It is now almost a weekly ritual: a member of the ossifying liberal establishment, looking very defeated and victimized, complains vaguely about some lost privilege. The person will couch his narcissistic complaint in the form of accusing someone of “turning the clock back,” not sufficiently respecting “precedent,” disregarding “scientific consensus,” and so on. All they mean is: the monopoly power liberals once enjoyed across the culture is now gone, and that the public should regard the left’s erosion of power as a great loss to the republic.
Dan Rather has performed this week’s lament to an expiring liberal era. According to Reuters, he fought back tears on Monday as he spoke bitterly of a “new journalism order” before a crowd at Jesuit Fordham University in New York (add Rather to the long list of pro-choicers the modern Jesuits have entertained).
The night before Rather and a vainglorious Tom Brokaw had soaked up some bafflingly prolonged applause at the Emmy awards during a tribute to the nation’s departed triumvirate of news readers. Rather seemed on the verge of tears then. He had a largely nonspeaking role during the tribute; the Emmys gave Brokaw control of the mike as if to acknowledge that he was the less tarnished of the two. The crowd treated this moment with misty-eyed solemnity too, perhaps realizing that the passing of what Brokaw called the “brotherhood” (perhaps one day he will call it the “greatest generation”) represents a real danger to the left’s future designs on culture.
The “new journalism order,” said Rather at Fordham, is defined by a climate of “fear.” This is just another euphemism for the loss of liberal monopolistic power and emergence of conservative competition. By “fear,” what he means is that liberal journalists who could once spread their propaganda without looking over their shoulders now have to.
That Rather is fighting back tears these days is due to the shock of ending his career on a forgery ferreted out by the new journalistic order, and the unwillingness of CBS to back him up on the bogus report. As far as I know, he still hasn’t disclaimed the forgery; O.J.-like, he is apparently still in search of letters confirming the “core truth” of his story. Through his tears, he is in effect saying to CBS: you guys didn’t check my work for decades. Then you sideline me because of the complaints of some right-wing bloggers and media outlets?
Rather recalled for the Fordham crowd the glory days of old when conservatives couldn’t drive a wedge between him and management. “There was a connection between the leadership and the led…a sense of, ‘we’re in this together,'” Rather said.
Speaking at Fordham alongside Rather, reports Reuters, was Sheila Nevins, an HBO documentary chief. She, too, misses the days when Rather could pass off propaganda as news and management would clap him on the back. “When a man is close to tears discussing his work and his lip quivers, he deserves bosses who punch back. I feel I would punch back for Dan,” she said.
Then she spoke of her own troubles. It annoys her, for example, that the public wouldn’t view a Charles Darwin documentary she might make with proper deference. “If you made a movie about (evolutionary biologist Charles) Darwin now, it would be revolutionary,” she said. “If we did a documentary on Darwin, I’d get a thousand hate e-mails.”
That controversies now have two or more sides instead of just one is at the heart of the left’s complaint about the new media. This is what they mean by the loss of “objectivity.” Since liberals can no longer determine by themselves what can be debated, and who should be permitted to speak during it, “objectivity” has given way to “fear,” reporters who are worried that they can no longer escape scrutiny.