It is becoming increasingly obvious that the whole edifice of modern journalism is built on a lie, argues Mike D’Virgilio
Back in the day, when there were only a few choices for America’s TV viewing pleasure, there solidified a myth that certain human beings had a view of reality devoid of all prejudice, bias, or personal opinion. They were called journalists. One even signed off his evening newscast telling America, “That’s the way it is.” And people believed him, it is said.
Although most Americans with any modicum of common sense and understanding of human nature realized that all human beings have a point of view in everything they do, journalists continued to insist that their allegedly dispassionate view of the day’s events was “the way it is.”
Many of them still make that claim, but the reality is that there is no such thing as “objective journalism” and never has been, as my colleague S. T. Karnick tells me. If the election of Barack Obama didn’t completely burst that bubble, Web maestro Andrew Breitbart is doing his bit to deflate the balloon completely.
The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto tells the story in a very informative article, “Taking On the ‘Democrat-Media Complex’: The conservative Internet entrepreneur on bringing down Acorn, Hollywood liberals, and embarrassing the mainstream media.”
It is more than obvious that the current U.S. media complex is corrupt and that the elitist, progressive experts’ claim of objectivity is a mere fig leaf intended to hide that corruption. Breitbart’s ripping away of that fig leaf—which has been drooping for the past three decades since the press’s response to the rise of Reagan made media bias increasingly obvious—is salutary and long overdue.
Taranto makes a point in the last paragraph that I think questionable, although I understand why he says it:
Even if one accepts Mr. Breitbart’s critique of the mainstream media, nobody should root for their downfall or destruction. Their role—that of impartial watchdog and broker of information—is a vital one, whether or not they perform it well. While Breitbart-style opinionated journalism can provide healthy competition, it cannot substitute for straight news.
Can there actually ever be an “impartial watchdog”? That depends on what you believe about human nature. As I noted above, objectivity is ultimately impossible. I would argue that the less religious you are, as Taranto is, the more you would have confidence in man’s ability to rise above his own prejudices. But that is clearly an illusion, if the past three decades of increasingly biased U.S. journalism are any indication of reality.
The alternative to this obviously phony pretense of a pursuit of objectivity is the fostering of a free and vibrant culture in which a wide variety of points of view are openly asserted and defended. If each newspaper, magazine, and TV news show were open and honest about its point of view, people would be able to judge among them, instead of having to wade through a swamp of self-justifications intended to establish a particular point of view as the only valid way of seeing things.
That sort of free culture, in fact, not “objective journalism,” is what we had at this nation’s founding, and it seems to have worked out well at the time. It was only with the elitist, Progressive movement of the early twentieth century that journalism, like everything else, became a thing for elite experts only.
But what elites do is control things, and in doing so their personal imperfections are magnified throughout the society. As the Internet does its good work of breaking down the ossified structures of the American media, it frees us to see what we should have known all along: objective journalism is a lie.