If you don’t have a free media, you don’t have a free country. And the truth is, we haven’t had a free media for a very long time.
Case in point: in late May, someone named Apoorva Mandavilli tweeted: “Someday we will stop talking about the lab leak theory [on the origin of the coronavirus] and maybe even admit its racist roots. But alas, that day is not yet here.”
So far, so woke. However, Mandavilli turned out not only to be a reporter with the New York Times, but, according to her Twitter bio, one who writes “on mainly #Covid19.”
Fellow journo Glen Greenwald exclaimed in response: “Oh my god: I didn’t realize what her job is. The NYT’s COVID reporter is saying we should stop talking about the lab leak theory — *even if it’s how COVID entered humans *– because that theory (unlike, I guess, the wet market theory) is racist.”
He added in a follow-up tweet: “Can someone explain to me why it’s racist to wonder if a virus escaped from a Chinese lab, but it’s not racist to insist that it infected humans because of Chinese wet markets? If anything, isn’t the latter more racist? Also, isn’t the relevant question: *what happened*? Or no?”
Oh Glen. Glen! Journalists getting to the root of what happened is, like, so 2015!
Joking aside, we need to ask ourselves: what went wrong? Was the media always this divorced from fact?
It’s tempting to think so. Thomas Jefferson once said: “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.” Journalists are, of course, human too, and so numerous examples can be found throughout the last few centuries of newspapermen getting it horribly wrong.
But what we are seeing now isn’t journalists ‘getting it wrong’. Mandavilli didn’t mistake the lab leak theory for racism. Rather, she was pronouncing judgement: to believe that the coronavirus escaped from the Wuhan lab is racist, according to her. She did that because she is not a journalist. She is a mouthpiece for Critical Race Theory, an offshoot of postmodernism.
This is not only true of Mandavilli. Her tweet laid bare the reality of our media who, as a class, have abdicated the responsibility of journalism in favor of becoming postmodern propagandists.
This is a problem for us all, whether we engage with the mainstream media or not. Here’s why: civilizations don’t implode when power corrupts. Governments tend, in time, toward totalitarianism, and big businesses tend toward monopolies. That’s just the way of the world. No, civilizations implode when no one holds power to account, when no-one halts that natural bent toward totalitarianism — as the founding fathers well knew.
Jefferson again: “No government ought to be without censors; and where the press is not free no one ever will.” John Quincey Adams was evidently in agreement, opining: “The freedom of the press should be inviolate.”
Given this solid foundation, again the question arises: what went wrong?
Put simply, it was to imagine the idea among the Founders that press freedom could only ever be threatened by governance, whether monarchy or the state. It is, arguably, an oversight that has cast a fatal flaw in America’s constitution, and with no champion of freedom, the same rot has set in across the Western world.
A brief glance at the events of the Crossfire Hurricane affair is enough to disabuse us of the notion that a free press is always and only one that is free from government interference.
Crossfire Hurricane was, if you recall, the farcical investigation by the FBI and CIA into allegations that Trump’s success in 2016 was due to collusion with Russia. The FBI knew within months that the allegation was nonsense, yet rather than reporting just that, the investigation dragged on for more than a year, driven ever onwards by a thoroughly biased, activist media class.
Margot Cleveland, writing for The Federalist, has laid out five ways in which media spin biased the investigation. From the media’s lauding of Christopher Steele (the agent who fabricated links between the Trump campaign and Russia), leading the FBI to give him more credit than he was due, to the media’s hysteria over a joke Trump made in reference to Clinton’s 30,000 deleted emails, it was clear that the FBI fell repeatedly for the media’s false reporting and used it as the basis to pursue the allegations through the FISA courts.
This, of course, was not the start of media activism, which has been with us for some decades now. But the Trump era was a watershed in that it laid the prejudices of the media class wide open for all to see.
Others had spotted it earlier.
In 2007, Breitbart News stormed onto the media scene. Founded by Andrew Breitbart, his insight was that, contrary to popular perception, it is culture that drives politics, not the other way around. The Crossfire Hurricane debacle is a clear example of the media doing just that: driving the narrative rather than reporting on developments post hoc.
Breitbart recognized the recasting of journalists as propagandists for what it was: a culture war being waged against America and the West by people who were acting in service to an anti-Western ideology. The media was no longer free, but it wasn’t the government that had shackled them. Instead, they had shackled themselves to postmodernism.
Breitbart News, then, was intentionally set up to place conservatives firmly on the battlefield in the culture wars. This was a welcome development for many on the right. Until that point, barring a few notable exceptions, conservatives had been at best fighting a rear-guard action; at worst they had simply laid down arms and crossed the field.
Breitbart News’s willingness to take on the postmodernists head on made it an instant success, attracting young polemicists such as Ben Shapiro and Milo Yiannopoulis, who were already making waves on the right, into its ranks and spurring them on to greater heights.
Following his untimely death in 2012, this attitude became Andrew Breitbart’s legacy, through the ‘War’ meme. Larry O’Connor, writing in the Washington Times, recalled how the meme came about, at CPAC in 2012:
As the lights dimmed in the main ballroom a giant screen descended on stage. A specially edited trailer of the upcoming documentary Hating Breitbart by filmmaker Andrew Marcus began. A giant, extreme close-up of Breitbart talking to the gathered throng with a pitch-black background filled the screen. The crowd went nuts. You could hardly even hear what he was saying.
The two minute trailer ends with Breitbart saying:
“And what the Left has stood for with political correctness is to try to get those with whom they disagree to shut up. And the tea party movement and Sarah Palin and Michele Bachman and Allen West and all the people that have gone out there against the mainstream media and said ‘You’re gonna call us racist, you’re gonna call us potential Timothy McVeighs?
And the place went nuts.
Andrew died less than three weeks after this iconic moment. After his death, thousands of people have taken up his declaration of “War” and made it their battle cry. “#War” has been included on tweets and headlines and t-shirts and posters. It’s been employed by activists and bloggers and radio hosts and citizens who are just fed up.
Spurred on by the highs of the Trump era, when it sometimes felt the tide was turning, the right are still going nuts for #War. But there’s a problem with that too.
Postmodernism holds that there is no objective truth or shared view of society that we can all participate in. Rather, each political and social order has its own narrative, its own lens through which its members view the world. Moreover, just as Marxists view society as a power struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, postmodernists view society as a power struggle between each of these political and social orders, with each narrative constructed in order to give the members of its order power over the others.
Where postmodernism differs from Marxism is that it eschews the idea that revolutions and counter-revolutions can eventually lead to a utopia in which harmony between the competing groups can be achieved. In the postmodern viewpoint, the social orders are destined to be forever locked in struggle. The best that can be hoped for, therefore, is to destabilize the current dominant forces in order to replace them with those that are currently marginalized. This back and forth between competing narratives is called the state of play.
The theory is therefore anchored by the existence of competing narratives. By creating these competing interest groups, each with their own set of truths and dogmas, and promising them dominance over the others, the high priests and priestesses of post-modernism are able to wield extraordinary power.
They have had remarkable success. We now have a situation in America in which there is no consensus on who the rightful President is. We now have a situation in which there is no consensus on whether we are living through a pandemic or not. We now have a situation in which the police are referred to by some congressmen as a “heavily armed militarized presence in our communities” and no-one in the media calls them out on it.
In attempting to meet the left on the battlefield, Breitbart News and others on the right who sought and seek to reassert the cultural norms are doing exactly what the postmodernists need them to do — they are engaging in the state of play. A West made up of competing narratives vying for supremacy is precisely what their theory requires.
A workable solution, therefore, to the problem of the activist media must necessarily be one in which postmodern theory is jettisoned in favor of a new approach. One which completely abandons the neo-Marxist oppressor / oppressed paradigm, and the ‘us v’s them’ mentality it fosters. One which utterly rejects the denial of objective truths to which we can all hold. Truth, beauty, reason all exist, and we must not be afraid to say so.
The time for widespread reassertion of these values has come. We need to exit the state of play.
How is that done? Well…, “Clean up your room. That’s a good start. Organise your local landscape. Schedule your time. Start taking control of yourself. See if you can stop saying things you know to be lies. … Stop saying things that violate your conscience. Stop saying and doing things that make you feel weak.”
You’ll recognize Jordan Peterson’s advice on how to take personal responsibility for your life, family and community, to make order out of chaos. Given that the problems with the media are identical to those afflicting society as a whole – namely, the overthrowing of Western Civilisation by Postmodernism, the same applies here.
All of us need to take personal responsibility for holding the media to account. If it has become unfree through its own negligence or conceit, we need to demand, as individuals, our freedom from its malevolent effects. Looking to leaders to do this for us cannot work, because any leader with power to control a movement must, in today’s landscape, necessarily be one that is involved in the state of play.
This need not be onerous. We can start by adding to Peterson’s list some points specifically tailored to the media landscape: choose your media diet carefully. Try to consume a breadth of information. Critically assess what you are hearing or reading, no matter the source. Do your own research (because the journalists sure as hell aren’t doing it for you!). Find primary sources if you can — by which I mean official documents, not anecdotal evidence on TikTok. Above all, question everything and stop accepting narratives that violate your conscience.
And a few wider points: read widely. Read the best our civilization has to offer. We are the inheritors of an astonishingly rich tradition of thought stretching back over 3000 years; distill the weight of that wisdom into your own life through your dealings with others and yourself. Teach yourself to think critically and rigorously. Teach your children to to do the same.
Be your own leader. Be the hero of your own journey. Overthrow chaos, and redeem the world around you. Anything less is civilizational suicide.