Tuesday, February 07, 2012

HISTORY REPEATING. A new rightwing pennysaver, the Washington Free Beacon, has debuted, and the introductory essay by Matthew Continetti catches perfectly the tone of modern conservatism: an endless mobius-strip mood-swing from triumphalism to persecution mania and back again.
Antipathy between the right and the establishment press was of course not new. The animosity has deep roots. The decades after World War II had seen journalism transformed from a blue-collar to a white-collar profession.
Things were fine when it was all Ida Tarbell and George Seldes.
The postwar journalists who came of age in the late ’60s or early ’70s saw themselves not only as reporters but also as devoted servants of truth and adversaries of authority. Happy coincidence for them that the country’s president at the time was a Texas Democrat overseeing a liberal establishment which was losing confidence in itself and in its country. The striving and conniving moderate Republican Richard Nixon was no more likely than Johnson to win the journalists’ affections. The media campaign against the Vietnam War and the presidency of Nixon was relentless—and successful.
So... the muckraking press took down liberal LBJ and conniving moderate Nixon -- this was a good thing, right?
Conservatives responded to the assault in two ways.
Never satisfied, these people.

Continetti's all over the place. He celebrates the ever-expanding Mighty Wurlitzer -- Safire and Spiro, the Media Research Center, the Murdoch empire ("News Corp.’s purchase of the Wall Street Journal in 2007 led to editorial improvements"), the Washington Times, Rathergate, etc. -- and it sounds like America's team has got the commies on the run.

But "in the end," says Continetti, "there was no way for a handful of papers and a single television network to nullify or even sublimate the loud, constant, coherent progressive roar of" lefty networks, newspapers, blogs, Hollywood, Soros, etc. "Try as they might," says Continetti, "conservatives could not command anything that approached the cultural power of the progressives."

Sounds like the commies have them on the run! But hold on --
...these groups may have excelled at rallying the small but ferocious left-wing base of the Democratic Party, but they were unable to accomplish their foremost goal: defeating George W. Bush.
So much for the cultural power of the progressives! What happened? Maybe Jesus intervened; Continetti doesn't say.

But he knows what the libs thought: That the problem was "not only conservative organization and Republican perfidy, but also Democratic squishiness. The Democrats were not anti-Bush, anti-Republican, and anti-war enough."

So the libs pumped up their awesome cultural power even more, with... the netroots and Ned Lamont.

Meanwhile, "The political tide began to change in a liberal direction, as well. Bush’s second term was a disaster from start to finish..."

Someone else might have stopped there and thought: Maybe this Miltonian media struggle isn't nearly as important as retail politics and the caprices of fate. Maybe the really good reason to talk about these subjects at all is not to try and advance some agenda, but because they interest you and give you something interesting to say. But that someone would be less devoted to justifying yet another think-tank giveaway and his employment therein than Continetti. I mean, come on, look at this:
Whether the victim was George Bush, Joseph Lieberman, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Charles and David Koch, the Chamber of Commerce, Fox News Channel, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, or Mitt Romney, the technique was the same.
That's quite an impressive and well-compensated list of victims. God send that I could be that victimized! I got people calling me names now, and I'm wearing a cardboard belt. But on Continetti goes, promising to show us "what would happen... if a website covered the left in the same way that the left covers the right," as if this wretched game of Spy Vs. Spy hadn't already been going on for decades. Hell, the Beacon's current front-page headline, "CHINESE COMMUNISTS INFLUENCE U.S. POLICY THROUGH EX-MILITARY OFFICIALS," could have been written by Robert Welch.

I'm beginning to think Obama's next bailout should be of the PR industry, so these schlubs could redirect their talents toward writing press releases for widget manufacturers and cabaret performers.  Everyone would be better off. Well, except maybe the widget manufacturers and cabaret performers.

UPDATE. Lots of commenters zero in on Continetti's bad writing. "Continetti's last paragraph is so sodden with ersatz testosterone that it should be adorned with a pair of truck nuts," says mortimer. A few others have fun with the sleigh driver of the wolf pack, etc.

Bad writing is in this case not a bug but a feature, because it aids the whole smoke-and-mirrors approach to history in which events are chosen and sequenced not to create a coherent narrative, but to rotate emotional effects; when he senses the tales of liberal media Moloch have gotten too dispiriting, Continetti fires the blood with brave tales of propaganda victory -- which have heretofore been insufficient but just you wait because here comes the Beacon! It's like an adventure story written by an 8-year-old who has ferocious ADD and is very mad at his mother.

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