Columbia University is the place where leftists give leftist journalists Pulitzer Prizes and then tell each other how prestigious leftist journalism is because—wow!—look at all the Pulitzers they’ve won.
This week, the president of Columbia, Lee Bollinger, wrote a specious opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, crying that American journalism, dying in the free market, needs to be bailed out by government support.
Two memories come to mind from my years in England during the nineties:
In the first, recovering from an operation, I’m watching television and trying not to bust my stitches laughing at an hilarious sketch by young comedians Hugh Laurie (now TV’s House) and Stephen Frye. In a send-up of It’s A Wonderful Life, Frye’s angel is showing Laurie’s villainous Rupert Murdoch what the world would be like if he’d never been born: a virtual paradise!
And again, I’m watching TV. Innovative writer Dennis Potter, dying of pancreatic cancer, gives a final interview to presenter Melvyn Bragg. As Bragg chuckles amiably, Potter declares he has named his cancer after Murdoch and that he would use his last days on earth to “shoot the bugger if I could.”
Crikey! I knew little of Murdoch at the time. What atrocity had he committed, I wondered, to be treated as such a devil?
Well, it was this: the Australian-born media mogul had taken advantage of Margaret Thatcher’s loosening of broadcasting regulations to break the left’s government-funded stranglehold on information.
Now Murdoch is an American, the owner of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, among other things. His approach to news, he has said, is not to answer left-wing bias with right-wing bias but simply to remove the left-wing bias entirely. Though Fox News and the Journal have many conservative commentators, their reportage—on Special Report with Bret Baer and the Journal’s news pages—is far more fair and balanced than that on the networks or in the New York Times. (Peter Robinson of Ricochet does a useful comparison here.)
The effect of Murdoch’s approach has been something like the last scene in the classic film musical Singin In The Rain. Remember how Gene Kelly and friends pull the curtain up to reveal that the famous actress’s singing voice belongs to another woman standing backstage? Simply by telling the news straight, Murdoch revealed that it was the voice of the left speaking when the mouths of mainstream news readers moved. When they told us the war in VietNam was at a stalemate or that a conservative election result amounted to a tantrum or that the tea party was racist or—as this past week in the Los Angeles Times—they downplayed the Islamic motive of terrorists, they weren’t attempting to do their job and convey information but were trying instead to guide us in right attitudes and thinking—attitudes and thinking to be determined by themselves.
Why would anyone but a slave pay for such a service? The fact is, we won’t. Newspapers and network news are dying. And it isn’t, as Bollinger would have us believe, because of the internet or any other new technology. If that were so, Fox News and the Wall Street Journal wouldn’t be thriving as they are. Mainstream news outlets are dying because they distort the news in the name of leftism—and there’s simply no reason to use a news source that lies.
To combat the Murdoch effect here, Bollinger wants to build the British system that Murdoch helped enfeeble. If the people won’t pay for left-wing distortions by choice, they must be forced to pay for them through taxation!
Thwarted in their dishonest purposes, the left does what it always does: they demonize the opposition and unleash the brute force of government. But the fact is, we, the people, do not want their high moral instruction. We simply want the bloody news.