Your remark that Trump is causing Americans to make “inflammatory remarks about major press corporations” is interesting in a number of ways.
Let’s take a look at just one of them for now. Meanwhile I presume you mean that Trump is inflaming the Republicans. The Democrats combusted in the last election, and now they’re smoldering.
The major news media — TV, radio, newspapers — are widely accused by Republicans of being biased. The media are said to be reporting — or not reporting! — the news through Democratic Party filters: with liberal prejudice and socialist propaganda for leftist programs and governmental aggrandizement.
I think this is obvious to anyone who thoughtfully reads, watches, and hears the news in America today.
But there’s something odd about the complaint. Where in the Constitution does it say that newspapers — for example, The New York Times or The Workers Daily Rant — must be neutral?
The pertinent parts of the Constitution — and all such related laws, whether legislated in Congress or case-created in the courts — only say what the several governments, federal and state, may not do to the press. And, of course, there are laws about libel and all such other legal indiscretions the press and the media are heir to.
But nowhere is the press required to be neutral in its reporting of the news. Nor is it required to report any particular news — or any news at all! Think of the grocery store tabloids. Previously they covered alien abductions, now they concentrate on sexual tittle about famous people. “Hollywood hunk spotted in gay hot tub orgy!”
Does “The Ministry of True News” issue citations to such publications and then fine them? Of course not! Why? Because the press is free to print — or not print — any and all the news it sees fit to print.
The interesting question here and now is not historically why this is so, but why Americans have collectively come to believe that the press is a utility.
A utility — the electric company, for example — has an obligation to serve everyone in an even-handed fashion. Imagine if an electric company could choose who to connect its wires to! Silly, right? But in the past the electric industry did precisely that — until Congress legislated universal — i.e., especially rural — electrification. Meanwhile Congress is now taking a similar view of the Internet. Online access is getting to be considered a utility that every citizen needs in order to be a minimal contemporary American. You’re not required to have it if you don’t wish it. But if you don’t have Internet access because you can’t afford it, it will be provided to you free of charge or at subsided rates.
Now, is the news in this country a utility?
Notice, though, that the Postal Service does subsidize the cost of mailing newspapers and magazines to produce a well-informed American public. And the public of the American republic is, as everyone knows, well-informed.
So why do Americans universally talk as if the news is or should be a utility?
My suspicion is that during the Cold War, in order to domestically mobilize America against international communism and then globally defeat it, an informal agreement was reached between the federal government and such news corporations as the TV networks. Everyone would pull together and report the same official news — just as in World War ll.
Is that neutral? No. It’s statist. And it’s a mandatory homogenization. But is it good in war? Sure.
Nonetheless, that press consensus broke down during another war in the late 1960s when CBS and other commercial news sources began attacking the United States’ war policy in Viet Nam. The effectiveness of those attacks resulted in President Johnson not seeking re-election, and in the election of Nixon who ran on a campaign of withdrawal from Viet Nam. That Nixon implemented this policy with some persuasive bombing of North Viet Nam need not detract us here.
But now that we’re fighting another global ideological war, this time against radical Islam, you might say, “Well, then we should have another national news consensus!” And we do. But there’s an odd thing about the current consensus. The consensus is that we shouldn’t be fighting. And if we should be fighting, then we shouldn’t name the enemy. And if we do name the enemy, then we should apologize for being prejudiced. For example, today we would say after the attack on Pearl Harbor not that we were defending America at Midway, but that we were profiling Japanese traveling on aircraft carriers.
It’s not logically impossible that the media today could be right in their inverted consensus about the current global umma-empire war. But 9/11 isn’t the Tonkin Gulf. The depredations and deaths in New York, in Washington and in Pennsylvania weren’t a single bullet dink in a gunboat, and the dimple of that dink possibly even faked.
In other words, America’s yuppified hippies are now geriatrically contemplating retirement and eternity. And so for old times’ sake, their media are morally re-fighting the Vietnam War for them one more time. It’s that old summer of love again! Well, the hippies might have been justified in 1968 in love and war, if only because of the political ineptitude of the Johnson administration in micro-managing — in micro-mismanaging! — military and civil affairs. But these late winter-of-love liberals are certainly wrong now. Indeed, these gentrified hippies now seem like the war veterans they so very much love to mock as they themselves now refight old battles while taking frequent restroom breaks.
So what’s the solution to the present constitutional free-market bias of the news? Change channels! Buy a different newspaper! The falling sales will register instantly. And the falling ratings will be measured soon thereafter. And then the advertisers will go to where the audience is: to you. Money is a great corrective to the political distortions of the marketplace of ideas. Meanwhile, the public money of NPR can be market-adjusted according to the federal government, which after all is NPR’s favorite growing public. As for the great cultural good such a well-regulated public utility in part does now and could even further provide, that’s a topic for another day.
Of course, if you don’t want to be responsible for yourself, you can always whine about your victimhood and call on Washington to establish a Department of Appropriate News. Hilary Clinton would have done at least that much for America. Indeed, were she President, I’m sure by now we’d have a Ministry of Legal Laughter.