“I have never been impressed by the argument that as complete objectivity is impossible (as of course it is)… one might as well let one’s sentiments run loose…That is like saying that, as a perfectly aseptic environment is impossible, one might as well conduct surgery in a sewer.”
America’s political and social elite erupted with vitriol when Donald Trump called the media the “enemy of the people” in 2019. Donald Trump’s unconventional presidency will earn him a spot as one of the most notable presidents in American history, for better or for worse. And while it is certainly reasonable to say that he dug his own grave in some cases with regards to the media, any attempt to objectively claim that Trump didn’t endure slings and arrows from a biased media establishment with a political agenda against him is nevertheless futile.
But the current struggle—a corporate oligarchy comprised of a handful of media goliaths that control the vast majority of the information Americans receive—is far larger than any petty squabble between President Trump and a White House press reporter.
Trump was attacked for labeling the media as enemies of the people—a politically irresponsible move by Trump, sure; but that truism uttered by the impulsive former president has nevertheless solidified, making itself more apparent as the Biden administration flags posts it would like Facebook to actively censor in the name of misinformation. Trump now stands vindicated, much to the liberal “Build Back Better” suburbanites’ dismay.
The disconnect that so many on the left are struggling with is that Trump was not attacking the core principle of a free press. That principle is an integral part of the American founding and experience, and it’s hard to find a video or tweet from the former president attacking that (because no such recorded instance exists). The problem is that, despite the reassurances from cookie-cutter news anchors, or the countless headlines from the Washington Post’s opinion section that regularly allege Trump’s supposed demagoguery, the media is nevertheless racked with political bias that actively seeks to snub and condemn those racist, uneducated rubes who live in the middle of the country.
It might seem hypocritical for an article like this to appear in a digital conservative magazine such as this one, but American Pigeon doesn’t rub against the grain of journalistic ethics because we actively claim, time after time, that we are a publication that fosters the conservative perspective. If readers prefer not to listen to our perspective, they can simply not read our content. I feel the need to clarify that opinionated journalism and political commentary is okay so long that it is clearly labeled as an opinion.
It is wholly another story to present two different standards of truth for both sides of the political aisle. The Black Lives Matter protests, which catalyzed mass riots across the country, causing billions of dollars in property damage and countless lives lost—ironically displacing many of the minorities BLM claims to stand in solidarity with—is labeled as a fight for social justice, while the Capitol riot on January 6th is labeled a deadly insurrection.
The reality is that both instances of violence are wrong and should be unequivocally condemned by all, but one is nevertheless treated with an inherently positive connotation (young people “fighting” for change), while the other is used as a universal indictment on every conservative that dared to cast their vote for Trump in November.
The shadowy political agenda of the media that many conservatives often allude to was also seemingly confirmed and celebrated by TIME Magazine, in its article, “The Secret History of the Shadow Campaign That Saved the 2020 Election.”
And therein lies the problem with the current media establishment. It is rife with journalists and tech giant CEOs who have appointed themselves the arbitrary gatekeepers of truth deciding what should and should not be said. Democracy, they say, can only be saved when the “truth” is reported from them. Everything that goes against the grain of this new orthodoxy, which again, was essentially promulgated by TIME Magazine itself, is now suddenly an existential threat to democracy.
Large waves of censorship in the name of combating “hate speech” or the “incitement of violence,” only seem to affect accounts preaching a conservative bent while Taliban-affiliated Twitter accounts are miraculously given a pass. The New York Times will condemn Donald Trump as a wannabe fascist, only to enthusiastically publish an op-ed by the deputy leader of the Taliban. As former New York Times op-ed editor Bari Weiss wrote in her resignation letter for the Times:
“Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor. As the ethics and mores of that platform have become those of the paper, the paper itself has increasingly become a kind of performance space. Stories are chosen and told in a way to satisfy the narrowest of audiences, rather than to allow a curious public to read about the world and then draw their own conclusions.”
The Left-Wing desire for big tech censorship is self-explanatory, but libertarians are especially insufferable.
Big tech information bans were defended by those on the left, who dismissed them as private companies exercising their autonomy under the free market, which seems to be the only time the left has ever defended the autonomy of large corporations. Huh.
Right-leaning libertarians have backed this argument, claiming that the federal government shouldn’t interfere with the free market, even if the companies involved are arguably more powerful than Washington when it comes to exerting political, social, and cultural influence through the distribution of information alone.
When these companies become the de-facto public squares for the vast majority of those who wish to speak, does the government not have the obligation to protect the rights of individuals?
At least the left-wing desire for big tech censorship is self-explanatory: the more conservatives are censored, the more influence the left is able to garner in our institutions. Libertarians, on the other hand, are far more outrageous and insufferable in the sense that they would prefer the government to do nothing at all. Libertarians argue for a “limited government,” but in praxis it always seems to amount to a federal establishment that, rather than being restrained and humble, is wholly neutered and incapacitated.
Libertarians who make this argument forget the basic premise of the American Constitution to begin with, which was to both empower and restrain. Conservatives have failed to clarify that the desire for limited government is caveated with the reality that government must also be empowered to actively prevent the infringement of constitutional rights by both individuals and large entities, whether they be public or private. A “limited” government that is limited to allowing the First Amendment to be trampled upon by social media goliaths is not a good government, a reality libertarians can’t seem to stomach or understand.
The notion of a free press is, indeed, still desirable among conservatives, despite what many on the left would like you to believe. But that doesn’t change the fact that the media in its current state isn’t free. We don’t have a “free press” in praxis, rather a handful of large media companies and newspapers, most of which cater to the ideological preferences of the left and send content creators they disagree with down algorithmic rabbit holes to ensure their content never reaches audiences.
And while there are news networks that preach the right wing bent, Fox News has proven itself to be the only network capable of going toe-to-toe with the other mainstream news networks. The vast majority of the media, in terms of the networks and newspapers that dominate the world of journalism, continue to remain steadfast in their effort to peddle left-wing narratives, whether they be left of center, or even further left.
The ultimate solution for this problem would be to simply take the opinion out of reporting the facts and telling the truth, regardless of which side of the political aisle that opinion may favor. Both the late-night Fox News and CNN hosts are to blame for the worryingly seamless fusion of honest reporting and entertainment. The journalist’s opinion should be restricted to either the opinion section of newspapers, or the well-labeled journals of political opinion, such as National Review, The Nation, Human Events, or, of course, American Pigeon.
This may be easier said than done, as there are many challenges posed when talking about “objectivity.” But the pursuit of objectivity is not unworthy just because it’s unable to be perfected or because it runs into issues of bias and subjectivity. Sociologist Clifford Geertz once wrote, “I have never been impressed by the argument that as complete objectivity is impossible (as of course it is)… one might as well let one’s sentiments run loose…That is like saying that, as a perfectly aseptic environment is impossible, one might as well conduct surgery in a sewer.” But to start, we can learn what objective journalism is, based on what it is not: it is not about “my truth” and it is not about saying “fairness is overrated.”