Today’s Thoughts, Feb. 3, 2014: Journalism in America

What happened to journalism that actually challenged – or even questioned – authority? You know, looked into things – and (as the slogan of a big-time paper styles it) exposed wrongdoing to the world without fear or favor? When did journalists become the leashed Shih Tzus of the powers that be, barking ferociously at times but never or very rarely at anything that really matters?

I can speak to this – as a guy who did work within the system as a writer/editor (and who personally knows people who still do).

There is no written code one must follow to get hired – and to avoid getting fired – as a journalist in America. However, there is a very clear sub rosa understanding as regards the opinions one must possess (or not express) which results in a startling – almost Stalinist – degree of political orthodoxy at major papers, TV networks, magazines and so on.

The independent thinker is not wanted – and the independent actor will quickly find himself unemployed and/or unemployable.

The media is also extremely insular and controlled. There are very few independent newspapers, for instance. Most of the medium-sized (and small) city/local papers are just shells. They are either owned by a national media conglomerate (e.g., Gannett) or they obtain most of their “copy” from “the wire” – the AP – and produce very little of their own, independent copy. The editors at these smaller papers simply pluck the stories – invariably the same stories, written by a handful of writers – and place them on the page. Hence the startling uniformity of the stories (and the opinions expressed). It is just like McDonad’s. A Quarter Pounder With Cheese in Seattle tastes pretty much exactly like a Quarter Pounder With Cheese in Pittsburgh.

Keep in mind, also, that most young journalists are the product of government schools – and of a society dominated by government/corporate conditioning, most of all in non-thinking. To react by rote. To be “one of the boys.” To laugh breezily at the right jokes and banter. To evince disapproval of that which you are expected to disapprove of.

In other words, to be a vapid, inoffensive chucklehead.

I personally saw what happens to people who are heterodox in their opinions – and dared to not care. I saw them – the wire pullers – destroy the careers of two exceptional writers and thinkers: Joe Sobran and Sam Francis. Joe for his questioning of slavish, Israel uber alles politics; Sam for his politically incorrect writings on race. Both had syndication deals, regular columns in major papers and magazines (Joe at National Review). Then, like someone turned off a light in a room, virtually no major publication carried their columns any longer. In short order they were reduced to poverty – and professional obscurity. Both died not long thereafter.

A lesson to others.

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