Once upon a time in America… newspapers provided a safe space for the exchange of ideas. They kept the drama in check, maintained a rational balance, and never let their emotions get the better of them.
You need only read an editorial written by the Star-Ledger’s Julie O’Connor to know that those days are long gone. Today’s media is all wrapped up in the moment and very, very emotional about it. There is no civil exchange of ideas, just the daily line that the Establishment media is right… and the average working man and woman is wrong. And if you disagree with them, they call you a “racist”.
Once upon a time in America… newspapers didn’t tip their hand as to whose side they were on. You couldn’t tell if they were leaning Democrat or Republican – and they tried not to give it away until their endorsement a few days before an election. Now there’s no hiding who they support and what they are. As the Star-Ledger’s Tom Moran wrote last year: “Voters will be standing in the booth Tuesday, and our core mission is helping them decide which lever to pull.”
With a “core mission” like that, it sounds like the Star-Ledger needs to register itself as a political action committee.
Of course, there are still a few – very few – old style newspapers. About the same time the Star-Ledger was publishing its “core mission”, the Atlantic City Press wrote: “Telling readers how to vote, however, is contrary to the mission of newspapers and other media, which is to extend the public’s experience and perspectives. Newsgathering organizations give the public eyes, ears and memory beyond the capability of an individual. People want them to be reliable and credible. When the media start making judgments, their audiences wonder if they’re altering their content to support that judgment too.”
Once upon a time in America… colleges and universities were safe spaces for the exchange of ideas. Freedom of thought and of speech was respected – even when disagreed with.
Now look at them. They threaten those they disagree with and – if they show up anyway – they get violent. Who would have believed that students would one day get violent over the idea of being exposed to a different point of view? The parallel to another time, and other students, is an exact one. And that ended in book burning.
Recently a Sussex County Democrat wrote: "Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state." He went on to explain that Fox News should be banned because, in his view, it was “propaganda”. The idea that this Democrat is aligned with an institution of higher learning – in this case the Sussex County Community College – is chilling.
The safe space for civil discourse, the safe space for the exchange of ideas, is fast disappearing. And when society’s “betters” behave irresponsibly – equating words with violence – what do we expect from the “unhinged” elements of society? Who is teaching society how to hold a civil, rational discussion with someone with whom they disagree?
Instead, by equating words with violence, the editors, reporters, faculty, and administrators are telling society that they engage in violence (with words) and so it is okay for others to engage in violence (on their terms).
The problem with writers like Julie O’Connor, Tom Moran, Matt Arco, and Matt Friedman is their lack of humility and lack of intellectual curiosity. Their moral certainty has closed the book on considering any viewpoint but their own. They are good… everybody else is evil. That makes for a pretty darn predictable writing style. Pretty darn boring.
There has been a lot of social change in America. O’Connor-Moran-Arco-Freidman and the like are in a rush to make everyone conform to those changes. They believe it to be a moral imperative that any diversity of opinion be labeled and then stamped out. But they are acting out at a very dangerous time in the world.
Democracy defeated the older models of totalitarianism because it produced both freedom and prosperity. Totalitarianism failed to produce either freedom or prosperity. Now there is a new model of totalitarianism – Chinese fascism – that is quite good at lifting people out of poverty and making them prosperous. Prosperous… but not free.
If we lose our safe spaces for civil, rational discussion. If we lose the ability to exchange ideas. If we convince our people that they must be “protected” from the freedoms in Bill of Rights – from being exposed to speech they disagree with, from the right to self-defense. What will we be left with? Will we embrace the Chinese model if it ensures prosperity and protects us from the “threat” of freedom?
We have been warned before about the inorganic imposition of new cultural ideas on society. We have been warned about what happens when you are not patient, by that old-fashioned liberal, Mrs. Lillian Smith. A Southern writer, she was a pioneer in the battle to end segregation. We recommend her book, The Winner Names the Age. In it, you will find this passage she wrote when she accepted the Charles S. Johnson Award for her work:
“It is his millions of relationships that will give man his humanity… It is not our ideological rights that are important but the quality of our relationships with each other, with all men, with knowledge and art and God that count.
The civil rights movement has done a magnificent job but it is now faced with the ancient choice between good and evil, between love for all men and lust for a group’s power.”
“Every group on earth that has put ideology before human relations has failed; always disaster and bitterness and bloodshed have come. This movement, too, may fail. If it does, it will be because it aroused in men more hate than love, more concern for their own group than for all people, more lust for power than compassion for human need.”
“We must avoid the trap of totalism which lures a man into thinking there is only one way, one answer, one option, and that others must be forced into this One Way, and forced into it Now.”