a good outfit to do business with twenty years earlier, so…it may not have improved in two years. What’s your experience with the company?
The Freedom of Information Act is a hideous joke. Or maybe it’s more of a hoax. Whatever you call it, it does not work. Power to the people!
Obama as the new Woodrow Wilson. It’s sickening, because Wilson was the worst president the nation ever had (according to a knowledgeable consultant to this publication). Who was elected — the candidate, or this guy who’s in the White House now?
Related: Yes, it really is that bad. They are incompetent. They are ignorant, stupid, inexperienced, incapable, deceitful incompetents. And they are running the country….
Californians: more bad news for you. So how likely are you to clean up this latest mess? — OK, then you deserve it.
The masthead includes a quote from the works of Immanuel Kant.
The staff of The New Terrapin Gazette expresses its sincere gratitude to the many people who have gifted the world with Arch Linux, Emacs, Screen, and Chromium.
Publisher: The Eagle Wing Palace of The Queen Chinee