United States | Why is the media on the left? Why the contempt for workers?

Why is the media on the left? Why the contempt for workers?

Reuven Brenner December 4, 2016 11:14 PM (UTC+8)
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I spent the first fourteen years of my life under communism. When my parents got out in 1962, I realized to my utter astonishment that much of academia was on the left, praising communism, rationalizing increased centralization of powers under a variety of jfargons. Even the US was not immune to these ideas, and that the left and academia despised workers who wanted routine lives, rather than revolutions.

All this came to my mind during the last few weeks, both with Fidel Castro’s death and when Mrs. Clinton made casual reference labeling roughly fifty percent of her opponent’s voters “deplorables.” Although she later apologized, her adoring crowd did not boo her at all when she first uttered the word, the mainstream media neither. Parts of the crowd, many students among them have either been demonstrating or crying their hearts out on the laps of Mamma Universities, the latter indulging them with puppies, play-dohs, coloring books, postponing exams and “feel your pain” safe places. And these students indulged in this nonsense shamelessly while their not-subsidized age group was showing up at work and was being taxed.

Decades later, these same students may write theses and cry their hearts out again about the increased inequality – which, with minimal introspection, would have been predictable. If society subsidizes the brighter students, and offers even to the not-so-bright university certification and jobs in increased bureaucracies and “NGOs,” the incomes of these groups rise, whereas the taxed non-college working youngsters drops. The increased inequality is predictable.

How did much of the mainstream media turn so blind? And where does their contempt for workers come from, that using the term “deplorable” did not even instantly raise eyebrows?

The answer I found for the first question was the following: Academia expanded suddenly and rapidly after 1958 when the US passed the National Defense Education Act (provoked by the launch of the Sputnik). The government threw money indiscriminately at universities, where “social studies,” “humanities,” “journalism” and even the second and third rate (and below) undergrad business schools became major, accidental beneficiaries (predictably maths and engineering expanded far less). These faculties grew significantly, while drastically lowering the selection of both students and faculty.

It did not take long for this vast majority of heavily subsidized, expanded academia, detached from any non-paper-shuffling experience, to rationalize and exaggerate their importance. They had to: subsidies, as taxes, must be legitimized in countries where people vote on budgets. So academics rationalized their “songs” — like in the Aesop Fable about the grasshoppers and the hard working ants, the former singing and hopping when times were good, and dismissing the hard-working ants bearing ears of corn to their nests.

The changes in journalism happened since the early 1960s and are related to these 1958, rashly-decided subsidies. Before the 1960s, those wanting to become journalists started as copy-boys (“copy-persons”?), moved up to newsroom jobs, and eventually became reporters and editors. They gained experience through such apprenticeship, mentored by older generations of seasoned journalists – many at the time still shaped by WWII and its aftermath. Journalism was a “trade” to be learned through experience and was not what it subsequently became: an updated version of the fable’s sing-and-dance grasshoppers.

Times in the US having been pretty good, media hired these university graduates from the same few schools. The inexperienced youngsters were eager to change the world, became groupthink activists, promote opinions – not doing much skeptical, fact finding, hard detective work (Watergate was quite an exception). Like their academic counterparts, most new generations of journalists became arrogant, preaching opinions, and having nice conversations at lunches and dinners with the equally minded in governments’ expanding bureaucracies.

It is not accidental that in an article the month of November, a NYT reporter wrote that the “Newly Vibrant Washington Fears Trump’s Effect on Its Culture.” The article describes the explosion of bars, restaurants and cafes in formerly rundown Washington, DC, not mentioning that this may have something to do with the fact that between 2000 and 2016, federal government spending more than doubled.

If either mainstream media, academics or Facebook groupies were not so isolated within their mutual admiration societies, perhaps, just perhaps, they might have stumbled on the following information (that Arnold Beichman summarized back in early 1970s, in a piece titled “The American Worker Is a ‘Honky’”), and raise some questions about origins of their casual dismissal of the “working class”:

  • In 1968, A.H. Raskin, then assistant editor of the New York Times, wrote “The typical worker – from construction craftsman to shoe clerk has become probably the most reactionary political force in the country.”
  • Theodore Roszak (an academic at California State University – where else? – who apparently coined the term “counterculture”), had this to say in his 1969 book “Even the factory workers [in France] who swelled the students’ ranks from thousands to millions during the early stages of the May 1968 General Strike seem to have decided that the essence of revolution is a bulkier pay envelope.” The horror!
  • Back to the NYT, here is a quote from a May 11, 1970 article, titled “The View from Kent State,” where one of the eleven students interviewed says: “If you want to live in a democracy and go by votes, then I’d say without a doubt Agnew and Nixon are in the lead. Everybody did not go to college. Everybody hasn’t read the books we have read. They earn their $8,000 a year and have their own little home, their car and their job and they don’t care about anything else. That’s the majority.” The poor ants.

I do not know if the students read at the time Daniel Cohn-Bendit (called in the 1970s “Dany the Red,” who is still doing idle talk as member of the toothless, but very costly European Parliament, which splits its times between the culinary centers of Strasbourg and Bruxelles with European taxpayers footing the significant bills), who had then this to say: “In May 1968, the most conservative, the most mystified stratum of society, the one most deeply ensnared in the traps of bureaucratic capitalism, was the working class.”

All the above opinions reminded me of Charles Baudelaire, a 19th century French, who thought that the priesthood (that century’s version of academia), the warriors and the artists should rule, while the other professions and the workers – should be taxed, or even killed, writing that “The real saint is he who massacres the People for the sake of the People.” Sounds like Fidel Castro took him by his word (Why would any decent country send any representatives to his funeral, beats me).

It is nice to be subsidized revolutionaries. But even “leftover” Bernie Sanders must have noticed that his initial calls for “Revolution!” frightened a bit his crowds and he toned down his rhetoric. Later, he and Hillary just promised to get rid of students’ debts. Yes, why not tax the already hard working kids of that age group even more, and give demonstrating students more puppies and coloring books?

There were many optimists who thought that digital media and the lowered barriers to entry would be a remedy for both media and the universities and restore some common sense. I was not among the optimists, having long observed – from experience both in business and living in various countries under different regimes, that only “Default, risks of falling behind are Mothers of Inventions.” As long as government continue to subsidize academia rather indiscriminately and unaccountably, and they continue to subsidize media too (in Canada the bleeding cash print media is now begging the Federal government for subsidies, the latter already heavily subsidizing the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) – the grasshoppers will continue to sing and dance, and the workers will be taxed.

Reuven Brenner
Dr. Reuven Brenner was appointed to the McGill Faculty of Management REPAP Chair in Economics in 1991. Brenner was the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, was awarded the Canada Council's prestigious Killam Fellowship Award in 1991, and is member of the Royal Society. In February 2013, he was awarded a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his contributions to his peers, his community, and to Canada.