Heralding the rise of the daily newspaper in 1831, French poet and politician Alphonse de Lamartine declared journalism would emerge as “the whole of human thought,” but that thought itself “will not have time to ripen, to accumulate into the form of a book.” The book, Lamartine proclaimed, “will arrive too late.”
“The only book possible from today is a newspaper,” he concluded.
Lamartine was prescient. Nowness—not depth, quality, or ethics—came to define the press. This has metastasized to obscenity in the digital age. Indeed, media critic Tom Rosenstiel believes “the press has moved toward sensationalism, entertainment, and opinion.” That might be an understatement. Ripeness of thought has little refuge under mass media’s tyranny of immediacy.
Today, Americans are urged to perceive mass media as the palladium of our “democracy.” But America is hardly a democracy. “The 20th century—and with undoubted good reason—has had occasion to reiterate that view,” writes Kirkpatrick Sale, “in the face of mass parties, mass politics, and mass governments claiming to be democratic.”
In this context, “democracy” is substantially political expediency, and its most effective huckster is the press. Those concerned with how to pursue, seize, and maintain political power understand this all too well.
Before becoming president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan remarked, “Democracy is like a street car; you ride it as far as you need, and then you get off.” The key to President Erdogan’s ascendancy, writes Turkish journalist Berivan Orucoglu, was “his ability to skillfully [sic] use disinformation, propaganda, and the media to shape the narrative for the general public, co-opt elites, convince audiences of his competence, and intimidate the opposition.”
Some might claim that President Trump’s approach to winning high office is the same as Erdogan’s, but the opposite is true. American mass media did everything in its power to quash what was essentially a coup against the Establishment. That includes the Wall Street Journal, FOX News, and other mainstream “conservative” media. After all, it was the editor of the neoconservative Washington Free Beacon, Matthew Continetti, who initiated the salacious “Russian dossier.”
Cofounded by Bill Kristol and Michael Goldfarb, the Beacon receives generous cash injections from neocon donor Paul Singer. Paul Gottfried describes the Beacon as “a rallying point” for neocon NeverTrumpers, “and the hiring of Fusion GPS to go after Trump has all the hallmarks of their skullduggery.”
With few exceptions, mass media’s “authorized” conservatives have little tolerance for Trump the Outsider. Indeed, during the first 100 days of his presidency, Trump received 70 percent negative coverage from the Wall Street Journal and 52 percent negative coverage from FOX News. At present, Charles R. Kesler finds The Weekly Standard’s paroxysmal contradictions hard to reconcile—at once complementing Trump’s record as “reasonably impressive,” while maintaining its default position: “Trump’s character and temperament made him unfit for office.”
Rallying under the NeverTrump standard, neocons have become increasingly indistinguishable from the liberals they ostensibly oppose and have mobilized a concerted effort, often appearing in liberal-owned media, to shoot down what they see as the resurrection of a conservatism they had once systematically purged from the mainstream right. This purge of dissenting rightists—namely, paleoconservatives—culminated in a crusade to strip The Rockford Institute of funding; and these neocons have led the charge in slandering nonconforming rightists as “racists” and “antisemites.” Paleocons, Gottfried writes,
have been tagged in National Review, the Weekly Standard, the New York Times, the New Republic, Commentary, and multiple other venues as wing-nuts, duplicitous anti-Semites, self-hating Jews, and/or ethnic nationalists. . . . Of course, most of the surviving members of this fraternity whom I know are none of these things.
Mass media and its talking heads detest the President because he has provided Middle Americans a conduit through which they can channel their cultural resurgence. Trump has provided a platform upon which Middle America can stand against the seemingly inexorable march of “progress” and the elites who have spiritually hijacked the country.
This is inconvenient to liberals and neocons alike, both of whom constitute the Establishment’s intellectual elite. Indeed, although at times differing in rhetoric, the neocon stance on immigration often parallels that of liberals. Consider Bill Kristol’s accusing Tucker Carlson of bigotry for the latter’s authentically conservative stance on immigration.
Kristol assailed Mr. Carlson, claiming that what he advocates is “close now to racism, white—I mean, I don’t know if it’s racism exactly—but ethno-nationalism of some kind, let’s call it.” One of the few hosts who isn’t afraid of genuine controversy, Mr. Carlson consistently argues from an “America first” position. His rhetorical pummeling of liberals is a constant source of entertainment. But he is not a cheerleader for Trump. Still, Mr. Carlson’s tempered criticisms of the President are fair. Kristol, however, thinks he goes too far. “He always had a little touch of Pat Buchananism, I would say, paleoconservatism,” declared Kristol on CNBC—a subsidiary of Comcast, which employs the Rev. Al Sharpton, Rachel Maddow, and Chris Matthews.
By appearing on liberal-owned CNBC and tying Mr. Carlson’s immigration stance to paleoconservatism, a term apparently synonymous with “ethno-nationalism,” Kristol is attempting to control political discourse by manipulating the meaning of words. This is a common tactic of the left, and it is how they have transmogrified “illegal alien” into “undocumented immigrant,” and “border control” into a “dog-whistle” for those obsessed with white “ethno-nationalism.”
Shortly after Kristol’s shot at Mr. Carlson, CNN’s Don Lemon proclaimed that “the far right uses globalism as shorthand for world view based on racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism.” Thus, “America First,” with its implicit promise of border control, becomes in the minds of millions code for white nationalism. Kristol employed the same tactic the previous year, echoing the liberal media’s outrage by falsely accusing Mr. Carlson of “rationalizing slavery” for his opposition to the tearing down of Confederate monuments.
Recently, the neocons took up defense of the deep state. Under the auspices of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Special Counsel Robert Mueller deployed federal agents to raid the office, home, and apartment of President Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen. Neocons were swift to capitalize on and justify the raid. Kristol uncovered the personal contact information, including the phone number, of a Cohen associate and divulged it on social media. “Emmet Flood, a serious attorney who presumably cares about his reputation,” wrote Kristol to his 335,000 followers, “should be asked—try him at Williams & Connolly . . . whether he agrees the investigation is a witch hunt, and if he thinks it appropriate for the White House to call a DOJ investigation that.”
Apparent ideological distinctions between neocons and liberals in mass media are illusory. When the power of the Establishment is challenged, they unify to neutralize the threat. The late Samuel Francis understood this truth better than most.
Francis defined mass media’s legion of influencers as the managerial intelligentsia, consisting of “research staffs of universities and foundations, literary and aesthetic intellectuals, actors and entertainers, artists, scientists, teachers, broadcasters, journalists, clergymen, and lawyers.” There is an ideological undercurrent that unifies these seemingly disparate groups: progressivism. According to Francis, “members of these intellectual and verbalist professions are directly dependent on the mass media for their livelihoods, status, power, and functions in mass society.” The intelligentsia, then, “share a common interest in the continuing enlargement of the mass organizations of culture and communication and the extension of the social functions of these organizations.”
Managed by the intelligentsia, the mass media functions as an ideological apparatus of power for the managerial regime, or the Establishment. The intelligentsia is driven to “transmit and inculcate the ideology of the regime as a means of rationalizing its structure and the interests of its elite and articulate challenges to the bourgeois ideologies.”
Francis believed the neoconservatives were the principal ideological vehicle by which the regime eventually completed its consolidation of power. In his posthumously published magnum opus, Leviathan and Its Enemies, Francis wrote,
The body of intellectuals and verbalists that constituted the neoconservative movement was not only drawn from the managerial intelligentsia but also was composed largely of academics and publicists who had been among the principal architects and exponents of the consensus liberalism that had served as the ideological orthodoxy of the managerial regime in the period of consolidation.
Consensus liberalism ensured “progressivist ideas could be resuscitated at the appropriate time” to legitimize or defend the regime. Witness Kevin Williamson’s vile caricature of Trump’s Middle American base in National Review. Williamson ties Trump’s candidacy to two unspeakable evils: Pat Buchanan and paleocons. Eschewing nationalism, Williamson stops just short of calling the President Hitler, opting for “father-führer” instead.
As Francis wrote, not only did the neocons insist “their version of conservative ideology and rhetoric prevail over those of older conservatives,” but they “sought to reform and stabilize the functioning of mass organizations and to provide a new legitimizing consensus for the regime.” The intelligentsia use mass media to justify their shared ideology on a “moral and legal basis,” and rationalize the means to their ends as the “logical and necessary consequence of [their] doctrines and beliefs.” Flagrant abuses of power and authority to oust a president threatening the agenda of the Establishment can and will be justified on a “moral” and “legal” basis. We have witnessed both neocons and liberals expounding such justifications through mass media: Republicans and Democrats alike have rallied to defend the “progressive values” that a resurgent Middle America now threatens.
At the heart of the matter is a battle over agency. Do Americans have the freedom to live as they see fit? Are Americans free to demand policy that is aligned with traditional American values? Are they even free to think? Technically, yes. But it is the singular role of the intelligentsia, through manipulation and misinformation, to cow Americans into thinking only within the confines of the regime’s box, where they pose no threat to the regime’s power. As the left continues its march through our institutions, consolidating its power and advancing its diabolism, this deceit among the mass media’s neocons and liberals is more insidious than ever before.
“The storm clouds are gathering above America as they gathered over Europe in the 1930’s,” wrote Chilton Williamson, Jr., in these pages, “and the country today is in need of a legislative Churchill willing to name the threat and shore up the nation’s political and administrative institutions to face the worst.” Mr. Williamson rightly observes that the left will never stop, never give up ground it has won.
Nonetheless, there is hope. Today, there are insurgent youth currents that reject the left, modern liberalism, and even neoconservatism. This (my) generation has a deserved reputation for vacuity, but many of us instinctively distrust the mass media’s intelligentsia, looking to alternative media for direction instead. And if recent trends among young voters are any indicator, there is a chance that they might reject the “party of policy wonks and experts on the economy,” as my colleague Eric Lendrum calls it, and instead side with the “culture warriors determined to roll back the insidious influence of the Left within academia, the Internet, and pop culture.”
What we are facing is nothing short of a war for America’s minds. Therefore, we must break the power of the mass media. Most importantly, if, as Mr. Williamson writes, the “American right must shape itself up as the legislative war party,” then it must have an intellectual backbone with which to articulate a sensible, coherent battle plan. Guided by voices from alternative conservative media (including this magazine), a new generation may have the potential to break the chains of deceit that have shackled the country to the managerial regime.
There still exists an undercurrent of Americanism that can be tapped and amplified in the fight for this nation’s survival. From where we stand, survival might be as good as it gets; some parts of America and the West may be too far gone to save. But if the right fails utterly, as Mr. Williamson warned, the left may “finally prevail and establish a monstrous tyranny of one sort or another over the United States.”