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Princes Kept the View

It’s in the name of equity and inclusion that American nobility is reinstituting a caste system. How you gonna’ save the world if you can’t look down on guys who turn wrenches, shift gears in semis, raise roofs and keep everybody from freezing to death?

A PR knighthood known as Unfake News is charged with the tasks of canonization, hagiography, sycophancy, sanctimony and the gushing phony emotion necessary to keep uppity ingrates in their places. The 4th Estate’s own placement in the hierarchy has mysteriously climbed from the gin mill to the penthouse in the process.

From way up there they don’t hear or see what’s going on down at street level all too well. Whatever that little man they view through a telescope is saying sounds like lese-majeste —or worse– from high elevations.

Giving the masses any say-so over newsy priorities would fog up pince-nez, induce elite heart palpitation, upend the Cristal and generally wreak havoc during otherwise placid high-brow soirees. The suggestion of giving ear to peasant plaints was tossed around recently during an exclusive function at the South Hampton estate of matriarch Phyllis Pruitt. The cigarette holder dropped from her mouth. “Gadzooks,” the hostess erupted, “not in front of the help!”

You might expect the swells to rely on cops to keep the rabble at bay with tensions amped up to levels we’ve reached nowadays. But the powers that be won’t be caught winking at the maxim of Inspector Alexander Williams. He’s the NYPD constable who told us: “There is more law at the end of a policeman’s nightstick than in a decision of the Supreme Court” in the post-Civil war era. However clueless ruling class minions sound over the airwaves — the keepers feeding them are never that transparent. Turmoil on Main Street, they’ve ruled, keeps the maid, the butler and the chauffeur at beck and call in luxurious lairs. The pecking order in manorial estates is a vital element in the sacrificial crusade to unshackle the oppressed.

The ebb in crime rates that lasted a quarter century is suddenly a threat to the goals of utopians everywhere. What was ignored as violence abated — and before that — proves awkward to news manufacturers if we peruse the record. Inconsistencies, abrupt editorial U-turns and trendy compliance with emotional tides are evident. Our informers are quite capable of turning a rigidly un-Samaritanical blind eye when it’s hiply convenient — but the details keep oozing back out of the memory hole.  Should anyone believe that altruistic motives are behind the new improved media focus on law enforcement?

When it comes to agents of the state placing cavalier valuation on human life our professional informers might have some splainin’ to do. There’s no doubt that the communication revolution has put the matter before us in ways never possible only 20 years ago. But don’t reporters, social scientists and concerned academicians claim to man the watchtowers? Where were they then? Are we to believe police unaccountability and extra-legal treatment in confronting the public are recent developments?

A mass media that has always found some victims of unwarranted violence more worthy of coverage — whether at the hands of credentialed reps of government or other violent criminals— than others, provides convincing evidence of a caste system in place. Just who is, and is not, given front page memorials in daily copy shifts with popular passion. The literary shiftlessness of the literati doesn’t account for the hairpin turns in editorial precedence entirely.

No camera filmed the murder of Donald Scott. But he was — without any doubt — a privileged white man. It didn’t save him from the deadly consequences of deranged statist priorities 30 years ago. The cops, and agents of Federal government, who executed him never went into the dock. They publicly made the claim — contrary to all evidence physical or testimonial — that the victim was fully deserving of his fate. Major media of the time did not make a national cause célèbre out of the matter. Yet, there is no dispute from any quarter — other than that of those who slaughtered the poor rich guy — that Scott lost his life through a coordinated government plot to steal his land.

That execution transpired between the Ruby Ridge and Waco incidents. If the three together, inside the space of less than one year, didn’t raise press room blood temperatures to the boiling point, what could? Would that have taken the inclusion of a few racial minorities, women and children as victims? If so, the harvest list at Mt. Carmel ought to have made the cut.

It’s hard to understand how the death of George Floyd could etch deeper into the national consciousness than the 1985 bombing of MOVE ever did. What was, and is, the media’s responsibility in the state of overall public awareness? If they were ever remiss was it all due to the bad old pre-woke days of prevailing racism? Or, has a lack of journalistic standards, combined with erratic prioritizing and scatterbrained perspective, always ruled in the executive suites of dailies and broadcasters?

MOVE was a kind of urban back-to-nature organization populated mostly by black Philadelphians. It was founded by the reportedly brilliant, but barely literate, John Africa born Vincent Leaphart in 1931. Wilson Goode, the black mayor who was his nemesis, later went on to a doctorate in theology. MOVE headquarters was bombed — killing 5 children and 6 adults — on May 13, 1985 at the behest of Goode. The conflagration also took down over 60 homes before it burnt out — none the abodes of Philly high-society — as if that were necessary to tell anyone.

The group was heavily armed and refusing an eviction order. Whatever the case, using explosives to evacuate a building with 6 kids in it — Birdie Africa made it out alive — hardly sounds like a police tactic that qualifies as civilized or legal. Furthermore, there’s little reason to believe that evacuation was ever the plan.

Once the explosion erupted in fire, neighbors — none of whom was friend or supporter of MOVE — testified that police fired on occupants who tried to escape. Cops, who denied discharging weapons at evacuees to the investigatory commission, confirmed that once outside some MOVE members retreated back to the building. Reverend Paul Washington, a panel member who served on the investigatory commission, asked — far too diplomatically for my taste — why a person would return to a burning structure they were fleeing? Police witnesses gave no intelligible responses. Major media barely even noticed. It seems we usually have to rely on those outside the journalistic profession to ask authority figures sensible questions.

More than two years after the Branch Davidians’ Mt. Carmel complex was consumed in flame former ATF director Steve Higgins placed an op-ed in the Washington Post. The essay, titled “Why The ATF Had To Act,” makes a number of claims without attributing the sources. In the ninth paragraph it says: “A former resident of the compound later told government officials, again according to Justice, that Koresh wanted to force an armed confrontation with ATF…” Presumably, editors and much of the Post staff read the article.

Does the likelihood of “armed confrontation” strike anyone as a responsible rationale for a daylight assault, with roughly company strength, on a dwelling with a majority of women and children in it? If your kids, nieces or nephews were in there would that be an option you’d be keen on? Why bring 70 some well armed men if not prepared for live fire and hand to hand combat? The timing of the warrant service, early Sunday morning, maximized the number of vulnerable, defenseless potential victims on hand. It took the imagination of a psychopath not to find a more opportune moment — assuming they sought one.

Appropriations hearings were less than a week off at the time. Could that have played a part in giving go ahead for what was called “Operation Showtime”? The ATF has always been the Rodney Dangerfield of federal law enforcement bureaus. Their brass had no intention of arriving at the budget hearing empty handed. Did it prevail over concern for human life in the motivation for why “the ATF had to act.” That detail received no lack of emphasis in the kind’s websites, and news sources of the time, mainstream journalists like to allude to as “fake.” Establishment organs, when they noticed it at all, treated the factoid as a troubling distraction. Does any thinking individual find it not to be the crux of the problem?

What makes it that much the worse is that so-called tactical raids became all the rage in law enforcement immediately post Waco. Notice of the trend by major media was somnambulistic.

Did editors and news producers doubt that demographic minorities of the population tended to be on the receiving end of this kind of LEO attention?  Why weren’t the professionals at covering events, who claim to care so much it hurts these days, on it then? Why are the amateurs faking it the only ones ever ahead of the curve?

When we look at disparities meting out “justice” where is the memory of those ordained in the priesthood of official media? We didn’t see the video of Daniel Shaver’s head exploding into more shards than JFK’s until after his assassin was “exonerated.” And even then the media attention window was a short one. Shaver never resisted police demands — he was desperate to comply with them. Meanwhile, as Derek Chauvin may die in prison — Phillip Brailsford — who killed Shaver very intentionally — will receive $600 a week for the rest of his days from taxpayers. Where is the appropriate bleeding heart outrage over that? Brailsford is free to seek any kind of employment for further compensation he desires.

Barely anyone knows of the police killing of John T. Williams who was innocently carving a piece of wood walking down a Seattle street in 2010. Officer Ian Burk, rooting out threats in the dearth of them, went after the partially deaf man for his danger to timber. What rational explanation is there for Birk ever leaving his patrol car? Still, it was “controversial” that Ma’khia Bryant was shot in spite of conclusive video evidence she was in the final motion — less than one second away — of a potentially fatal stabbing. The child appeared to be aware of police presence at the time, as well.

Numerous other videos of various people, who were fatally shot — running the full gamut of ethnic description — holding knives in far less threatening manners, if “threatening” at all, are available on YouTube. They never got more than momentary consideration in national discourse. Although, in the informing industry’s defense, Bryant’s shooting was not universally held by conventional news sources as avoidable.

We are not dealing here with any supposed ideological turf wars between factions dubbed “woke” or “alt-right.” It’s a matter of the value of literal description in understanding of reality. If we don’t get that as right as we can the national conversation plunges headlong into the emotional abyss. Its only value is in stirring mobs to irrational action. If you think you’re telling the truth when actually mauling it or concealing parts of it ideology is irrelevant. Without the hard-edged, dispassionate details public action serves the demands of propagandists.

Will the “real” media ever play catch up regarding people knelt upon fatally by the cops before George Floyd? Or, must victims check all the right caste boxes to qualify for limelight? There’s no shortage of examples with enormous disparities between the amounts of ink, airtime and electrons they receive. Major media has the resources but makes no effort to archive these events for public examination, nor sort through the history of editorial priorities and put them in perspective. They leave the task to the disreputable “alt” media. Do the A-list informers prefer hostile vigilantes to an informed audience?

There isn’t any doubt that people suffer at the hands of government, media, majority attitudes, common prejudice, mass hysteria and the general tilt of perception. So it is damned crucial to get the tilt of perception into a realm that has a healthy relationship with what we know to be true. Do we have any confidence that organs claiming the responsibility of informing us are about that task? What’s deemed newsworthy turns into a teeming trend with more suddenness than any fashion craze—while the actual nature of what’s covered is rarely anything remotely new.

By the 1970’s the revelation of NYPD corruption was reported worldwide. Was it a recent development at the time? If not, didn’t writers for the cities many dailies have experience with so widespread a problem? They ate in restaurants, rode cabs and frequented the numerous small businesses known to be shaken down by cops. The common people of Gotham routinely hid the personal effects of dead relatives before calling authorities — rightwing media savage Michael Savage tells us that — so the public was clued in. Why did it take the revelations of David Durk, Frank Serpico, Harry Winters and others to finally bring the situation into public discussion? The plague had been rampant since prohibition, at a minimum. Anybody who went out in the outgoing town of New York was either onto rampant police corruption for decades or certainly unqualified to keep readers up to speed about anything.

At the risk of contradicting the pop psychologists — media competence is inverse to its self-esteem. Reporters have a long history of tumultuous relationship with the heat — while both journalists and law enforcers are always experiencing some kind of identity crisis. One day we get a story about how the martyrs in blue somehow “survive” PTSD (which is the excuse for Brailsford’s pension btw). The next they are described as sadistic public zookeepers poking at victims with sticks in their cages. Meanwhile, the people making claims on the legacy of roll-with-the-punches by-liners such as Harry ScovelNellie BlyErnie PyleIda B. WellsMargaret Bourke WhiteMarie ColvinAnna Politkovskaya, and others like them, fear for their lives when politicians aren’t polite to them. Journalists who find themselves victimized by “weaponized” words on a page become the story themselves. Laughing at them is deemed a violent offense.

By the early 20th century a new kind of columnist was coming off the academic assembly line. Walter Lippmann was the prototype. This is far from saying that the modern news corps is staffed by writers who’d qualify as his peers. He was a rhetorical force practically unknown in print today, who, for the most part, fiercely resisted resort to exaggeration. The man’s maligners — there’s lots of them — grossly overstate his capacity to look down on the common man — although he couldn’t resist on occasion. A particularly ungenerous obituary from an organ of his alma mater, The Harvard Crimson, said this in 1974:

“But all these things involve an attempt to learn from and about the news of the day and to report on it–not an imparting of wisdom from Olympian heights to those mired in the news’s reality. The inadequacy of Lippmann’s call for making journalism one of the “liberal professions”–presumably a special estate with responsibilities and privileges all its own, instead of a group of workers doing a job like everyone else–suggests the inadequacies of his own journalism: its elitism, its detachment, its effort to teach people a philosophy not inherent in their lives instead of to let them know what is going on around them. And the praise people like Reston lavished on Lippmann for precisely these qualities–in preference to such things as the ingrained skepticism that kept Lippmann an opponent of McCarthyism or the Vietnam War–speaks sadly, but eloquently, for the state of the American press.”

Would we hear anything like this from The Crimson if Lippmann had died last week? It’s always a mistake to conclude we gained little or nothing from hippie era enlightenment. While no less of an error to conclude they got it all right.

The problem with the Lippmannites — far more prevalent in them than Lippmann himself — is the lack of real worldliness so vibrant in the rough and tumble class of bohemian writers that preceded him.

Stephen Crane was born 18 years before Walter Lippmann. America’s first literary realist came from a privileged, conventional background like Lippmann did — but parted ways with it at an early age — that he did not live far beyond. He treated formal education more like an annoyance and opportunity to play catcher on the team than an academic competition. The author of Maggie: A Girl of the Streets    pursued his craft from far below Olympian heights. The 14th child of a renowned preacher snubbed the mores of Victorian society without looking back. The anemic, sickly athlete frequented brothels, grimy dives, opium dens and shady company for literary purposes…not to rule out possible others. He was a frail man in constant need of medical attention who kept sticking his neck out instead.

Crane had much firsthand experience with the NYPD. Whether for in depth research or different motives he was in the company of known prostitute Dora Clark and two Bowery showgirls September 16, 1896. While the writer was momentarily across the street, plainclothesman Charles Becker took Clark into custody on a soliciting charge—possibly false — Crane later testified in her defense. She got off. The author had been nationally famous for nearly a year by then. Coming to the side of a woman who got picked up plying her trade four times in one month, at a time Victoria was still on the throne of England, obviously had a controversial impact on his reputation. It didn’t improve his relationship with the NYPD either. Things got worse when Clark took Crane’s advice and sued Lieutenant Becker.  She lost but that fact did not leave Becker’s colleagues feeling indifferent to Crane in their presence.

You don’t need to be a historian of the underside of 19th century New York, like Luke Sante, to understand why Crane soon skipped town. Charles Becker, a close personal friend of Inspector Alexander Williams incidentally, later became even more notorious when convicted and executed as the influence behind the murder of Herman Rosenthal in 1915. Dispute remains over his guilt but nobody defending the man has ever claimed he was anywhere close to the up and up. Anything other than a badged NYC predator is a description he never came close to denying himself.

Lippmann would be seen as a gentleman going by 20th century American standards. That kind of deportment did not put him closer to the realities of urban streets. He was far more versant in the abstractions of foreign policy. Lading that vessel of American exceptionalism down with lofty, vague, ten-dollar words is one reason it’s frequently not seaworthy.

Once upon a time American journalism was the domain of scribes better at sinking the nine-ball than picking the right club on a fairway. Good ones were streetwise and not easily taken in by common hustlers. Some of them had once been on the thieving side of the con themselves. By the 20th century publishers began hosing these rogues down and putting dry-cleaned suits on them. They had moved on up to the establishment…while supposedly continuing to keep an eye on it. Some of them still did. Others, like Lippmann, were drawn in to the abstract realm envisioned by Herbert Croly. It blurred once clear distinctions. There was only one side, the supposed human side, and streetwise skepticism was unwelcome.

The risks of such enlightened views did not remain beneath the surface long. Walter Lippmann was soon recruited into what became the biggest betrayal of journalistic fidelity to unbiased coverage of government in US history. He advised the Wilson administration on means to gin up support for WWI. He later criticized the extremes federal government deployed — but it was too late — the man had already advocated collusion between government, Wall Street and the press in molding public opinion. Literal description in American dailies has never recovered.

There has never been a “golden age” of “American” or any other brand of journalism. Seizing the day in words is the roughest of the fine arts. That fact doesn’t give anyone practicing in the field license to abandon literal or scientific standards when and where they apply. Editors do that, in theory, at their peril. As things stand now, what’s in peril is the understanding of readers, and anyone contradicting “establishment” media with well founded details.

There are individuals who have excelled at this rough art. That hardly means Walter Cronkite ending his delivery with “and that’s the way it is” wasn’t problematic. Whatever you think of Cronkite, it’s still a mighty bumptious assertion. It doesn’t matter if it comes from a CBS desk or Mussolini’s balcony. There are troves of information — including stuff that Cronkite could have got his paws on — that belie much of what was reported between WWII and Reagan’s administration. Cronkite was generally on the square but never dug deeply enough.

If college, coats and ties would have brought about upgrades in journalistic literary standards who’d be complaining? But is that what consumers get? Completely unfounded assertions, easily impeached upon examination, aren’t only in op-ed, “review” or “outlook” sections — they fly off the front page. We are told that the miscreants abhor “science” while the simplest literal truths aren’t even attempted, much less established, in what passes today as “news copy.”

Industrial giants of news generation have generally abandoned the term “fake news” they were so keen on circa 2016. But the NYT, WP, LAT and their kindred are still placing stories about “misinformation,” “reality,” commonly accepted myths and the lack of a baseline of truth—that was once purported to be common currency in American conversation. They are always vague about when that actually was. We continually hear about “standards” and “scientific method” only being applied by sources from the “reality” based community — that’s the one yoked to Wall Street, elite academia and tech leviathans FYI.

To demonstrate how fantastic these claims are look at coverage of racial disparities in police killings for a minute. When is the slightest academic rigor ever displayed? Any honest examination of this subject would start with keeping the audience apprised of basic hard numbers. How often do the figures, much less a demographic breakdown of the figures, actually surface in reports and discussions? Or the violent crime rate in affected demographics? People, including some elected officials, speak of thousands of blacks killed per year by police. The entire matter has been covered anecdotally, with rare exceptions, for roughly a decade in mainstream media. When did any mainstream source report that over twice as many whites were victims of trans-racial homicide the year Trayvon Martin was killed? Delving deeper into the stats would confront rafts of wild claims that are incessant from every source in the “reality” based community.

Novelist James T. Farrell said “A sociologist is someone who needs a $20,000 research grant to find a whorehouse.” Putting the befuddled profs Farell describes on air packaged as “experts,” or inserting them in lines of copy, is as close as “accredited,” “reputable” American journalism can get to the streets. But, street wisdom is far from the only place they come up short.

Reza Aslan was put up against a CNN panel a few years back to set the world straight on the subject of Islam. Early on the matter of female genital mutilation came up. Aslan insisted it was not an “Islamic” problem but an “African” problem, scolding the ignorant panel with an air of smug superiority. Next Reza began on the enlightened areas with minarets—Turkey, Pakistan, Indonesia et al. Particular focus was directed at the most populous Islamic country, Indonesia. No one asked about FGM when that “enlightened” nation came up. A producer or fact checker could have turned up the fact that WHO places Indonesia as third highest in FGM prevalence worldwide—at over 50% of the female Islamic community there—with a Google search taking less than 30 seconds. Hence—in hard numbers—Indonesia has the largest number of genitally mutilated women on the planet. CNN, going by anything since, is still unaware.

A development from the past that elite forces in journalism seem to be afraid of, without the erudition to recognize it, is the resurgence of a voice like Westbrook Pegler’s. He was, absolutely, a man with an axe to grind. But he sold newspapers. The man’s perspective was bizarre, unruly, vindictive and frequently ridiculous. Readers weren’t taken in. His selling point was prose of a quality rarely matched in 20th century American dailies and unmatched in the 21st. People loved reading him — but weren’t fooled. There is little evidence his views ever held substantial sway with the public or effected elections. The Roosevelts’ still hated the man…but didn’t dare suggest silencing him out loud. Publishers would gladly Peglerize today if they could find a writer capable…and compliant. Without one they are settling for compliant. It doesn’t make for great copy.

A publisher somewhere along the line told Pegler: “The congregation doesn’t want to be saved every Sunday.” His career was on the fade by that time. Scribes in pulpits today are every bit as hell-bent as Pegler with none of the color. They seem to think the daily news is supposed to be a dull, superficial, scolding ordeal that the squirming sinner must endure from his pew. They have no real desire to save the lost flock. What would replace them as targets of vitriol?

Back in the 17th century English Protestants were so scared of the Catholics they were willing to believe Titus Oates. It’d be worthwhile finding out how many in the 4th estate today know that story of fake news. Alexander Pope, the greatest English poet of his age and most others, arrived on the scene in the wake of Oates’ smears of Catholics. In that paranoid time Pope’s Popish faith barred him from admission to places of higher learning. He became a dreaded autodidact. These are among his most quoted lines:

A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.

If you want to know you can find out more, if you already know you can find out nothing. Whatever they are teaching at the alma mater that gave us Walter Lippmann right now…it’s a good bet there’s a lot he would not be keen on. When grads come out knowing all there is to know – and granted access to every coveted position in society that exists – it’s a story the anti-fake-news religion fails to give much coverage.

A classic example of what is widely accepted as definitive by some even now was covered by Walter Lippmann almost a century ago. In the 1920’s people like Lothrop Stoddard were using data gleaned from Army IQ tests to categorize their teeming hordes of inferiors.

Lippmann pointed out very carefully how tendentiously the argument is applied using inductive reasoning. What, is asked, does the test measure and what does it miss? And, why should anyone accept the broad conclusions wrung from the results? He literally examines how the idea of “IQ” can be misleading as well as how easily bulk data is misinterpreted. Carefully asking “why should we believe” the average American has the mentality of a 14-year-old, he topples delusions of superiority line by line. The kind of precision applied taking on the findings of people like Lewis TermanCharles DavenportRobert Yerkes and Henry Goddard is rarely in the content of supposedly respectable literature these days. Somebody dragging letters behind his name hath said it. Woe to ye who come back, “hold on there a minute” and follow through with pointed questions.

Lippmann was a layman in the field of psychometrics he was up against. A first generation of “experts” in the new discipline had handed down an indictment of mass imbecility. It was probably welcome news in the festive halls of Long Island mansions. All the best people downing liquid contraband during prohibition could never get quite enough confirmation of their exaggerated self-regard. Where would a survey examining the firmly held convictions of 1922’s smart set place them on a scale of brainiacs in 2022?

In the meantime, challenging the wildest, most unfounded claims coming from authority figures today is branded by the legacy media as evidence of paranoid conspiracy theory, threats to democracy and the taint of white supremacy.

I am no champion of Lippmannism, but the man went to great lengths getting things right. And failing to credit him for it is getting things wrong. Lippmann didn’t dismiss psychology outright, but warned practitioners in the field of running with the pack.

“And in the meantime the psychologists will save themselves from the reproach of having opened up a new chance for quackery in a field where quacks breed like rabbits, and they will save themselves from the humiliation of having furnished doped evidence to the exponents of the New Snobbery.”

If a series of articles like Debunking Intelligence Experts came out this morning, the psychology industry would have the author up on charges of hate crime. The prototype of the newly entitled reporting caste also happens to be a great source on the dangers of entitlement.

In November 1919 The Basic Problem of Democracy ran in The Atlantic magazine. It is 12 pages long and covers a lot of ground. The descriptions of media strengths and inadequacies are 100% applicable to what transpires in that industry at the present moment. The conclusion is this: “No man has ever thought out an absolute or a universal ideal in politics, for the simple reason that nobody knows enough, or can know enough, to do it.” The piece goes on to say of the “average American” “the more cocksure he is, the more certainly is he the victim of some propaganda.” Yeats told us the best lack all conviction and the worst are filled with passionate intensity two years later. If you’d like to see the examples, just click onto any channel purporting to offer non-fiction coverage of daily events.