America’s West and America’s Rest

by Jim Geraghty

From the first Jim-written Morning Jolt in a week:

Happy Easter Monday! Good news, you’ve got one extra day to file your taxes.

Keep your head on a swivel this week. It’s the anniversary week of the Boston Marathon bombing (April 15), the Virginia Tech shooting (April 16), the Oklahoma City bombing (April 19), which was itself selected to occur on the anniversary of the Waco siege, and the Columbine shootings (April 20).

America’s West and America’s Rest

One of the most intriguing comments I read over the Easter break came from sportswriter Jason Whitlock:

Yes, sportswriting has moved far left. The entire media has moved far left. The media used to cater to New York, the hub for traditional liberal values. Journalists used to be obsessed with working at a New York magazine or newspaper or TV network. Now the entire industry is obsessed with going viral and how words will be received via social media. Who determines this? San Francisco/Silicon Valley, the hub for revolutionary, far-left extremism, the home base for Twitter and Facebook. Twitter and Facebook’s employee base is from the area. New York and San Francisco are distinctly different. San Francisco is driving the American media, not New York. You have young, microwaved millionaires and billionaires reshaping the American media in a way that reflects San Francisco values. This is a major story the mainstream media ignore. San Francisco hacked the media. Frisco-inspired clickbait is the real fake news.

There’s a lot of truth to that, and Whitlock puts his finger on why today’s conservative complaint about a liberal media is different from that of ten years ago or twenty years ago. The old New York establishment Left, shaped heavily by Watergate — Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, Anthony Lewis, Woodward & Bernstein – could drive the right batty but it was largely driven by a sense of noblesse oblige – a self-awareness of the power of their positions and a duty to correct the world’s injustices through exposure. The old journalism saying, “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” implied punching up; the more powerful you were, the more you needed scrutiny. For Watergate, the Pentagon Papers, My Lai, all that the press needed to do was expose the wrongdoing and the public would instinctively recoil and dole out appropriate consequences.

Today’s social-media outrage-mob-driven click-bait journalism is much more about punching down, finding someone who has deviated from the range of acceptable thought and ostracizing them and enforcing the tenets of a shame culture. It’s less about exposing the sins of the powerful than exposing the sins of the near-powerless, whether it’s those gorillas-in-the-mist reports from Red State America or gleeful exposes about the hypocrisies of religious conservatives. (The hypocrisy of a self-proclaimed environmentalist who enjoys a private jet with a massive carbon footprint never quite stirs the hearts of the media as much as a preacher’s affair.) Reading some media sources, you would conclude the biggest threat to America isn’t found in terrorists, hostile threats, runaway government power or violent mobs at Berkeley or Waterbury, but in the menace of haircuts at CPAC or an Indiana pizzeria unsure if it would cater a gay wedding, an obscure Tucson school board member, an Idaho pastor claiming evangelical Christians are bullied by the culture at large, or Washington Redskins fans who wanted to keep their team’s name. No wonder their dominant attitude towards immigration, legal and illegal, is so welcoming, if they feel such contempt for the Americans who are already here.

This is why you see the headline “Republican Lawmaker [Makes Controversial Statement X]” so often. You’ve probably never heard of that Republican lawmaker – in most cases, an obscure state legislator – and after the controversy ends, you probably never will again. (Think of, say, Todd Akin.) You probably don’t live in the same state. If some no-name backbencher says something stupid, it doesn’t affect your life much at all, certainly not as much as the actual laws being passed by your state legislature. But if most of those in journalism are driven by the impassioned belief that Republican lawmakers represent the preeminent threat to all that is good in America, then spotlighting the brain-farts of no-name GOP state legislators to a national audience is good and important work, because it tells the public that no matter how reasonable, well-informed and good-hearted some local Republican seems, deep down his mind is a dark and tortured place of hateful and selfish turmoil.

If Whitlock’s assessment is right, then our media today is driven primarily an ostentatious smug progressivism from those who practice their purported values the least in their working lives. What do Silicon Valley’s elites hate the most? There’s a lot of competition, but surely the plutocratic rich, the old slave owners of the South, the robber-barons, and the little mustached man from the Monopoly game. The titans of Silicon Valley are rarely seen in suits and ties, never mind tuxedos. Of course, a good portion of what Silicon Valley develops runs on our now-ubiquitous smartphones, built by Chinese workers on 12-hour shifts that few Americans would ever tolerate for themselves. Silicon Valley’s super-elites may not be as different from those old, exploitative plutocrats as they like to think.

One can’t help but wonder if there is some repressed guilt coming out in the form of demonization of others:

“Silicon Valley has stopped being the place where people who can’t get jobs elsewhere go. Now it’s like the first stop on the privileged elite bus from the Ivy League—and do not even stop by Wall Street on the way,” Mr. Garcia Martinez said.

He said that Silicon Valley’s ethos allows startup founders to easily justify their quick riches. “To maintain this status of extreme income and outcome inequality you have to think that somehow the moral universe conspired to make you a billionaire and the other guy not,” he said.

Surely at least some of California’s wealthy progressives find solace in the thought that if flyover country is comparably poorer and struggling to get by, it must be because they’re morally worse people – “deplorable,” even.

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