Media’s Self-Induced Demise

It has been a busy time for the press, that aegis of our vaunted democracy, which is about as independent as a mob enforcer and just as gentle with its enemies. Three victims, in particular, have drawn its recent punches: tech billionaire Elon Musk, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, and the owner of the popular “Libs of TikTok” Twitter account, Chaya Raichik.

Over the last few months, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Business Insider, among others, have spearheaded an effort to discredit and deplatform the aforementioned trio, ostensibly because of the threat they pose to democracy. But their real crime was challenging the power and myths of the established political order, thus wittingly or unwittingly declaring war on it.

After Musk moved to acquire Twitter in early April, the Insider helped conjure up a scandal against him, alleging sexual misconduct, while the Times observed that Musk’s “growing up as a white person under the racist apartheid system in South Africa may have shaped him”—presumably in such a way as to render him unfit to lead a company like Twitter. The Post denounced his plans to reduce censorship on the platform and brought up “allegations of incidents involving racism and sexism at Tesla.”

The Post article’s author, former Reddit CEO Ellen K. Pao, goes on to say that “Musk’s appointment to Twitter’s board shows that we need regulation of social-media platforms to prevent rich people from controlling our channels of communication.” But Pao is writing in a paper owned by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos. And whereas Musk is a maverick suffering from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, in the choir of the wealthy, Bezos is something like a Lex Luthor wannabe.

Recall that last year Amazon booted from its web-hosting services the social media app, Parler, supposedly because of its role in facilitating the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. It just so happened, the Associated Press noted, that at the time Parler was unplugged, it had just become the number one free app on iPhones after Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms had censored then-President Donald Trump’s accounts. Moreover, Amazon is also one of five companies—along with Microsoft, Google, Oracle, and IBM—that recently received a contract to provide the Central Intelligence Agency with cloud services. Simply put, the decentralized ship of power for which Pao pleads sailed long ago under the flags of oligarchs like Bezos.

In late April, the Post found its next target, Libs of TikTok’s Chaya Raichik, who, until being outed by the Post, had chosen to keep her ownership of the account anonymous. Libs of TikTok had gained a massive following by simply sharing videos and images uploaded publicly by liberals using the TikTok platform. Often the content featured advocates of LGBT ideology bragging about introducing children, without parental consent or knowledge, to radical ideas of sex and gender. This approach of simply holding up the mirror to deviance has been extremely effective at mobilizing grassroots opposition because it gives a face to the enemies and allows them to speak for themselves about their beliefs and goals. Libs of TikTok’s success, however, brought the account to the attention of Taylor Lorenz, a columnist at the Post.

Lorenz publicized to millions Chaya Raichik’s name in an exposé. She also linked to a website that displayed Raichik’s address and employer, and she showed up at a house belonging to one of Raichik’s relatives. The Post assigned the label of “Editors’ Pick” to the story, which Lorenz framed as a virtuous takedown of a figure endangering the LGBTQ+ community. The Post pretended it had knocked down a bully, but many Americans just saw a major newspaper revealing private and identifying information about someone who had offended the editors’ ideological preferences.

When the backlash came, the Post’s senior managing editor, Cameron Barr, issued a statement claiming that nothing about Lorenz’s reporting was outside the norms of journalistic standards. “We did not publish or link to any details about her personal life,” he said. If that were true, though, the Post wouldn’t have quietly removed the link to the website containing information about Raichik’s personal life before issuing that statement, as the Wayback Machine proves happened.

As the controversy with the Post was playing out, the Times launched, on April 30, “American Nationalist,” a three-part series about Tucker Carlson. The series is a sprawling, demonizing work nearly 20,000 words long, tracing Carlson’s rise to the top of cable news ratings and providing biographical information for Times readers to psychoanalyze at their leisure. “Tucker’s mom abandoned him as a child and vengefully left him one single dollar when she died,” tweeted MSNBC columnist Liz Plank. “A devastating but clear origin vilain [sic] story for a man determined to do anything to feel important.”

After the series fell flat, the Times attempted to blame Carlson for the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, on May 14. The suspect, who situated himself on the political compass as “mild-moderate authoritarian left,” had mentioned in a 180-word screed the idea of demographic replacement, in which white Americans are dispossessed by immigration. After the shooting incident, the Times reported:

No public figure has promoted replacement theory more loudly or relentlessly than the Fox host Tucker Carlson, who has made elite-led demographic change a central theme of his show since joining Fox’s prime-time lineup in 2016.

But that attack, too, missed its mark, largely because no group has more openly embraced the idea of victory through demography than the Democratic Party and its liberal media allies. For example, Times columnist Michelle Goldberg published in 2018 a story subtly titled, “We Can Replace Them.”

Goldberg argued that “America is tearing itself apart as an embittered white conservative minority clings to power, terrified at being swamped by a new multiracial polyglot majority,” and she suggested that only racial extremists would oppose her position—which also happens to represent the consensus among liberal elites.

And that is the real reason why Carlson, along with Musk and Raichik, have invoked the ire of the press. The unifying strand of this disparate trio is that they have all said and done things, before a large audience, that undermine some aspect of that elite consensus and thus the power of the ruling class.

First, Twitter is not merely a company but an instrument for controlling information and manufacturing mass perspectives on day-to-day issues. It is also intimately connected to the power of transnational bodies like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; Twitter has banned accounts for “undermining faith in the NATO alliance and its stability.” Musk’s efforts to privatize Twitter threaten this control over the minds of millions.

Second, Libs of TikTok exposed the hideous face of transgender ideology, which radically redefines the relationship between oneself and one’s body, between parents and children, and ultimately between families and the regime. The idea that sex and gender are divorced from each other entails submission not only to a lie but to a new clergy comprised of social workers, bureaucrats, and “experts” whose encyclicals shape the way we use language and how parents interact with their children once those children fall under the spell of gender confusion. The theoretical “empowerment” professed by the sexual liberation of the individual always empowers the regime in practice.

Third, the elite’s problem with Carlson is that he consistently reaches the masses with adversarial messaging about the established political order, from his opposition to mass immigration to his anti-interventionism. To say nothing of his massive Republican audience, recent data from Nielsen MRI Fusion reveals that his show is also the top cable news program among Democrats in the 25-54 age range. In other words, many younger Democrats are likelier to watch Fox News during prime time than CNN or MSNBC. Whereas the Times ran cover for Homeland Security’s now-defunct Disinformation Board, Carlson blasted it, its director, and its Orwellian aims. The “Truth Ministry,” as it came to be called, was successfully mothballed thanks to Carlson’s coverage (though it surely will return in a different form).

The proper way to understand the role of the media, which seeks to enthrall its audience and attack the enemies of the establishment, is through the lens of the German historian Oswald Spengler. Spengler wrote of modern times in The Decline of the West:

Man does not speak to man; the press and its associate, the electrical news-wire service, keep the waking-consciousness of whole peoples and continents under a deafening drum-fire of theses, catchwords, standpoints, scenes, feelings, day by day and year by year, so that every Ego becomes a mere function of a monstrous intellectual Something.

Long before Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky published Manufacturing Consent, Spengler had already seen the media’s power to enslave public opinion and mobilize the masses against the enemies of the masters. And though the technology has changed, Spengler’s thesis holds true.

The press campaign, as Spengler put it, is a war that is designed to make it impossible for individuals to attain the “inward detachment” necessary to see the world with clear eyes. Truth becomes merely what the masses continually read and hear; it is, in other words, what the media wills through its digital and print organs. “The press today is an army with carefully organized weapons, the journalists its officers, the readers its soldiers,” Spengler wrote. “The reader neither knows nor is supposed to know the purposes for which he is used and the role he is to play.”

But the media ultimately stokes a revolt against itself, according to Spengler. The disgust that it instills with its fake narratives turns men against it. Eventually, every time that it attempts to pound an enemy into the ground, it succeeds only in sowing the seeds of the end of the order it represents, in the soil of the democracy it has perverted. Let us hope the German prophet of pessimism is right.

Image: Washington Post journalist Taylor Lorenz on stage at an event at the Pilcrow House in Philadelphia in 2019. (Pilcrow House / via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0) | Post front page, May 1, 2000 (Elvert Barnes / via flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

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