The Huffington Post, not a website that I would generally use for news, is reporting that the “Obama administration has created and staffed a new position tucked inside their communications shop for helping coordinate rapid response to unfavorable stories and fostering and improving relations with the progressive online community.” None of this should surprise us. Politicians have always tried to control the flow of news and interpret what they couldn’t control. The Internet Age has made this more difficult.
Post-World-War-II Americans grew up with three television news sources: ABC, CBS, and NBC. For better or worse, the night-time anchors were trusted by the viewing public. Most major cities had competing print news sources. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, had the Pittsburgh Press (a six-day evening and Sunday morning paper) and the Post Gazette (a six-day morning paper). Similar to Pittsburgh, Atlanta had competing morning and evening papers — The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution. The Pittsburgh Press is no more, and Atlanta’s paper-of-record is now a combined morning paper, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A similar turn of events has happened in many big city markets. Daily news feeds on the Internet have made most newspaper irrelevant. Local and sports news is still important, however, so newspapers still survive.
Prior to Ronald Reagan, talk radio was regulated by what has been described as the “fairness doctrine” implemented in 1949 by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The regulation required that when stations presented controversial issues they had to offer a rebuttal view for balance. This was time consuming, costly, and a hassle so most stations stopped broadcasting controversial material. With little or no controversy, very few people requested an equal-time response, and radio began to lose its audience. There’s a lot of legal history subsequent to the 1949 regulation, but with the election of Reagan the fairness doctrine regulations were scrapped and talk radio as we know it was born. Liberal talk radio, because it is no longer subsidized by the fairness doctrine, can’t make it in the market place.
With deregulation, the media gatekeepers began to disappear. They no longer could control the flow of information. Real news reporting from the Left became a mission to search and destroy the opposition by a steady stream of misinformation, personal attacks, and outright lies. Truth became irrelevant and an obstacle. Socialism and Marxism, masquerading as Progressivism, had to be protected and promoted no matter what the cost. The Fourth Estate, the news media,1 aligned itself with a political agenda to promote a government-centered ideology that is destructive of true liberty and without moral restraint.
Freedom of the Press is no longer seen as a constitutional protection to expose the excesses of government but as a way to protect the media from any and all criticism no matter what is said or published. Most new-media journalists use government as a means to a particular end that they promote through the entertainment industry, selection of what news will be reported, the interpretation of the news that is reported, the suppression of contrary opinions, and the willful destruction of all opposing worldviews. David Brinkley (1920–2003), a newscaster for NBC and ABC, openly admitted, “News is what I say it is—it’s something worth knowing by my standards!”2
William Proctor, a veteran reporter and author who has worked for the New York Daily News, explains that the “[media] gospel is rooted in a kind of secular theology that purports to convey infallible social, moral, and political truth — a truth that the paper [The New York Times] fervently promotes with all the zeal of the fieriest proselytizer.”3 Proctor describes the editorial and news-gathering policy at the Times as “Manhattan Fundamentalism,” “a well-defined but also rather rigid package of viewpoints which the paper disseminates widely to influence political, social, and personal beliefs and behaviors.”4 Even the choice of a story shows bias. Marvin Olasky, editor of World magazine, writes: “Since only an omniscient God can be truly objective, man’s ‘objectivity’ is inherently biased, TIME staffers, recognizing that, increasingly emphasize subjectivity, but that’s no solution either.”5
Today’s old media survives. It appeals to an older generation who see television and their faithful newspapers as authoritative sources of news gathering. They still trust their news anchors like they trusted Walter Cronkite and Larry King. So it’s no wonder that the political left, with the help of the old media, is exploiting that trust with lies about anything that is not liberal. For example, the liberal advocacy group The Agenda Project has released an ad that shows a Paul Ryan (R–Wisconsin) lookalike pushing an elderly woman in a wheelchair off a cliff. Ryan is proposing ways to fix Medicare. The governmentalists in Congress and the media don’t like people tinkering with their programs.
If Medicare is not bankrupt now, it soon will be. If it’s not fixed soon, it will be impossible to fix in the future. Contrary to the ad, Ryan’s plan leaves Medicare as is for people 55 and older. Point of fact, the video lies, and those who put it together know it. But this doesn’t matter. The goal is to shut up the opposition and make government the answer to all our problems, even it means higher and higher taxes.
A week ago I sat down to watch Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) again. It stars Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was nominated for 11 Academy Awards. It won for Best Original Story. In 1989, the Library of Congress added the movie to the United States National Film Registry, for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” In a nutshell, the film is about corrupt politicians, the power and corruption behind corrupt politicians, and the controlled media that massages the public with news stories that keep the political gangsters in power. There’s one particular scene that reminded me of The Agenda Project wheelchair video ad and liberals in general. It comes near the end of the film as the powerbrokers behind the corrupt politicians must keep the story of corruption away from the voters. Jim Taylor, played wonderfully by Edward Arnold, the leader behind that political machine financing the political corruption, gets on the phone to his media sycophants and tells them how to spin the story to shut down Senator Smith who is trying to expose the corruption in Washington (Text below video):
I want you to keep everything Smith says or any other pro-Smith stuff coming from Washington out of our newspapers. Understand? And all the others you can line up in the state. Yeah. Those broken down opposition papers, that cockeyed crusading punch that doesn’t want to play ball with us, I want you to tie up for 24 hours. Stall their deliveries. Push them off the street. I don’t care what you do. Just bury them for 24 hours. That will give me plenty of time. You? You defend the machine. Hit this guy. O the usual thing, being criminal, blocking a relief bill, starving the people. . . . Hendricks, get the hoi polloi excited. Have them send protest letters, wires, anything you like. Buy up every minute you can get from every two-watt radio station in the state and keep them spouting against Smith. I don’t care what it costs. Pay out. Get moving! Get the whole state moving.
Sound familiar? Accuse them of starving the people and blocking a relief bill. The tactics of the Left never change. There’s still a political machine in America that supports corrupt government policies, and there are still lots of people who believe the lies of the Left. But there are fewer and fewer gate keepers that can control the flow of information. There’s still a lot of work to do. A few more Mr. Smiths wouldn’t hurt.
- The term is said to have to have been coined by Edmund Burke (1729–1797). [↩]
- David Brinkley, quoted by Edith Efron, “Why Speech on Television Is Not Rally Free,” TV Guide (April 11, 1964), 7. Quoted in Colleen Cook, All That Glitters: A News-Person Explores the World of Television (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), 32. [↩]
- William Proctor, The Gospel According to the New York Times: How the World’s Most Powerful News Organization Shapes Your Mind and Values (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2000), 11–12. [↩]
- Proctor, The Gospel According to the New York Times, 31. [↩]
- Marvin Olasky, “Progress Report: A Changing WORLD amid a subjective TIME,” World (October 14, 2006), 40. [↩]