Counterculture Con HQ

August 6, 2010

Media bias: Herd Mentality and Collectivist Groupthink

I wasn’t going to post anything else on the JourOlists because, frankly, even I’m a little bored of media bias.  If you follow websites such as Newsbusters and Big Journalism which track this bias, the examples are so numerous and the bias so normative that it’s hardly even newsworthy at this point.  On the other hand, it’s up to the new media to give stories like the JournOlist legs, and this piece was just so good. His point isn’t that the Left have a monopoly on bias and thuggishness, but rather that they are all biased and thugs in the same damn way.

The “line.”

Bob Novak used to say, ‘That’s the line” — he said it with dismissive contempt. Someone else, usually on the left, would make some excuse or give some talking point, and Novak’d say, “That’s the line.” I can just hear him.

So I was interested to see that a Journolister headed an e-mail — or “e-mail thread” — “The line on Palin.” He was not being ironic, as far as I can tell. He was really and truly formulating a line. And the line was this: “John McCain picked someone to help him politically, Barack Obama picked someone to help him govern” (Biden).

You know, I remember hearing that a lot, from the Left, in the immediate post-Palin days. Do you?

Okay, some more line-formulation — I’ll quote from a Daily Caller piece on Journolist:

After Scott Brown won the Massachusetts Senate seat, threatening to kill the health care legislation by his presence, [a Washington Post reporter] stressed how important it was for reporters to highlight what a terrible candidate his opponent Martha Coakley had been.

“I think pointing out Coakley’s awfulness is vital, because it’s 1) true and 2) unreasonable panic about it is doing more damage to the Democrats.”

It seems to me that journalists don’t think and talk this way, or should not; party operatives think and talk this way. Party operatives sit around coming up with the line. To see journalists doing it is a little . . . sick-making.

One thing that struck me about Journolist was the sheer thuggery of the talk. I mean, it’s a little shocking. Here you go:

It’s not necessary to jump to Wright-qua-Wright’s defense. What is necessary is to raise the cost on the right of going after the left. In other words, find a rightwinger’s [something] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear. Obviously I mean this rhetorically.

Well, that’s good to know! The same Journolister wrote, “Let’s throw Ledeen against a wall.” That would be Michael Ledeen, one of the country’s foremost experts on the Middle East (and Italy and other things). Or “throw him through a plate glass window.” This guy seems to have a thing for plate-glass windows. “I’ll bet a little spot of violence would shut him right the fuck up, as with most bullies.”

Some people thought that the Left would calm down, with the election of Barack Obama as president. They are now in charge. It should be okay to fight, or at least appreciate, the War on Terror (as we used to call it). (Obama and his people prefer “overseas contingency operations.”) But the Left seems as hepped up as ever.

Behold the mind of a Journolister, who writes for The Nation:

Our country disappears people. It tortures people. It has the blood of as many as one million Iraqi civilians — men, women, children, the infirmed [the infirmed?] — on its hands. You’ll forgive me if I just can’t quite dredge up the requisite amount of outrage over Barack Obama’s pastor.

You’ll forgive me if I think this view of America is bizarre, warped, and wrong. When it comes to hurting the Iraqi people — gassing them, raping them, starving them, torturing them, cutting out their tongues for dissent, feeding them into industrial shredders, feet first, the better to hear their screams — no one could outdo Saddam Hussein, whom the U.S. and its allies, mercifully — and in the American interest — overthrew.

Another Journolister slammed conservatives as “Fucking NASCAR retards.” I had the following thought: If you were a conservative, writing a satire about how liberals think and talk about conservatives, you might write, “F***ing NASCAR retards” — but you would be criticized for going way over the top. I mean, that phrase is just too trite and absurd and extreme for satire. But not for real Journolist life.

Always, always — always, always — there is race. Always, always, there is the need to call conservatives racist. Do they disagree with you? Do they, for example, favor a colorblind society, or at least colorblind policy? Call them racists.

A Journolister:

If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they’ve put upon us. Instead, take one of them — Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists. Ask: why do they have such a deep-seated problem with a black politician who unites the country? What lurks behind those problems? This makes *them* sputter with rage, which in turn leads to overreaction and self-destruction.

From the beginning, it has been nearly impossible to oppose Barack Obama — from the right, that is — without being called a racist. I have done a fair amount of writing about this. Here is one piece, written right before the 2008 election: “That Old Devil Race.” Here is a piece written last year about criticism of Obama versus criticism of George W. Bush: “All Wee-Weed Up.”  You notice the sheer randomness of the Journolister’s defamation: It doesn’t matter whom you call a racist — Barnes, Rove, Smith, Jones — just “take one of them.” Because, really, “who cares”? The point isn’t the truth, it’s the defamation.

One depressing thing about Journolist? Or one more depressing thing? The presence of journalism professors on it — or at least of one, Todd Gitlin of Columbia University. He was in on all the “line”-making, all the herding up. I have always respected him as an honest, above-board left-winger — someone you could read. I’m sure he is. But the whole Journolist thing — its ethos, its essence — is creepy. I guess you could say, if left-wingers are collectivist in their worldview, why shouldn’t they be collectivist in their journalism?

Reading some of the stories about Journolist, I was reminded why I left the Left so long ago: the groupthink; the political correctness; the scorn for ordinary people (“Fucking NASCAR retards”); the dehumanizing of political opponents. Lord knows, there are jerks on the right — I think I have interacted with all of them, although there must be some I have missed. I don’t say the conservatives are angels; I know them too well for that. The idea that the Right has a claim on morality is a crock. More like on immorality, I sometimes think.

You know the slogan “Vote Right, live Left”? Many conservatives embrace this philosophy with gusto. It is virtually a credo.  But, you know? As a rule, the jerks on the right are jerk-like in their own ways — kind of like Tolstoy’s unhappy families. If you’re going to be a jerk, be an individual, for heaven’s sake. At least that’s what I think. I need to check with my brethren on what the line is . . .

This post is highly excerpted (it’s a long column).  I encourage you to read the rest.


  1. I hadn’t heard “Vote right, live Left” before. Frankly, at my age I just don’t get it. When you pass certain milestones in life, word-deed-thought suddenly rise up like some CG fiend in LOTR and frighten, if that’s what it takes, one back to orthodoxy.
    I’ll tell you what I really like: Dr. Samuel Johnson and his quip about freedom of the press. “Freedom of the press, yes, but also freedom of the cudgel.” William F. Buckley, Jr., used to aver that columnist Drew Pearson (not the Cowboys WR) needed to be horsewhipped. Try to find the man today (a) with a horsewhip, with (b) the will, and (c) with the deep pockets for the inevitable lawsuit.
    Their response to any remonstrance to “the line”? “My response: shut up”. The best rejoinder (IMHO), the cudgel.
    Suddenly, there was the immortal Borges in his thoughts: “Suddenly, there were heavy revolvers in the dream.” (“Ragnarök”). Then, Flannery O’Connor (the smartest woman of the 20th-c., probably of many centuries): “She would have been a good woman . . . if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”

    Comment by Thorvald — August 6, 2010 @ 18:51

  2. haha! Love it, Thorvald. I knew an extremely clever guy in college who would use his considerable intellect to belittle those around him, all in “good fun”, of course. As long as it was verbal, he thought, he was safe. Finally I tired of his bullying and told him I was going to punch his effing lights out if he didn’t shut him. It worked. I think the American people will reach a tipping point as well, and its not going to be pretty.

    Comment by Jesusland — August 6, 2010 @ 19:03

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