Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Journolist: Much Ado About Not Much

Recently, The Daily Caller exposed a number of outrageous comments made by Progressives on Journolist, revealing their attempts to influence events thru slanting the news.

As a member in good standing of the vast right-wing conspiracy, I'd really like to share the outrage. Sadly, I can't. It's too much about not much, and nothing that's in any way new or surprising.

Sure, some of the Journolisters are thuggish, even ghoulish. Sarah Spitz pined for Rush Limbaugh's rush to the hospital to signal a massive heart attack. She was hoping to have the pleasure of watching his eyes bug out. (After getting caught she issued a non-apology apology.) This is news? Comments like that are a dime a gross on Huffington Post.

And, yes, some of them do work for news outlets and are in a position — however weak — to influence public opinion. But this, too, is hardly new or significant. As Jonah Goldberg points out, the New York Times was burying news of Stalin's murderous escapades (when they weren't busy rationalizing them) as far back as the '30s. That the mainstream media did everything possible to underplay Obama's relationship to Rev. Wright is hardly revelatory.

As Goldberg puts it,

JournoList is a symptom, not the disease. And the disease is not a secret conspiracy but something more like the “open conspiracy” H. G. Wells fantasized about, where the smartest, best people at every institution make their progressive vision for the world their top priority.
Beyond the issue of outrage over vicious comments, there's something more important. I don't really care much one way or the other about the angry rantings of Progressives. I was never in any doubt that — were I not completely unknown to them — they would hate me as much as I loathe them. What I do care about is their ideas and their capacity to shape public opinion.

So far, judging by the available evidence, most of those making the most outrageous statements are super small potatoes in that respect. I'm much more worried about calm Cass Sunstein, in or out of public office, than I'm ever likely to be about hysterical Spencer Ackerman. Moreover, even those with a big platform — like Ezra Klein (founder of Journolist and blogger at WaPo) — are not perceived by anybody on any point of the political compass as unbiased.

It's not chiefly a question of lying or even consciously slanting the truth, though there's plenty of that afoot. After decades of postmodernism's influence, most people with Klein's views are 'convinced' there's no such thing.

I put "convinced" in scare quotes because, strictly speaking, that would imply a process of reasoning. I've long known that Progressives aren't attempting that. Reasoning requires attending to evidence and using logic not to support a preconceived conclusion but to glean the truth. That effort is explicitly contrary to their postmodern code, since it holds there's no such thing as "the truth."

In parallel, it requires an allegiance to objectivity, a concept just about everybody on the compass poo-poos today, like achieving it were as hopeless as Oprah maintaining a steady diet. Most intellectuals these days have swallowed whole postmodernism's view that objectivity is one of those useless old-fashioned ideas, as outdated as an ear horn for the near deaf.

So, if everyone already knows and agrees that nearly all journalists are biased — whether through our recognizing it or their flaunting it — what is the big deal this time around? Forewarned is forearmed.

At the same time, it's hardly a surprise that Progressives will attempt to influence public policy in a Progressive direction. After all, everyone is feverishly attempting to influence public policy in their desired direction (including me). That's the inevitable result of living in a semi-free welfare state. When the Federal government has so much power to direct the income and lives of the citizens, a perpetual clash of interests is unavoidable.

That clash is naturally made worse by the presence of individuals who believe in "positive rights," i.e. robbing Peter to provide Paul with a bandage, a meal, or an all-expense paid vacation to Hawaii to combat his depression over Rush Limbaugh's Arbitron ratings.

But in all this there is absolutely nothing new or surprising. It's been going on with increasing ferocity and destructiveness for a hundred years and led by the same type of thugs then as now. The older generations just combed their hair more neatly.

This latest dustup is akin to those who get worked up over million-dollar Congressional earmarks traded in backrooms when the Feds are spending billions in the open for agriculture subsidies. The shady deals are symbolic of real evil (which largely explains the widespread outrage), but their practical impact is trivial.

Anger over widespread and ongoing major media bias is legitimate. That bias softens the ground from under one of the pillars of a free society. But there's nothing special about this particular instance. Everybody who's been paying attention already knows all this about Progressive journalists (i.e. most of them). Those who haven't aren't going to care.

So, much as I would enjoy it, I can't join all the shouting this time around. Whispering "caveat emptor" is about as excited as I can get on this one.

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