Whenever the Los Angeles Times wants to defame a conservative but can’t find direct evidence to do so, it falls back on the “some critics say” formulation of media bias. Sure enough that craven device appears in its story on Trump adviser Stephen Miller’s high school days in Santa Monica: “Some [students] called him racist.”
The story supplies nothing to substantiate this slur, unless you consider opposition to over-the-top multiculturalism at Santa Monica High School racist. Apparently the Times does.
The story is full of little slights, designed to portray Miller as a dangerous reactionary, buried in passages of ostensible praise about his “intellectual tenacity.” We learn — brace yourselves — that Miller joined in the school’s daily pledge of allegiance willingly: “Every day, the student body’s best known and least-liked conservative activist stood at his desk, put his hand his heart and declared his love of country.” (Notice the overkill of calling him the least-liked conservative activist, as if there were others on campus of a more reasonable stripe.) This didn’t sit well with his classmates who saw it as an “affront” that made him a “nerd to some, a provocateur to others.”
According to the story, “teachers didn’t know what to do with him,” which sounds rather dramatic for a studious high school student who said the Pledge of Allegiance. From that description, one might think the teachers were dealing with a student who was dropping acid. Instead, he was showing up at meetings in coat and tie and challenging the regnant liberalism at the school. The Times found a former administrator, Oscar de la Torre, to give it an unfair quote about how Miller “didn’t believe the oppression existed” and was a young old fogey: “This guy is 17 years old, and it’s like listening to someone who’s 70 years—in the 1930s.” What does disbelief in “oppression” mean? That is not explained. The Times just lets that sit there as a smear.
When not portraying him as a premature old fogey, the story casts him as a heartless young preppy in “tennis shorts and polo shirts” whom “others remember” once gave a speech “questioning why students should be required to pick up their trash when janitors were employed for such tasks.” Who are those “others,” and why should we trust their paraphrase of his position? Again, the Times doesn’t specify. Just smear and move on — that is its approach. It is all rather confusing, especially since in another paragraph we’re told that this heartless young preppy had to move from a “tony” Santa Monica neighborhood to a “rental” on its south side after his “parents’ real estate company faltered.” Why throw that in? To suggest a seed of Trumpian economic discontent?
Struggling to shoehorn all these slights into an “alt-right” picture, the Times also portrays him as a gun nut (they trace his conservatism to a subscription to “Guns and Ammo” magazine), a critic of the “colorful festivals of minority cultures” (again, no evidence supplied), and a student “infuriated” by the school’s “culturally sensitive environment” (a tendentious description of opposition to politicized multiculturalism).
In reality, he was just a conventional conservative at an insanely liberal high school, where merely saying the Pledge of Allegiance qualified as a provocation. If anything, it sounds like Miller was the victim of a reverse racism encouraged by the school. Says the story: “Miller’s willingness to offend provided an easy punchline for the student paper. For the annual satire issue, the staff crafted a fake letter to the editor from him celebrating the cancellation of club day, when Latinos and other student groups sold ethnic foods. It mockingly said he preferred white bread and Virginia country ham.”
The Times treats that as harmless satire, but if Miller had engaged in the equivalent of it against minority students, he no doubt would have been expelled from the school. Under the politics of multiculturalism, conservatism shows a “willingness to offend,” while a high school that sanctions reverse racism is just, as the story puts it, “a school where multiculturalism was valued and a white, male-dominated society was challenged.”
The Times wants us to see Miller as a seething representative of that society in the midst of minorities at Santa Monica High School. This shameful genre of reporting is just an attempt to pit races against each other and push the narrative advanced by Van Jones-style liberals that Trump’s victory was a “whitelash.” Just as Obama’s America produced Trump, the subtext of this article goes, so Santa Monica High School “produced” his chief speechwriter.
The Times self-servingly presents a clash of philosophies as a clash of races with those who talk about race the least like Miller described as racist while those who talk about it the most cast as national healers. To borrow the Times’s language, some critics would say that that is not journalism but left-wing propaganda.