Journolisters debate, endorse gov’t control of Fox News
posted at 8:48 am on July 21, 2010 by Ed Morrissey
Tucker Carlson has another Journolist exclusive today for the Daily Caller, and this one rates high on the irony meter. Jonathan Strong starts off his report with the assessments of the Tea Party as fascists, if not flat-out Nazis, by Journolist members such as Bloomberg News’ Ryan Donmoyer, who clearly needs a refresher course on early 20th-century history with his insipid confusion of normal political rallies to the Beer Hall Putsch and the SA. We’ll get back to that in a moment, because the real meat comes on page 2, where reporters from Time Magazine and the British newspaper Guardian endorse a “tough legal framework” designed to silence Fox News:
The very existence of Fox News, meanwhile, sends Journolisters into paroxysms of rage. When Howell Raines charged that the network had a conservative bias, the members of Journolist discussed whether the federal government should shut the channel down.
“I am genuinely scared” of Fox, wrote Guardian columnist Daniel Davies, because it “shows you that a genuinely shameless and unethical media organisation *cannot* be controlled by any form of peer pressure or self-regulation, and nor can it be successfully cold-shouldered or ostracised. In order to have even a semblance of control, you need a tough legal framework.” Davies, a Brit, frequently argued the United States needed stricter libel laws.
“I agree,” said Michael Scherer of Time Magazine. Roger “Ailes understands that his job is to build a tribal identity, not a news organization. You can’t hurt Fox by saying it gets it wrong, if Ailes just uses the criticism to deepen the tribal identity.”
Jonathan Zasloff, a law professor at UCLA, suggested that the federal government simply yank Fox off the air. “Do you really want the political parties/white house picking which media operations are news operations and which are a less respectable hybrid of news and political advocacy?”
But Zasloff stuck to his position. “I think that they are doing that anyway; they leak to whom they want to for political purposes,” he wrote. “If this means that some White House reporters don’t get a press pass for the press secretary’s daily briefing and that this means that they actually have to, you know, do some reporting and analysis instead of repeating press releases, then I’ll take that risk.”
Scherer seemed alarmed. “So we would have press briefings in which only media organizations that are deemed by the briefer to be acceptable are invited to attend?”
How did the rest of the liberal journalists react to the idea of either government regulation of the press or outright squelching of a media organization? Strong includes the reaction from The New Republic’s John Judis, who said that “pre-Fox,” he would have shared Scherer’s alarm at a White House manipulating media access. In the Obama administration, however, the representative of “the inflight magazine of Air Force One” suddenly sees the tactical advantages of such a strategy.
Zasloff eventually offered a different strategy:
I hate to open this can of worms, but is there any reason why the FCC couldn’t simply pull their [Fox News] broadcasting permit once it expires?
I’m actually unclear on whether Fox News has an FCC license, since it uses satellite transmission rather than actual broadcast through local affiliates. Usually, it’s the affiliates themselves that have to get the licenses, not the network whose content they broadcast, and Fox News doesn’t use traditional TV stations for its content. But that’s a more esoteric point. The point is that Zasloff has no trouble letting government determine whether a news organization should be allowed to publish, apparently based on nothing more than its discomfort with the news itself. Not only does this sound as though Zasloff needs a refresher course on Constitutional law and free speech, it also sounds like an endorsement for fascism, in which governments pick and choose which businesses are allowed to exist based on their level of cooperation with the government.
Let’s get back to Donmoyer, and his historical illiteracy. Most of the quotes regarding the supposedly fascist quality of the Tea Party movement come from people outside of traditional journalistic roles (a blogger and an academic), but Donmoyer is ostensibly an objective news reporter covering Capitol Hill and the White House for Bloomberg. On Journolist, however, he lets his paranoia show:
“You know, at the risk of violating Godwin’s law, is anyone starting to see parallels here between the teabaggers and their tactics and the rise of the Brownshirts?” asked Bloomberg’s Ryan Donmoyer. “Esp. Now that it’s getting violent? Reminds me of the Beer Hall fracases of the 1920s.”
The Brownshirts were the SA, armed thugs organized into a paramilitary structure by the Nazis (who later were deemed expendable, with most of their leadership murdered by the SS after the Nazis took power). The term “Brownshirts” came from the uniform they wore in public. They conducted massive levels of violence against their political opponents, especially the Communists, but hardly limited to them. They took their direction from the very hierarchical Nazi Party leadership. In short, they’re nothing like anything on the American scene on either side of the political divide, not even the anarchists who conducted real violence in St. Paul during the Republican convention. Donmoyer’s education on this period seems to have been gleaned from comic books and paranoid fantasies in progressive blogs.
And when did Tea Parties start “getting violent”? The only violence of note at any of the Tea Party rallies has been the violence perpetrated against the Tea Party activists, such as when union thugs beat up Kenneth Gladney in St. Louis. Shouldn’t a reporter in an objective news capacity check his assumptions before painting Americans as Nazis simply for grassroots political activity?
The irony here, of course, is that these journalists fret over the fascism they see while gleefully looking for ways to get the government to silence people they don’t like. They’re so desperate to find the mote in the eyes of their opponents that they completely miss the log in their own. And that wouldn’t be anything more than human nature, if it wasn’t for the fact that media outlets like Time, Bloomberg, and Guardian hire these people to deliver the news.
Addendum: I’m going to add one more point that will probably not be terribly popular, but still should be kept in mind. Painting the entire journalistic profession as evil and conspiratorial because the Journolisters either participate in proposing smears and government totalitarianism or silently give implicit consent is as unfair as painting the Tea Party movement as racist because a few neo-Nazis and LaRouchies show up as provocateurs. The Journolist isn’t a random sample; it was self-selecting among political activists masquerading as journalists.
That doesn’t mean that this kind of activity was limited to Journolisters, either, but we should stick to the evidence at hand. The Journolist appears to have plenty of delights to keep us busy for a while.