There’s a new piece by McKay Coppins at The Atlantic suggesting conservative media would pretty okay with President Donald Trump’s comments on revoking the license of NBC and other broadcast news networks.
But for most of the past half-century, conservatives have at least claimed their press criticism was aimed at spurring reform. “We all know that you can’t live in a free country without a free press,” Fox News contributor Bernard Goldberg told host Bill O’Reilly in 2012. “But you know what else? You can’t live in a free country for long without a fair press. We need a strong mainstream media. That’s why you and I criticize it.”
In the Trump era, that pretense has been dropped. With the rapid growth and rising influence of the conservative-media complex, most on the right seem to have given up on trying to “fix” the mainstream press. And many of the powerful figures in that world now openly declare that they are working to bring about the demise of the nonpartisan journalistic establishment in America.
Coppins goes on to cite comments made by Breitbart News Washington editor Matt Boyle, writer John Nolte, and Gateway Pundit as examples why the “conservative media” wants to see the government get rid of the mainstream media.
Yet, there are also plenty of conservatives and libertarian who have criticized Trump for his attack on the MSM. AP and Ed both wrote Trump was wrong in his challenge to the First Amendment. Katherine Timpf at National Review went even further, (correctly) using the “f-word,” as in fascism, in her condemnation.
Let me be clear: Calling for government control of the media is not a conservative view; it’s a fascist one. You’re fine to think that the government should control the media; you’re fine to espouse it — thanks, of course, to the First Amendment that you’re apparently totally fine with jeopardizing — but please understand that this idea is not compatible with conservative, or even traditionally American, values.
There’s no doubt the MSM has raised the dander of conservatives and libertarians, and for good reason. The newscaster plenty of people cite as an example of fair news, Walter Cronkite, wasn’t fair at all. Douglas Brinkley’s book Cronkite, written with participation from the ex-CBS News anchor’s family, showed Cronkite wasn’t biased, especially to Barry Goldwater. There’s also the stupidity of Dan Rather, who pushed the idea ex-President George W. Bush figured out a way to skip out on his service in the National Guard.
These are examples of biased press, and should cause people pause. It’s totally okay if someone decides to find another source for a story because it was written by an outlet which may or may not give someone a fair shot. That’s up to individuals, not the government. Yet, biased press is very much protected by the First Amendment. In fact, biased press is free press, whether it makes conservatives, libertarians, liberals, or socialists happy or furious. Federalists and Anti-Federalists used the press to put out their opinions on whether the Constitution should be approved. Jeffersonians used the press to get their viewpoints out to the masses.
It’s also important to remember it’s not just “conservatives” who have had issues with the press. California Senator Dianne Feinstein suggested only “real reporters” deserved to be protected in a 2013 media shield law (which should just be the First Amendment, but I digress). Her amendment thankfully failed.
But it shows both parties have issues with outlets which don’t give them favorable press, and there are politicians in both parties who want to see the press restricted. All political ideologies, especially those who believe in freedom and liberty, should reject this wholeheartedly.
People of all stripes are going to have to accept the fact press will always be biased. The solution is not the government deciding which outlet has the right to publish news, but the consumer. If a consumer decides to get their news from The New York Times or Reason or National Review, it’s their choice. The government shouldn’t have a say in it at all, and is barred from having a say in it, despite their attempts to do so (see Alien and Sedition Acts and equal time).
Those who support Trump’s call for limiting the press should probably reconsider their ideology, and stop pretending they’re “freedom lovers.” Those who read/watch/listen to outlets which push press limitations should also reconsider their support. Timpf is right: it’s not “conservative” to support a crackdown of the press. It’s fascist, and contrary to what this country was founded on, regardless if the reporter writes for an online outlet or a big TV network.