Saturday, February 4, 2012

Priest of the Church of the All Powerful State Denies Its Existence

In a howler of an essay in today’s Sacramento Bee, former deputy editor Bill Endicott unintentionally displays in 629 words all the arrogance and myopia of the MSM and its role in the Church of the All Powerful State.

Mr. Endicott’s topic is liberal bias in the MSM—or, more accurately, his assertion that there is no such thing.  Of course, he and his fellow acolytes have been saying this ever since the “nattering nabobs of negativism” speech by Spiro Agnew in 1970.  This reaction of denial is understandable; after all, the Wizard of Oz was flustered when Toto pulled back the curtain revealing the actual nature of his mystique.

Mr. Endicott’s methods deserve similar exposure.  The ways by which the MSM delegitimizes the dissenters from the Church’s orthodoxy are fairly straightforward, and are on full display here.

First, attack a proponent of the argument you intend to stigmatize by misdirection rather than straightforward refutation.  In this piece, Mr. Endicott does this by first acknowledging Mr. Agnew’s leading role as one of the first public officials to specifically call out the MSM.  He then belittles the Vice President’s actual argument by asserting that his attacks were merely the result of personal pique against the press by President Richard Nixon.  He next decoys us away from the substantive argument when he reminds us of Mr. Agnew’s subsequent legal problems with things he did while governor of Maryland.  The message is that because the former Vice President had political ambitions and criminal problems, the point he was making with the "nattering nabobs" speech can be safely dismissed.

Nowhere does he address or rebut the actual substance of Mr. Agnew’s criticisms of the press.

Thirdly, insinuate that the charges have no substance by remarking on the effect they have on the unwashed and ignorant masses.  “GOP candidates have found press-bashing irresistible,” Mr. Endicott intones, “knowing there is no quicker way to get conservatives riled up than to tell them what they love to hear.”

Well, the charge of liberal media bias must be untrue, he infers, because “conservatives” get “riled up” by them, and we all know how inferior those conservatives are.  This is the leftwing analog of the “dog whistle of racism” that leftist commentators often claim to hear in “code words” used by Republican candidates to appeal to the presumed unrepentant racist beliefs of their (white) fellow Americans.

Exactly how Mr. Endicott hears this particular dog whistle is unclear, because he offers no evidence for it.  He quotes a Mark Jurkowitz of the Pew Center for Excellence in Journalism (!), who—according to Mr. Endicott—says that “[r]unning against the elite media . . . certainly has resonance among Republican base voters.”  Neither Mr. Endicott nor Mr. Jurkowitz offers a scintilla of evidence for either of their assertions.

Of course, why should they?  They and their fellow acolytes have set the tone for the MSM since the days of the three major networks, living in the New York/Washington-based echo chamber epitomized by Pauline Kael's apochryphal surprise at Richard Nixon's election to the presidency.  "How could that have happened," she was supposed to have said.  "No one I know voted for him."

So, there it is.  Eviscerate the criticism by labeling it political, adding in any ad hominem matters you can find, and ridiculing those who agree for doing so in a sheep-like or Pavlovian manner.

Fast forward 42 years to Newt Gingrich’s campaign and his verbal slap against CNN’s John King in one of the South Carolina “debates.”  In his first question to Mr. Gingrich, Mr. Endicott says that Mr. King “merely offered Gingrich a chance to respond to a charge by one of his former wives that he wanted an open marriage.”

Oh, the protestations of innocence!  Mr. King was just doing his job, and the “self-righteous” Mr. Gingrich pounced on him as though a latter-day Spiro Agnew.

So Mr. Endicott reprises his undermining of Mr. Agnew’s earlier attacks on the press by repeating the implication that the argument has no accuracy because Mr. Gingrich “brought the audience to its feet” as it “roared its approval.”  The unwashed hillbillies of South Carolina fell easily for what Mr. Endicott is telling us is a bogus criticism of the MSM.

How does he know this?  “Evidently,” he says without any, you know, evidence, the audience believed “it is OK to commit adultery as long as nobody asks you about it. So much for family values.”

In only nine paragraphs, Mr. Endicott has offered us a complete primer in how the MSM acts as the Church of the All Powerful State’s Mutaween.  Instead of the whips and prods employed by the Saudi religious police, the MSM uses ridicule, guilt by association, and faux logic against its enemies.

Look, this is humdrum stuff, repeated thousands of times a day in all available media.  Why, the Recovering Bureaucrat has friends on Facebook who can do the trick in a single sentence.  But it’s the very banality of this offhand method of dismissing the arguments of their enemies that makes it particularly pernicious.

Oftentimes the purveyors of this method of attack give themselves away.  Since they give no credence to their opponents, they are impervious to contrary points of view.  This generates arrogance, which can lead them to reveal their own myopia and ignorance.

Let’s let Mr. Endicott do himself in.

Not content to leave the argument with Mr. Gingrich’s South Carolina red meat tossing, Mr. Endicott compounds the hilarity by asserting—again without a scintilla of evidence—that “[s]trangely enough, you rarely hear Democratic candidates and/or their allies bashing ‘the conservative media.’”

Perhaps Mr. Endicott doesn’t think of President Obama as a “Democratic candidate,” but, gosh, he has been attacking Fox News for most of his administration.  His allies in media outlets such as the Huffington Post and Slate, and major leftist bloggers like Josh Marshall, Andrew Sullivan, and Dahlia Lithwick are constantly reminding us of the depravity of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, and even poor Professor Reynolds. 

So, unless Mr. Endicott reads only the Bee (and ignores the scribblings regularly published there by Eugene Robinson, Paul Krugman, and other leftwing columnists only too happy to take on “the conservative media”) the RB has to conclude that Mr. Endicott is either ignorant or mendacious.

And isn’t that exactly what he thinks of Mr. Agnew, Mr. Gingrich, and those unwashed conservatives who eat up attacks on the MSM with a big spoon?

Mr. Endicott finishes giving the game away with this curious assertion:
There are always studies being done to determine media bias, but the ones that usually come down the hardest on the idea of a "liberal media" usually come from conservative-leaning think tanks and academicians.. 
One such study at UCLA a few years ago determined there was a "strong liberal bias," and it got widespread attention. But it failed to point out that the study was done by former fellows of a conservative think tank and writers for a right-wing magazine, the American Spectator.

The findings were subsequently labeled by other analysts as "next to useless."
One searches these three paragraphs in vain for any substantiation that “studies” proving a liberal media bias “usually come from conservative-leaning think tanks and academicians.” On the other hand, his cavalier and unbacked assertions could just lead careless readers to assume that the “other analysts” who found one such study “next to useless” might have been from some liberal-leaning think tank or academician.

Funny, Mr. Endicott nowhere mentions the recently-released study by “scientists” at the Brock University in Ontario concluding that “people who score low on I.Q. tests in childhood are more likely to develop prejudiced beliefs and socially conservative politics in adulthood.”

Perhaps because of its ghastly echoes of the Progressives’ earlier obsessions with eugenics, Mr. Endicott has chosen to shy away from such deterministic nonsense.  Unfortunately, his leftist allies have not, perhaps because it fits so nicely with the MSM narrative and methods of delegitimizing dissenters.  Doesn’t it help the cause to have science "prove" that the Church of the All Powerful State has been right all along?
But publicly endorsing the conclusions of the study solipsistically refutes the pretense of Mr. Endicott’s column that the notions of liberal media bias are merely the products of ignorance and prejudice.

Ah, perhaps Mr. Endicott is wilier than the RB is willing to credit him.


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  2. Love the link to "Liberal Bias." It's a one-trick pony whose point is soon made, but you gotta give its authors credit for trying. Thanks!