By now, you’ve likely heard the tale of Josh Trevino: conservative commentator invited to contribute to liberal publication; commentator endures raft of shockingly vile attacks for past expressed beliefs which, while perhaps hot-headed, are really only objectionable because they defend a conservative viewpoint (in this case, Israel’s right to exist); liberal publication throws out shoulder reaching for some reason, any reason, to fire individual as soon as possible, and, unsurprisingly, does so.
Obviously, I have a personal stake in this matter, regarding a man I have been honored to call a colleague and honored still more to call a friend. What strikes me as particularly ridiculous about this situation is the lack of any anticipation on the part of old media at the highly predictable backlash against them from readers who view the encroachment of inconvenient opinions on their opinion pages territory as a personal insult. What, you thought everyone would greet someone who denounces their opinions with eloquence with candy and flowers as conquering heroes? (Oh, who’s being naïve, Kay.) At least they seem a bit ashamed about it now.
This week, the retiring public editor of the New York Times wrote a little missive about the closed-minded ideological bent of his own old media publication:
“Across the paper’s many departments… so many share a kind of political and cultural progressivism — for lack of a better term — that this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of The Times. As a result, developments like the Occupy movement and gay marriage seem almost to erupt in The Times, overloved and undermanaged, more like causes than news subjects.”
When we talk of media bias, we typically mean the reporters. The problem is that this bias extends beyond such things to overtake entire institutions. Niall Ferguson can make his case against President Obama all over the place for months, but when he does it on the cover of Newsweek, why, his tenure ought to be revoked. (Cue Michael Gambon in Layer Cake: “The audacity.”) The only possible way for new voices to endure at these old guard publications is to either become so compromised as to be useless and irrelevant, adopting the opinions of those with whom you once did battle, or so feeble and whimsical that your thoughts are viewed as posing no danger.
Meanwhile, the Guardian is retaining the liberal voice in the pairing, one Glenn Greenwald. I admire Mr. Greenwald’s ideological consistency and his devotion to twelve words where two would do. Yet I must concede that he, at least, is a journalist of the utmost integrity. If only the right could offer more commentators like him, who are popular with all the right sort of people. If you know what I mean.