Let’s take a brief look at the reputed neutrality of the media both before and after Watergate.
It’s now universally recognized by military historians, both in America and abroad, that the Tet offensive in 1968 was the great turning point of the Viet Nam War. The Viet Cong had put aside their successful guerilla techniques and attacked the American and South Vietnamese forces in open battle. The Americans were initially caught off guard: such mass-formation fighting wasn’t the Viet Cong’s style. But once the US forces quickly recovered their balance, they demolished the Viet Cong as a viable fighting force — permanently.
How did the press report this? As an unmitigated disaster — for the United States!
Had the press really forgotten what Eisenhower said to his generals at the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge: ‘Gentlemen, we will treat this incursion as an opportunity.’ Whereupon Patton treated the Wehrmacht to an opportunity of tanks.
Meanwhile the people back home in America, like good media sheep, collectively believed the “tragic” news and thoughtfully said, “Baaa!” Even I, as a growing lamb back then, imitated my parents and bleated on cue for Walter Cronkite, premier sheep dog of “The Daily Evening Truth.” Whereupon the people elected Nixon to exit the war with as much pride as they could salvage from America’s great and shameful “defeat”!
Well, you say, you were referring to the “guardianship and neutrality” of the press after Watergate, not before. True. But after Watergate, the media became a bastion for disaffected college graduates seeking gilded careers and glittering awards like Woodward and Bernstein. In other words, the brief summer of love and the social-revolutionary hippie movement, which parasitically fed on the great ’60s capitalist economy, then collapsed in a surfeit of its own nonsense, and was replaced by a cadre of leftist journalists in the tough economy of the ’70s. These young people were now getting paid to professionally hate America’s greatness. What an upgrade from the grungy life style of street-staged hippie morality plays! And then the ’60s generation could say, “Mom. Dad. Look at my income. It’s bigger than yours! And I still despise you for your bourgeois comfortableness!”
This post-Vietnam news clique, instead of being neutral, was systematically both anti-American and quasi-socialistic in its outlook. That is, it denounced national strength as an imperialist sin, and it ridiculed national pride as the opium of the citizenry. In a dialectical inversion straight out of Orwell’s 1984, global weakness was celebrated as the world measure of America’s strength. Only in the 1980s did the realistic power pride of Thatcher in Great Britain and Reagan in the United States begin challenging that strange and still fashionable European affectation: the West’s self-destructive deconstruction ritual of national self-hatred. But not even Reagan’s restoration of America’s international standing succeeded in evicting the pink-card hippie comrades from America’s newsrooms.
Since that time, only one great political change has occurred in the news industry — or is it effectively the news ministry? The Republican press has joined the Democratic media in favoring an ever growing bloated national government: the Right for lucrative contracts, the Left for compensated lamentations. And notice how even you repeated the usual truism: that Fox News is on the right and NPR is on the left. But when I listen to these news sources on the radio, which is almost every day, I can hardly tell them apart. Indeed, given a blind test — given the news being read by newscasters I don’t know — I doubt I could distinguish Fox from NPR on the coverage of almost any event — or even issue!
In other words, the media wasn’t neutral after Watergate. Indeed, in terms of an increasingly central — not national, not federal — but central government, the media were and continue to be on the same page. That’s even if they’re on the same page for different and even ideologically opposite purposes. But as Marx would now observe as he post-dialectically apologized for all the slaughter caused in his name: ideology is always a front for power interests that can’t stand the light. For example, “Soviet world liberation” was the curtain behind which Lenin’s middle class Russian Empire worked so hard to show the old boyar aristocrats just how big Mother Russia could really be: totally global!
Now, what distinguishes Trump in this matter of “news neutrality” — which isn’t neutrality, but just unanimity of content — is his denunciation of the media. His method is to accuse it of purveying fake news. But Trump would do better to accuse the news of acting like an unregulated monopolistic utility. Such a news utility doesn’t provide “neutral” electric power good for any use. Rather it generates a particular kind of Washington power distributed for its own central command charge.
Isn’t it refreshing that when Trump suspended Obama’s presidential order “advising” America’s public schools on “correct” LGBT restroom use, Trump didn’t just issue a different moral empire edict for a new central correctness? Instead he advised the states to go deal with the matter themselves — because public bathrooms aren’t Washington’s business.
Wow! You could almost think Trump had read the Constitution. Especially the 10th Amendment!
How many politicians have done that in this country lately? Or ever? And how many citizens have read the Constitution at least once in their lives? Say, in their civics classes? Not many. But then, of course, civics isn’t taught in America today, only submissive apologetics and nation shame. And the less civil the denunciations of America, the higher the praise. And for proud recitations of abject impotence, extra credit!