Okay, Al Gore is thinking about launching a liberal… er, “progressive” television network. He’s raising the money, working on the programming, and in every other way rolling up his sleeves in that “We Can Do It!” spirit to fight the pernicious influence of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Tony Snow, Mephistopheles, Darth Vader, Bill O’Reilly, Dick Dastardly, shower mold, Brit Hume, and all the other forces of right-wing reaction Al Gore believes he was put on this earth to combat.
Fine, fine. There are just a couple of things I don’t understand. First, isn’t this supposed to be impossible? I mean, three weeks ago we were told that due to the ongoing horror of corporate media consolidation, media “diversity” would disappear. Protesters at FCC meetings actually chanted “deregulation of mass communication is the end of democracy.”
This proves two obvious points. First, the Left was dealt a terrible blow when Jesse Jackson stopped teaching them how to rhyme their slogans. Second, these people don’t know what they’re talking about. After all, if the FCC’s decision made media diversity that much more difficult — let alone stabs democracy in the heart, severs its head, and boils its bones — such a thing should be impossible.
And yet, Al Gore is launching his new doomed…er, I mean “progressive” television network in order to provide a voice he thinks is lacking from “mass communication” today (“maybe that ‘m’ in ‘mass’ is a typo?” — The Couch).
And why is Al doing it? Well, he is looking for work. But it’s also because someone has to stop Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. That raises something else I don’t understand. During all of the hullabaloo over the FCC decision, the left-wing activists opposed to further consolidation cited Rupert Murdoch as their boogeyman. Moveon.org whined like a little girl (which seems to be their only pitch) that Rupert Murdoch would cancel Christmas if the FCC ruled his way.
Now there’s nothing new about liberal whining over the existence of super-villain Rupert Murdoch and his white stroking cat, Fox News. But can someone explain to me how you can reconcile the argument that Fox News is a singular evil in American journalism and at the same time argue that Fox News is exhibit A in the argument that America lacks media diversity? How can something be exceptionally bad, an outlier in every sense, and at the same time be an example of homogenization? Isn’t this a bit like complaining, “Meatloaf again!?” when you’re served a plate of lasagna?
It is the liberals’ enduring belief that being right is an intellectual birthright which explains the hysteria of those who despise Fox News. The un-diverse nature of television news never really bothered liberals when television news was largely saying what they wanted to hear. Once a network came along — and succeeded at providing an alternative viewpoint — suddenly media diversity was a problem literally and ironically. The literal problem was that real diversity is unacceptable, the irony is that they would use the word “diversity” as a way to smash at any voice which did not sing from the same page as everybody else. And, then, even though they believe that Fox or Rush Limbaugh are terrible, they see nothing wrong with trying to ape them from the left.
I wanted to start with the example of G-TV because I think it’s important to remind people that the Left is more consistent on the issue of diversity and the means by which it seeks to achieve it than many of us realize. These days, diversity is usually associated with getting the pigmentation right at state-funded colleges and universities. But, just as Democrats think a presidential Cabinet or a college classroom is diverse if it is composed of people who “look like America” but think like the English-department faculty at Kenyon, they believe “mass communication” would somehow be more diverse if it had fewer dissenting voices like those found at Fox News.
AT ANY COST
But what’s more interesting is what they are willing to do to preserve their most sacred form of “diversity.” And I guess in the wake of the Supreme Court’s University of Michigan decision it’s worth switching gears a bit to discuss that. The night before the Supreme Court issued its decision upholding discrimination in favor of certain preferred minorities based on nothing more than their skin color, many of the leading Democratic presidential nominees gathered in Chicago to debate who was more willing to abuse his power in the name of diversity. Addressing the possibility that the Supreme Court might actually hold that government preferences for one race over another is unconstitutional, Dick Gephardt promised that “When I’m president, we’ll do executive orders to overcome any wrong thing the Supreme Court does tomorrow or any other day.”
Gephardt actually said this in response to a similar statement by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D., His Ego). Kucinich added, “If this president doesn’t want to let us be one nation, then it’s time to elect a president who will let us be one nation.” Meanwhile, former Vermont governor Howard Dean dusted off one of his favorite stump lies when he insisted that, “There’s no such thing as a quota at the University of Michigan, never has been.”
Now it’s easy to ignore Dennis Kucinich because, well, he’s Dennis Kucinich. And Howard Dean strikes me as the sort of guy who works the register at an independent bookstore and yells at you when you ask for a book he doesn’t think you should read.
But when Dick Gephardt promises to overrule by diktat any Supreme Court decision he doesn’t like, that’s a pretty big deal. It’s especially a big deal because Gephardt has been a jealous and eloquent advocate for the small-d democratic prerogatives of the House of Representatives (“The peoples’ House” and all that). And yet, his first instinct isn’t to seek a small-d democratic solution to a problem, but a large-D Democratic, as in the Democratic-party, solution — which is to say any solution which will get the job done, regardless of the cost.
Being a Democrat from Missouri, and being Dick Gephardt, it’s not that surprising Gephardt would cater his comments to whatever the politics demand of him. The last president from Missouri had a similar predilection for telling people what they wanted to hear. H. L. Mencken said of Gephardt’s hero: “If there had been any formidable body of cannibals in the country, Harry Truman would have promised to provide them with free missionaries fattened at the taxpayer’s expense.”
And, as for Gephardt himself, well, when he first ran for Congress in 1976 he ran on what he called in advertisements “A Pro-Life Promise” and he swore to work for a Constitutional amendment to ban abortion. If you can switch from seeing fetuses as “unborn” humans to seeing the unborn as nothing more than a constituency you don’t need anymore, you can pretty much switch sides on anything.
Liberals are constantly mocking conservatives for not understanding that Marbury v. Madison established that whatever the Supreme Court decides is Constitutional law (I just listened to Bill Clinton drone on about this point on C-SPAN the other week). And yet, faced with the possibility that the Constitution’s meaning might actually line up with its text — in this case the 14th Amendment — Dick Gephardt promises to overrule the Supreme Court with the stroke of a pen if it decides things in a way to his disliking, or should I say to the disliking of whatever voters he’s pandering to now.
All of this reveals how deeply the mainstream of the Democratic party dislikes real diversity. A faith in real diversity requires that you respect views and legitimate decisions not to your liking. Howard Dean gets a standing ovation when he rails against “narrow-minded ideologues” but the only people clapping are themselves incapable of understanding that disagreement — religious, political, philosophical, moral — is the only meaningful measure of diversity in a democracy. In an otherwise thoughtful exchange Dahlia Lithwick wrote Monday in Slate, “I was terrified that today might have seen a thick dark cloud blot out all the good that affirmative action programs have achieved over the decades.” In other words, even though every college and major corporation in America is committed to diversity, if the state stops forcing people to discriminate in favor of blacks, all of the progress Americans have made will disappear in a giant poof of smoke.
At bottom, I think this reveals a fundamental distrust in the goodness of the American people, an inability to conceive of good being done outside the auspices or control of the State. Just as Al Gore told Ward Connerly and others that government needs to permanently protect Americans from their own racist impulses, liberals increasingly believe that we cannot leave America to its own devices. That means anyone who strays from the liberal pack is not merely wrong, but mean-spirited, wicked, and against “diversity” and all other good things.