The so-called "mainstream media" generally avoid talking about Mark Levin's best-selling books, and you would think the ducking would be more dramatic for his new work Unfreedom of the Press. But on Thursday, the Washington Post website posted a Levin-citing article on "What conservative critics get right -- and wrong -- about the media: Journalists have played into their critics’ hands by clinging to objectivity."
The author was a journalism professor named Kevin Lerner, who has a new book out on the history of the 1970s leftist journalism-review called MORE. He calls Levin's book an "anti-media screed."
Levin’s book attempts to reinforce a common argument: that the American “media,” which he writes about as if it were a single, monolithic entity, is hopelessly liberal in its worldview, inexplicably invested in the success of the Democratic Party and therefore unworthy of the trust of Levin’s readers.
Lerner admits the media lean to the left. As the headline suggests, Lerner thinks the media cling too tightly to objectivity. (They do??) He suggests that pretending to be objective allows the conservatives to demonstrate the gap between the promise of objectivity and the reality of liberal advocacy.
He goes back to Vice President Spiro Agnew's speeches about the press, and early books that provided research into media bias:
Books such as TV Guide writer Edith Efron’s The News Twisters, published in 1971, purported to analyze the leftward lean of the press with a scholarly veneer, and offered support for the administration’s move to undercut the media’s collective credibility. Dozens of books have followed in their wake.
We would put our own books at the Media Research Center into that "wake," analyzing liberal bias with a "scholarly veneer." If you've never heard of The News Twisters, it's worth looking up. It analyzes bias in the 1968 presidential election and on other issues. Another old book I like on the Nixon era is The Gods of Antenna by Bruce Herschensohn.
It's always funny when liberal professors lard their books with their analysis, and that is "scholarly," but conservative media research has a "veneer," like it's fraudulent. Lerner chose the word "disingenuous."
Smart but disingenuous critics like Levin — the successors of Agnew — pounce on the gap between purported objectivity and an obvious point of view to provoke a crisis of confidence in American journalism, one from which many of them profit handsomely as conservative media personalities.
But their critique is often overly simplistic. The New York Times and The Washington Post are not liberal equivalents of Fox News. They are not partisan news outlets, nor in the employ of the Democratic Party.
That's hilarious. But it's the media equivalent of his "I'm scholarly, you're fake." It's almost not worth quoting, but Lerner uncorks the time-worn cliche that liberals are the open-minded cosmopolitans that make the best journalists. (And then they don't understand how their collective credibility gets ruined with everyone else!)
Yet many of their reporters do share a worldview. Most have university educations. Most live in large metropolitan areas on the East Coast, where they ride public transportation with people who aren’t like them, where there are large minority populations and LGBTQ neighborhoods and restaurants serving Ethiopian food or regional Chinese — which they can probably get delivered to their apartments at midnight, when they’re still working on a story.
In short, the best journalists in the United States are in many ways more elite and more cosmopolitan than the American public in general. That, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. Smart people who are aware of different kinds of life experiences make the best journalists. But that does mean that they have a particular way of seeing the world. And they would be much less susceptible to attacks from the Mark Levins of the world if they abandoned the pose of objectivity that opens them to those attacks.
The pose of objectivity looks bizarre now. But the practice of objectivity -- or an attempt to be more balanced in exploring public issues -- would still be welcomed. Lerner somehow thinks that by being obvious about bias -- as if that's not obvious -- will add credibility.