Unfreedom of the Press – Pt 1
Or how to drive the mainstream media insane in a few easy steps
By Amanda S. Green
Let’s face it. Mark R. Levin is far from beloved by the MSM. Conservative, a never-Trumper turned into cheerleader for the President. Someone who loves to poke holes in the liberal agenda. Now, compounding his sins against his liberal betters (yes, I almost choked writing that) comes his latest book, Unfreedom of the Press. Let me tell you, Levin holds no punches as he attacks the liberal media.
With the release of the book two weeks ago, a number of media mavens have attacked not only Levin but the premise behind the book. That’s not unexpected. After all, he’s attacked their way of doing business and is unapologetic for it. How dare he point out a bias they try very hard to tell the rest of us isn’t there!
They claim he didn’t visit any newsroom—despite the fact he’s worked for Fox News and had his own syndicated radio show. They claim he didn’t come to them for comments. They condemn him for—gasp—using research and facts gathered by other sources, sources they often use themselves to push their own agenda. His only sin, it seems, is in failing to stick to their narrative.
Bad Levin! Bad!
Before I get to what bothers me about the book, what does Levin have to say? In the opening chapter or two he pretty much lays out the roadmap for the rest of the book. The media has strayed from its origins and no longer just reports the news but is trying to shape the way we, the reading and viewing public, not only see it but believe it.
He admits the news has never really been unbiased but he points out that, in the not-too-distant past, newsrooms at least tried for diversity. This isn’t diversity in the way we think of it today. The editors didn’t worry about what sex or color or religion their reporters happened to be. What they wanted was diversity in opinions and beliefs. They wanted conservative and liberal reporters to balance out one another.
That “diversity”, according to Levin, helped the public have more trust in the media than it does today.
In short, Levin opens the book by claiming that it isn’t attacks from President Trump or any other form of government action that is destroying the freedom of the press in our country. It is, according to Levin, actions by the press itself:
“Indeed, social activism, progressive groupthink, Democratic Party partisanship, opinion and propaganda passed off as news, the staging of pseudo-events, self-censorship, bias by omission, and outright falsehoods are too often substituting for old-fashioned, objective fact gathering and news reporting. A self-perpetuating and reinforcing mindset has replaced independent and impartial thinking. And the American people know it. Thus the credibility of the mass media has never been lower.” (Unfreedom of the Press, pg 6)
That’s not to say opinion hasn’t been present in the news before. It has from day one. After all, many of our earliest “papers” were nothing more than reporting arms for political interests. But everyone knew those were opinion pieces, meant to convince voters to support a certain candidate or issue. Today, however, we get opinion instead of facts, propaganda instead of fair reporting.
If that wasn’t enough of a slap in the faces of all those media mavens who turn purple at the very mention of Levin’s name, he makes sure they understand he isn’t their friend:
“Unlike the early patriot press, today’s newsrooms and journalists are mostly hostile to America’s founding principles, traditions, and institutions. They do not promote free speech and press freedom, despite their self-serving and self-righteous claims. Indeed, they serve as societal filters attempting to enforce uniformity of thought and social and political activism centered on the progressive ideology and agenda. Issues, events, groups, and individuals that do not fit the narrative are dismissed or diminished; those that do fit the narrative are elevated and celebrated.” (Unfreedom of the Press, pg 7)
Part of me sits here as I type this, nodding and drawing comparisons between what Levin says about the media and what we’ve been seeing in book publishing for years, especially when it comes to fiction. But that’s another post for another time.
If you want examples of what Levin is saying, look at some of the coverage from yesterday’s D-Day commemoration in France. How many of the reports started out talking about how Trump thanked those who stormed the beaches at Normandy but ended up taking swings at Trump because, well, Trump? Even in stories that should have been testimonials to the greatness of the human spirit, these so-called reporters had to editorialize and take a swipe at a man they still can’t accept sits in the Oval Office instead of Hillary Clinton.
“It seems ‘the media’ are loath to investigate or explore ‘the media.’ However, when the conduct of the media is questioned as biased, politically partisan, or otherwise irresponsible, they insist that they are of one mission: fidelity to the news and all that stems from it–protecting society from autocratic government, defending freedom of the press, and contributing to societal civility and justice. Moreover, they typically claim to pursue and report the news free from any personal or political agenda.” (Unfreedom of the Press, pp 12-13)
Ain’t it the truth?
Levin goes on in this chapter to cite a number of polls and studies about the media, going back almost half a century. What his research shows is that the general public trusts the media less now than they have in a very long time. Oh, the liberals polled distrust it but not to the degree conservatives do. The reason for that is simple: a liberal media says more what liberal voters want to hear. Those numbers were flipped when the media was more conservative.
Levin notes an interesting possible explanation for why the media is becoming ever more liberal—the ownership of our newspapers and other media outlets. Gone are the days when our major media providers were privately or locally owned. Now, many of the are owned by corporations that are not steeped in journalism. That means they are more focused on the bottom line than they are on reporting the news, much less reporting what local readership is interested in. (Again, it reminds me of what goes on it publishing, specifically in bookstores. Now you have corporate offices in faraway places telling the store in Podunk what to stock instead of stocking items of local interest.)
I could go on, and I will next week, but you get the gist of the first couple of chapters. Levin is no fan of journalism as it stands today. But, to be brutally honest, he is guilty of many of the same sins he condemns his liberal counter-parts of. In this book, he is unashamedly pushing his own political agenda just as he has with his Fox News show and his radio broadcasts. The only difference is he doesn’t make any attempt to say he is being unbiased.
As for the complaints about the book, these first chapters are a bit of a drudge to read. He spends so much time trying to give us all these different sources showing how bad journalism is today that it bogs down. Facts and figures are great, but he needs examples as well. He also needs a good editor to break the chapters into sections—with sub-heads—to make them easier to read.
However, he does point out a real problem in our country right now. A free press is necessary to help protect our Republic. But that press needs to be representative of the people, to be diverse in ideas and not to be working hand-in-hand with a single political party.
The media owners need to step back and take a good, hard look at why their readership has declined. The answers are there, if they would just take a good, hard look at themselves. But that’s not going to happen. It is much easier to blame Trump and conservatives than it is to admit they have gotten to blatant with their propaganda we all recognize it and resent the hell out of it. Since we have alternatives—blogs, podcasts, etc—we don’t have to rely on what the corporations put out. We have other ways of getting to the news without it being fed to us through a liberal viewpoint.
The danger, of course, is that the conservative media is doing the same thing all too often as the liberal media is.
There’s an answer out there, if only the media will stop and start taking a hard look at itself.
(Help Amanda drink enough to keep snarking the unbelievable twaddle that passes for deep political thought these days. We’ll collect for her liver transplant later. Hit her Pourboir jar now! – SAH)