Criticism of the Fox News Channel by the Obama Administration is neither inexplicable nor unprecedented. But the response to this flap by the press is all of that and then some. From the near-total silence of most, to the blinkered and self-righteous response of a few, the affair casts an unflattering light on the mindset and pretenses of much of the Washington press corps.
Take, for instance, Jacob Weisberg (please). Here’s a gentleman who, when not inflicting his shrill and politically marginal opinions on the three or four people who still read Newsweek, presides over Slate, an online magazine that counts, among its reporters and editors, precisely one (out of 57) who voted for John McCain in the last presidential election.
It’s with these credentials that Weisberg wrote the following on Oct. 17: “Whether the White House engages with Fox is a tactical political question. Whether we journalists do so is an ethical one. By appearing on Fox, reporters validate its propaganda values and help to undermine the role of legitimate news organizations. Respected journalists … should stop appearing on its programs.”
The very idea that “respected journalists” might advance journalistic ethics by ostracizing another media company solely because of the perspective that company brings to the news of the day — as though other news organizations were value-free vessels of the purest objectivity — is hundred-proof claptrap. That this corrosive idea is the brainchild of a journalist says much more about him, and about journalists generally, than it does about the facts at issue.
Not to put too fine a point on it, the great disconnect in our national dialogue (and the reason for the popular success of Fox News) is that the press corps, and the journalism they produce, skew center-left in a country that is overwhelmingly center-right. It is (fortunately) true, as Marxist and other leftist critics are wont to complain, that the media are to the right of them. However, the media are most assuredly not to the right of the electorate, but to the left, and that’s a problem — first for the country, and also for media companies themselves.
Still, it’s one thing to have mainstream journalists who are out of sync with, and resented by, millions of people, and another thing entirely to have journalists who are unwilling to rally around a news organization under assault by this or any White House. Worse still, of course, are those, like Weisberg, who actually join the assault and invite others to do likewise.