'Progressive' Journalists and State Power

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At the end
of the movie Animal
House
, a band tries unsuccessfully to march through a brick
wall at the end of an alley. This is supposed to be a scene which
reflects the absolute absurdity of the film, but it also unwittingly
presents a picture of the modern "Progressive" mindset:
the state can do anything as long as it has enough authority.

Such actions,
of course, reflect Einstein's alleged definition of insanity (repeat
an action over and over again while expecting different results),
yet that irony is lost at the present time, especially in the world
of modern journalism. People are forever diagnosing the mainstream
media as either having a "liberal" bias or engaging in
coverage that lacks "objectivity." The answer to such
issues, unfortunately, seems to be to engage in more insanity. Let
me explain.

In a
recent column, Glenn Greenwald
decries what he sees as a "merger"
of journalists and the state, and I agree with his sentiments wholeheartedly.
Greenwald is one of the few journalists out there who is not a shill
for particular politicians or the Democratic Party, despite the
fact that his political views definitely are left-of-center.

Yet, for all
of his excellent insights, I'm afraid that even the great Greenwald
is missing the bigger picture. The problem is not misplaced priorities
on behalf of journalists or the fact that most media outlets are
owned by corporations (which most Progressives confuse with free
markets). The problem is that modern
journalism is a relic of the Progressive Era
when state power
merged with the press to promote "American" interests.
Progressivism itself — of both the "liberal" and "conservative"
viewpoints — is the problem.

Most Americans
believe that the significant "revolution" in our nation's
history occurred from 1775 to 1781, yet the republic that emerged
following the colonial war with Great Britain no longer exists and
has not existed for at least a century. We may shoot fireworks on
July 4, but the document we supposedly celebrate — the Declaration
of Independence — is nothing more than parchment under glass and
is more irrelevant to our present lives than the old "constitution"
of the former Soviet Union.

The United
States as we know it was shaped first by what most people call the
Civil War and second by the Progressive Era of the late 1800s and
early 1900s. If there is a year when the constitutional American
republic died absolutely, it would be 1913. (Thomas
DiLorenzo
refers to the passing of the Constitutional amendments
to authorize both the income tax and direct election of U.S. Senators
as the "Revolution
of 1913
." Congress also authorized the Federal Reserve
System in that year.)

However, the
process leading to the permanent establishment of the Leviathan
State was begun long before 1913, which codified the movement that
already existed. Every "Progressive's" favorite Republican
President, Theodore Roosevelt, already had put into motion the process
in which Congress ceded its powers of lawmaking to the executive
branch, something that continues apace today.

In his utterly
statist Losing
the News
, Alex S. Jones decries the loss of daily
newspapers and suggests that what he calls the "watchdog of
government" be "rescued"
by government itself through subsidies and government regulation
,
and does so without any irony whatsoever. Yes, he calls for a "watchdog
of government" to be tied financially to the state, a relationship
that he claims will increase the "objectivity" of the
press, a view that makes sense only if one falls into the "Progressive"
camp.

It is hard
to fathom the utter nonsense of Jones' proposition, yet Jones is
typical of most mainstream journalists today. As a former newspaper
reporter, I can attest to the desire by journalists to have "access"
to those in political power and to be advocates for a certain politician
or political points of view. If there is a constant theme among
mainstream journalists, it is that state control of our lives must
increase.

If one reads
a typical newspaper or watches a news show on television, this point
almost is impossible to miss. Look at all of the journalists who
worked in the executive branch of the federal or even state governments.
(Relatively few former legislators become journalists, as lobbying
is a more lucrative career. The vast number of journalists who had
government titles worked either directly for an elected official
— i.e. Chris Matthews — or had a high-profile position as a political
appointee for a regulatory agency.)

This is not
unlike the "revolving door" between government regulators
and the firms they help regulate or between U.S.
Department of Justice antitrust division attorneys
and high-paying
private firms that specialize in antitrust litigation and defense.
The relationships are more than just symbolic, however; they highlight
the real merger between modern corporate journalism and the state.

Greenwald's
concerns deal specifically with the WikiLeaks release of classified
U.S. Government documents, but the problem is much broader than
just whether or not one thinks Julian Assange is a hero or a criminal.
Furthermore, the problem is not that many journalistic outlets are
owned by private corporations. Instead, the problem with modern
journalism is that most journalists are little more than foot soldiers
for state power, and they demand (and receive) special privileges
from the authorities.

In Losing
the News, Jones (who was an editorial supervisor of mine more
than 30 years ago) is openly disdainful of blogs and the "citizen
journalism" that has erupted on the Internet. Instead, he holds
to the academic/state view that "journalists" should be
credentialed, and that First Amendment protection should
be afforded only those who fall into that proper category.

One would think
that his would be a minority view, but it is not. As they have done
with the rest of the Constitution, Progressives have re-interpreted
the First Amendment as offering protection only to those people
who have proper journalistic credentials and who are employed by
official media outlets. Thus, as Greenwald points out, many of them
can argue that Assange really is not a journalist, so he does not
enjoy the same protections as did the New York Times after
it published the Pentagon Papers.

Read
newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post,
or watch Fox News or MSNBC, and you will see what I mean. Journalists
employed for all of these entities (with the exceptions of Judge
Andrew Napolitano and John Stossel on the Fox Business Channel)
tend to believe that "progress" occurs only with the advancement
of state power over the lives of individuals.

That is why
you will see uncritical support from these outlets of the Transportation
Security Administration's utterly-invasive "security"
measures, or why the NYT has been a consistent shill for high income
tax rates. Such things are the logical end of a Progressive ideology
that claims freedom advances only with the advancement of state
power (in the hands of the correct and properly-credentialed people,
of course).

January
4, 2011

William
L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him
mail
], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland,
and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig
von Mises Institute
. He
also is a consultant with American Economic Services. Visit
his blog.

The
Best of William Anderson

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