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Ken Stern

From time to time, I come across a progressive sociopoliticalantropologist  who decides to venture out into flyover country, that vast cultural desert where God and gun clingers live their meaningless, unfathomable little lives. They spend some time observing, perhaps even interacting, with the animals in their native habitat, and write a journal of their experience in that strange, new land. Usually, they at least make an attempt to find some good in the backward native population, and make a weak plea or two for understanding and unity, as I noted in The Voice Of Otherizing Reason. 

A recent case in post is one Ken Stern, the former CEO of National Public Radio. NPR, for those of you that don’t tune in, and that’s most of America, is a publically funded progressive organ with pretensions of cultural significance. While NPR does have some worthwhile programming—for example, the sadly defunct Car Talk—its political outlook, and its programming, is stridently progressive and was often fake news before fake news was cool. Stern was recently published in The New York Post, and began with a surprising admission:

Most reporters and editors are liberal — a now dated Pew Research Center poll found that liberals outnumber conservatives in the media by some 5 to 1, and that comports with my own anecdotal experience at National Public Radio. When you are liberal, and everyone else around you is as well, it is easy to fall into groupthink on what stories are important, what sources are legitimate and what the narrative of the day will be.

That’s interesting, and entirely correct. Some imagine progressives in the media meet every morning to plot their attacks on flyover country America. And while journalists do actually communicate from one progressive news source to another to ensure they’re furthering the progressive narrative, within individual newsrooms it’s simply not necessary. They all think exactly alike and rarely, if ever, speak with anyone holding a differing opinion.

This may seem like an unusual admission from someone who once ran NPR, but it is borne of recent experience. Spurred by a fear that red and blue America were drifting irrevocably apart, I decided to venture out from my overwhelmingly Democratic neighborhood and engage Republicans where they live, work and pray. For an entire year, I embedded myself with the other side, standing in pit row at a NASCAR race, hanging out at Tea Party meetings and sitting in on Steve Bannon’s radio show. I found an America far different from the one depicted in the press and imagined by presidents (‘cling to guns or religion’) and presidential candidates (‘basket of deplorables’) alike.

I spent many Sundays in evangelical churches and hung out with 15,000 evangelical youth at the Urbana conference. I wasn’t sure what to expect among thousands of college-age evangelicals, but I certainly didn’t expect the intense discussion of racial equity and refugee issues — how to help them, not how to keep them out — but that is what I got.

Progressives commonly think conservatives heartless, violent brutes who hate all not like them. The conservative truth is a matter of differing philosophies, of how best to help people help themselves, not of how to impose government on them. Conservatives give to charity by a huge margin over progressives. This is, of course, logical. Progressives think it’s government’s job to care for everyone—with other people’s money—so they tend to give little to charity. Conservatives don’t want to end immigration, they just believe it should benefit America, and admitting those who do not contribute, criminals, or those who actually wish Americans harm is suicidal. As one might expect, guns were a feature of Stern’s reporting:

Early this year, I drove west from Houston to Gonzales, Texas, to try my hand at pig hunting. It was my first time with a gun, and the noticeably concerned owner of the ranch at first banished me to a solitary spot on the grounds. Here, he said, the pigs would come to me and I could not pose a danger to anyone else. It was a nice spot indeed but did not make for much of a story, so I wandered off into the woods, hopefully protected by my Day-Glo hunting vest.

I eventually joined up with a family from Georgia. The group included the grandfather, Paps, and the father, CJ, but it was young Isaac, all of 8 years old, who took on the task of tutoring me in the ways of the hunt. He did a fine job, but we encountered few pigs (and killed none) in our morning walkabout. In the afternoon, with the Georgians heading home, I linked up with a group of friends from Houston who belied the demographic stereotyping of the hunt; collectively we were the equivalent of a bad bar joke: a Hispanic ex-soldier, a young black family man, a Serbian immigrant and a Jew from DC.

None of my new hunting partners fit the lazy caricature of the angry NRA member. Rather, they saw guns as both a shared sport and as a necessary means to protect their families during uncertain times. In truth, the only one who was even modestly angry was me, and that only had to do with my terrible ineptness as a hunter. In the end though, I did bag a pig, or at least my new friends were willing to award me a kill, so that we could all glory together in the fraternity of the hunt.

Hmm. So much for white supremacy. I doubt Stern’s companions would agree with his characterization of hunting as glorious. Most likely, they find it enjoyable, and a way for modern man, no longer dependent on the land for survival, to connect with useful skills and attitudes we cannot afford to lose. However, let us, gentle readers, allow Stern a bit of literary license. Stern noted the media is virtually one sided in its coverage of firearm issues:

Take for instance the issue of the legitimate defensive gun use (DGUs), which is often dismissed by the media as myth. But DGUs happen all the time — 200 times a day, according to the Department of Justice, or 5,000 times a day according to an overly exuberant Florida State University study. But whichever study you choose to believe, DGUs happen frequently and give credence to my hunting friends who see their guns as the last line of defense for themselves and their families.

Stern is correct in also noting the media suppresses the many stories of flyover country folk using guns to protect their lives and the lives of others.

It’s not that media is suppressing stories intentionally. It’s that these stories don’t reflect their interests and beliefs.

Stern is incorrect. Journalists do actively suppress such stories. There have been a great many stories of significant news value involving citizens stopping crimes by using guns, but apart from one or two local stations, the media ignores them. This is not coincidence. They are not interested in guns and do not believe anyone should have them, but that’s true of a great many things about which they do write. Stern is giving them—and perhaps himself–too much credit.

The mainstream media is constantly under attack by the president. They are ‘frankly disgusting,’ ‘tremendously dishonest,’ ‘failing,’ ‘they make up the stories’ and are now threatened with loss of broadcast licenses if they continue to author ‘fake news.’ And that is just a random Wednesday’s worth of words from Donald Trump.

Some may take pleasure in the discomfort of the media, but it is not a good situation for the country to have the media in disrepute and under constant attack. Virtually every significant leader of this nation, from Jefferson on down, has recognized the critical role of an independent press to the orderly functioning of democracy. We should all be worried that more than 65 percent of voters think there is a lot of fake news in the mainstream media and that our major media institutions are seen as creating, not combatting, our growing partisan divide.

Again, Stern while demonstrating unusual insight—for a journalist—is engaging in progressive group think. Americans support President Trump in his comments—not attacks—on the media because they know—not think—the media is fundamentally dishonest and untrustworthy. The media, by willingly taking the progressive side rather than honestly and fairly reporting the facts, have made themselves the enemies of the American people. Mr. Trump is merely fighting back, saying what honest Americans have been yelling at the TV for years. They do take pleasure in the media’s discomfort, not because the media are helpless victims, unfairly denigrated, but because they’ve chosen sides and hearing the truth told about them should damned well make them uncomfortable, but obviously, not uncomfortable enough to cause them to become honest brokers of the news.

Americans also know the media think themselves an intellectual and moral elite, self-appointed to tell us what we ought to think and how to think it. No one is well disposed toward fatuous busy bodies that think themselves superior to mere mortals. Stern’s comments are particularly galling in that it is Progressives that hate and revile the Constitution, abhorring the rule of law and worshipping social justice. Honest Americans revere the Constitution, including the First Amendment, but have no time or respect for Progressives with by-lines.

Mr. Trump is absolutely right: the media is failing. Without the intervention of a Mexican billionaire, The New York Times might no longer exist, and the sale of Newsweek for a single dollar helps tell that tale. The media should also understand Americans have other sources for news, sources they are using more and more each day, if for no other reason than to find the truth after hearing the lies and omissions of the media. Hearing stories the media, as Ironhawk says, covers with a pillow until they stop moving is also a plus.  It won’t take much longer for most Americans to abandon the media entirely. In the meantime, the media continues to attack Donald Trump for every and no reason, and with him, flyover country Americans.

None of this justifies the attacks from President Trump, which are terribly inappropriate coming from the head of government. At the same time, the media should acknowledge its own failings in reflecting only their part of America. You can’t cover America from the Acela corridor, and the media need to get out and be part of the conversations that take place in churches and community centers and town halls.

Cognitive dissonance, anyone? This does indeed justify President Trump’s frequent exposure of media lies. The media are not sacred—far from it. They are privately owned, for-profit businesses selling an insulting and inferior product, and purposely alienating some 50% or more of their potential audience. If they don’t want to be criticized for their self-inflicted failings, they are free to go out of business. Few will stop them.  Fewer will mourn their disappearance.

To be completely fair, Stern’s mea culpa is perhaps the most complete and apparently honest I’ve yet seen, but he can’t entirely shake the attitudes and beliefs he internalized as CEO of NPR. Flyover Country Americans, who accepted and were honest with him—they’re like that–are not at all hard to understand. They work, love, raise their children, care for their families and communities, expect government to honor its promises and obligations, and otherwise, to leave them alone. They give little thought to Progressives living in distant places. As long as Progressives—and government—leave them alone, they have no argument with them nor do they envy them. Their culture values honesty, reliability and recognition of fact. They also honor the Constitution and know its survival—intact—is America’s survival.

Those that reject that culture, the culture that has built and maintained America, are their enemies. They did not make the media, and progressives–I know, one in the same–their enemies. The media and progressives did it themselves and thus far, they’re damned proud of it, and working to do worse.

It will not end well for them.

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