The network that saved honest journalism celebrates triumph over liberal media.
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For months now Goldwater had been routinely assailed as an extremist by the Establishment media. As the Arizonan had methodically piled up delegates and inched closer and closer and closer to clinching the nomination, the leading lights of the American media had jumped into the fray with a startling ferocity, swinging viciously at Goldwater and his conservative followers.
Only weeks earlier, an alarmed John S. Knight, then president and editor of the Detroit Free Press and no Goldwater supporter, had seen enough of this vividly non-journalistic lack of honor to publish an editorial on the subject, saying pointedly of his media colleagues:
Their deep concern for the GOP’s future would be more persuasive if any considerable number of them had ever voted for a Republican nominee — of the syndicated columnists I can think of only a few who are not savagely cutting down Senator Goldwater day after day.
Some of the television commentators discuss Goldwater with evident disdain and contempt. Editorial cartoonists portray him as belonging to the Neanderthal age or as a relic of the nineteenth century. It is the fashion of editorial writers to persuade themselves Goldwater’s followers are either kooks or Birchers. This simply isn’t so. The Goldwater movement represents a mass protest by conservatively-minded people against foreign aid, excessive welfare, high taxes, foreign policy, and the concentration of power in the federal government.”
Walter Lippmann, the premiere columnist of his day (as well as once serving as an aide to the progressive President Woodrow Wilson and co-founding the liberal New Republic magazine) was regarded as a journalistic Zeus by his media colleagues, thus signaling the appropriate tone that was to be adopted by the media on Goldwater. Goldwater himself later noted acerbically that any word from Lippmann was enough to launch a journalistic echo chamber with “all sharing a common philosophical viewpoint, (where all) play follow-the-leader in order to maintain their membership group.”
And what was the word on conservatives and their leader handed down from this media chieftain up there on his journalistic Mount Olympus?
“We cannot afford,” Lippmann wrote shortly after Goldwater had defeated Rockefeller in the California primary, “to have a politician running for president who makes it his vocation to sharpen and to embitter the sectional, racial, class, ideological issues that we must learn to live with and to outlive. Nor can we afford the tom-toms and the flagpole sitting which he (Goldwater) substitutes for serious consideration of the terrible issues of peace and war.”
A clearer, more deliberate, misrepresentation of conservatism would be hard to find in the moment. Nor was this presented as partisan opinion. On the contrary, Lippmann, the ex-Wilson aide, the co-founder of a liberal magazine, was presented to the American people by his media allies as some sort of God of Objective Journalism.
As the weeks towards the convention shortened and Goldwater gained in strength, Lippmann stepped up his criticisms, now moving from loud to shrill. Goldwater wanted to “divide the country” and remake the GOP into his “kind of party.” And what kind of party would that be? Warned a hysterical Lippmann: “It is impossible to doubt that Senator Goldwater intends to make his candidacy the rallying point of the white resistance.”
Barry Goldwater? The rallying point for white resistance? The man who put an end to segregation in his family department stores? The man who, during his tenure on the Phoenix City Council and in the Arizona National Guard, helped desegregate all Phoenix schools, restaurants, and the state’s National Guard itself? The man who had had the temerity to say of Lyndon Johnson’s record on civil rights that he was a “faker”? The man who noted — accurately — that LBJ “opposed civil rights until this year (1964). Let them (Democrats) make an issue of it. I’ll recite the thousands of words he has spoken down the years against abolishing the poll tax and FEPC (Fair Employment Practices Commission). He’s the phoniest individual who ever came around (on Civil Rights).” That Barry Goldwater?
Not a word on these curious facts from journalist Lippmann. Why? Because Goldwater had voted against the 1964 Civil Rights bill not because he supported segregation but because of concern over individual rights with respect to renting property. Goldwater voted for the 1957 Civil Rights Act — which Johnson, with whom he disagreed, had watered down for segregation purposes. Goldwater had also supported the 1960 Civil Rights bill. Was this to be mentioned by Lippmann and his media acolytes? Not a prayer. Liberal media elites, led by Lippmann, had a stake in portraying Goldwater as pro-segregationist. No major news outlet was going to challenge Lippmann.
Lippmann’s liberal media collaborator over at the New York Times, James “Scotty” Reston, joined in with this character assassination masked as “journalism.” This was no small moment because the anchors and producers of the network evening news shows had already slipped into the habit of using whatever they found in the liberal Times as a starting point in shaping their broadcasts. In fact, Reston cut to the chase of the left’s fears about conservatives, revealing what really made liberals furious. The Goldwater/conservative challenge, Reston wrote angrily, was really all about a “counterrevolution against the trend of social, economic, and foreign policies of the last generation.” And that challenge to a status quo many Americans increasingly considered to be both economically fatuous if not, in foreign policy terms, appeasement — that challenge was unacceptable to its liberal defenders.
All of this, as John S. Knight had indicated, came against a media backdrop where Goldwater and his supporters were routinely and dishonestly assailed by Lippmann’s media camp followers as Nazis, racists, primitives, and crazies.
SO IT WAS THIS JULY NIGHT that a media earthquake began. A media earthquake that would launch a chain of events resulting eventually in the creation of Fox News. Touched off by the unlikely person of a decidedly moderate Republican: former President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The moment, in prime time television, would become the first open schism between audience and journalists that would ultimately produce the success story of Fox News. It shook the rafters of the San Francisco Cow Palace — and began to harden the perception by millions of average Americans about the credibility of every media outlet from the national television networks to radio and their local newspapers.
Stepping to the podium to deliver what many expected to be a routine, even dull Eisenhower speech, the former President unexpectedly let loose with an attack on the full blossoming of American liberalism, beginning with the judiciary. Said Ike, already on record that his appointment of liberal Republican California Governor Earl Warren as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was “the biggest damn fool mistake I ever made”:
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online