Politics

The Media's Nervous Breakdown Over Race

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If you were alive and on social media in early June, you were almost certainly swamped by scores of media and cultural organizations putting out statements, Instagram posts, and self-critical columns expressing solidarity in the fight against systemic prejudice.

"We recognize that there is much work to be done, and we are committed to engaging in this work to eradicate institutional racism," announced the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. "I have tried to diversify our newsroom over the past 7 years, but I HAVE NOT DONE ENOUGH," confessed the editor in chief of Variety. The women's lifestyle publication Refinery29, like many websites, changed its homepage color to black instead of its usual peppy pink.

Within days, the heads of all those institutions were out of a job.

In summer 2020, the American media experienced something like a collective nervous breakdown. Against the backdrop of the coronavirus and associated lockdowns, with whole sections of the industry teetering on the edge of collapse, newsrooms from coast to coast engaged in a series of internal revolts about race, defenestrating editors over everything from headlines to Halloween costumes.

Current and former employees launched self-styled "name-and-shame" campaigns on Twitter to out editors and organizations whose commitment to diversity and equity were deemed insufficient. A Broadway actress created a public spreadsheet called "Theaters Not Speaking Out"; participants were encouraged to "add names to this document who have not made a statement against injustices toward black people." Heads rolled at The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Los Angeles TimesBon Appétit, the National Book Critics Circle, Chicago's Second City Theater, The New York Times, and scores of other cultural institutions and corporations.

"Institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms," noted a group of 153 writers and academics, including such left-leaning luminaries as Salman Rushdie and Noam Chomsky, in a joint letter published online by Harper's magazine on July 7. "Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a researcher is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study; and the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes."

The Harper's letter, like the actions that precipitated it, revealed a split within the broader intelligentsia. On one side are people defending the values of liberalism—free speech, due process, individualism. On the other are those chipping away broadly at institutions they judge to be abetting a corrupted, discriminatory power structure. One side laments each broken egg; the other is busy making omelets.

That divide was on stark display within minutes of the letter's publication, as an entire generation of left-leaning commentators and journalists rose up nearly as one to douse the whole effort with bile. "The signatories, many of them white, wealthy, and endowed with massive platforms, argue that they are afraid of being silenced," snarled a counter-letter signed by 164 writers three days later. "The irony of the piece is that nowhere in it do the signatories mention how marginalized voices have been silenced for generations in journalism, academia, and publishing."

There is an asymmetry of approach between anti-liberals—of both left and right—and their increasingly alarmed critics. While the latter camp tends to treat controversies and individuals on a case-by-case basis, the former is forever trying to herd people into binary categories. In the words of bestselling author Ibram X. Kendi, "You're either racist or antiracist; there's no such thing as 'not racist.'"

The Manicheans have special contempt for those who refuse such designations, especially when they're otherwise on the same side of the political spectrum. That the Harper's authors came mostly from the left and prefaced their brief complaint with a swipe at President Donald Trump bought them no sympathy from their progressive tormentors. So signatory Yascha Mounk founds an earnest new publication called Persuasion, even while being dismissed by such leftists as The Daily Beast's Laura Bradley as belonging to a "coven of fools."

This witch-burning moment will hopefully recede, but the fuel in this accursed year will continue piling up.

 

NEXT: Brickbat: To Tell the Truth

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  1. It’s true there is a divide between liberals and anti-liberals (In the sense of belief in or rejection of free speech, due process and individuality) on both the left and the right. It reminds me of the divide between anti-authoritarians and authoritarians on the left and the right.

    I wonder if we drew a Venn diagram to see the overlap between authoritarians and anti-liberals on each side…Wait a minute, it’s just a circle for each!

    1. RIP Claire at Bon Appétit. I wish you were my THICC Jewish mommy gf.

    2. Wrong, it’s just one circle.

  2. It sounds like the chickens coming home to roost in the cases you described. Which is good. Mott & Bailey tactics are a lot harder to pull off without sincere idiots to argue that they’d never “that far”.

    1. Look, I know the purpose of showing those comments from the people who lost their jobs was a misaimed attempt to prove these people weren’t icky “racists”, but from outside the media bubble all this article really looks like is someone yelling “But I’m a loyal member of the party!” as they are dragged away for reeducation.

      This isn’t the first time that people thought mouthing the right words would protect them from the consequences of their own philosophies, or that people didn’t understand that someday the rules they applied to others would be applied to themselves. That things would end up here has been patently obvious for nearly a decade now.

      Also, you need to remember that the institutions where this is happening have 90% to 95% left leaning populations. The very few right leaning folks either built their own institutions that aren’t having these issues or have learned to keep their mouths shut before they get sacrificed on the pyre of social “justice”. People across the aisle (or really anyone who doesn’t consider themselves a loyal party member to SJ) aren’t just pointing and laughing instead of helping because they are assholes. They literally can’t help the people being persecuted now because the people being persecuted now made damn sure that there were no non-party members left in a position where they could help.

      1. Yes. Most descriptions of “there are two kinds of people …” (or 10, if you want 🙂 are defined by one of those two groups. In the SJW case, the first group has population zero: “There are two kinds of people, good people like I am striving to be, and everybody else, who is not even trying to be better.”

    2. Onward to Year One! Purge the institutions of counter-revolutionaries! Ban them, censor them, fire them, and harass them on Twitter and in the street too!

        1. I’d say 1789.

  3. You could replace “racism” with “socialism” and pretty much mirror what has been going on with the right.

    On the one hand, I certainly hope the authoritarians on the left aren’t embolden by a Trump defeat (really, most of this is election rhetoric soon to be forgotten until the next one).

    On the other, I hope the insufferable assholes of the authoritarian right don’t view the election as some kind of mandate either.

    1. Hate to disappoint you, but whichever side wins will most certainly be emboldened. I fear that the left will be emboldened even more to undo what they see as 50+ years of racist/fascist capitalism and milquetoast Joe will give them whatever they want.

      1. It’s Jeff, he’s here to shill and troll.

        1. Qsl was simply pointing out the well-known FACT that “over-interpreting your mandate from the voters” is a near-universal problem, for almost ALL politicians, ignorant fool!

          1. “SQRLSY One
            July.2.2020 at 5:11 pm
            Port-a-potties ARE buffets”

            LOL

      2. What’s the worst that will happen? We should continue kicking white people for being the racist scumbags they are. They’re Christians too so they’ll just turn the other cheek.

    2. Wait, where are these media institutions that are running around firing people for being too far left and having socialist views – particularly those that are only imputed to be socialist but actually are not socialist?

      1. Chirp.

      2. Now, now; that’s not how you’re supposed to do “Both Sides!”, Cyto.

      3. Now, now; that’s not how you’re supposed to do, “Both Sides!”, Cyto.

      4. Even the squirrels think you were being mean.

    3. “You could replace “racism” with “socialism” and pretty much mirror what has been going on with the right.”

      Stop smoking crack

    4. Fuck off Jeff.

    5. “You could replace “racism” with “socialism” and pretty much mirror what has been going on with the right.”

      The spectrum of left to right has always been about socialism–since the French assembly started seating themselves in revolutionary terms. The communists on the far left, the socialists on the left, the nationalists on the far right–in opposition to communism. The center left was largely trade unions, and the center right were the bourgeoisie. Revolutionaries tend to be more about social change and conservatives more about keeping things as they are or changing them back to the way they were.

      Still, when I’m talking about left and right, I’m talking about socialism vs. capitalism, with figures like FDR on one side and figures like Barry Goldwater, the Father of Modern Conservatism, on the other. Because I’m oriented towards liberty rather than just capitalism doesn’t change the fact that left vs. right has been about generally socialist ideas vs. generally capitalist ones going back maybe 150 years–no true Scotsman fallacies aside.

      Being capitalist may tend to come with certain traditional values like hard work, not having children you can’t afford and don’t take care of, etc., but the driving force behind that is still primarily capitalist–even with libertarians. I think that’s why most libertarians see an alliance with the right a la Goldwater, Ron Paul, and Rand Paul as a real possibility rather than identifying with the left. The left’s commitment to socialism is a bridge too far, and you can’t avoid that commitment to socialism on the left. It permeates everything they do.

      1. Your history is a bit suspect as “the left” was originally associated with free markets (indeed the origin of the word libertarian) in contrast to state power, with various form of anarchism and socialism along for the ride. But the focus was always opposition to the state.

        Further, the particulars of capitalism vs. socialism really isn’t under debate, merely the witch hunt to root out racism on the left perfectly mirrors the witch hunt to root out socialism on the right, with same attendant dog whistles and crippling lack of self-reflection.

        1. You’re attempting to rewrite history. The only liberty the left ever wanted was a communist Utopia: after purging and destroying anybody who didn’t agree with them.

        2. The terms left and right were associated with the French assembly, revolutionary vs. conservative, and it became about socialism and its associations vs. capitalism and its associations as soon as socialism emerged as a legitimate force in politics–especially after the revolutions of 1848. That’s when the democratic socialists emerged in the French assembly–the left had been calling themselves “reds” for decades before that.

          Meanwhile, left vs. right has been a more or less apt description for various parties affinity for socialism going back at least 120 years to the turn of the century. Because you can find labor leaders that trended pro-Democrat, like George Meany, who were anti-communist, of course, doesn’t mean that the divide over the course of his tenure at what became the AFL-CIO wasn’t generally socialist. They thought that redistributing corporate profits in a way that was of benefit to the unions was a legitimate and fine use of government. He saw the Iron Curtain not as a trade barrier but as a lock out that prevented his union members from selling the fruit of their labor. That didn’t make him a capitalist.

          We can also point to all the uncapitalist flaws in Goldwater’s and Reagan’s thinking and behavior. Whatever their shortcomings, it doesn’t change the fact that the divide between left and right meant that those on the left clustered around more socialist ideas and those on the right clustered around more capitalist ideas. George Orwell hated communism–because he was a committed socialist, which puts him on the left. Across the whole spectrum of what it means to be on the left and across the whole spectrum of what it means to be on the right, the fact is that those on the left cluster around socialism and those on the right cluster around capitalism.

          Faulting the right for being almost universal in their condemnation of socialism is like criticizing birds for having feathers or fish for swimming in water. Being critical of socialism is what being on the right means. Regardless of where they land on the authoritarian vs. libertarian scale, the left tends to land towards the socialism end of the scale while the right tends to land on the capitalist side of the scale. Of all the ways there are to divide left and right, doing so on the basis of socialism vs. capitalism makes more sense for most people over longer periods of time than any other way of dividing them.

          1. Nice overview.
            I’d like to add that from this taxonomy social issues like religious freedom and abortion and such are regularly apportioned to the right or the left but really for these it is less about economic organization than it is authoritarian structures. The respective sides gravitate to their economic poles but it has always puzzled me as to why aborto-partisans are largely redistributionist authoritarians while the religious freedom people are largely economic freedom types.

            1. economic freedom but tending authoritarian…

          2. George Orwell was a socialist, but when he was asked to describe socialism, it sounded a lot like libertarianism (with an emphasis on VOLUNTARY interactions). It’s a bit disappointing from the guy who emphasized the importance of clarity when using words.

          3. We might say Orwell had different ideas about what he thought we should do with our freedom once we were liberated from government.

            There’s this thing called fellow travelers. I’m not an anarcho-capitalist, but I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t agree on making the government smaller. If it ever gets so small that we need to have an argument about whether to strangle it completely, we’ll have been wildly successful. Until then, let’s be friends.

            I think that’s the way Orwell was with socialism. He was not an anarcho-capitalist, and he was opposed to capitalism. He was also opposed to authoritarianism. It’s hard for us to really grok his views because he was living at a time when the fascism and communism weren’t theoretical constructs.

            I can’t say my support for capitalism has nothing to do with my aversion to socialism either, and if I saw anarchistic socialism as the leading alternative to communism and fascism overwhelming the whole of Europe, I might think anarchistic socialism were a great thing, too.

            His arguments against totalitarianism certainly made him seem like a libertarian, and I don’t suppose I sound any more capitalist than when I’m taking socialism down.

            1. “I’m not an anarcho-capitalist, but I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t agree on making the government smaller. If it ever gets so small that we need to have an argument about whether to strangle it completely, we’ll have been wildly successful. Until then, let’s be friends.”
              ——
              This is what I tell my friends. If the worst problems we have in the world have to do with who builds the roads, maybe I’ll rejoin the Democrats. Until then……

      2. Individualism can simulate socialism with contracts; you sign over control of your income and property to some pretend-government whose only legal control of you is by terms of the contract.

        But socialism cannot even tolerate individualism, let alone simulate it.

        That distinction alone is good enough reason to show socialism is defective and incomplete and doomed to failure.

    6. You could replace “racism” with “socialism” and pretty much mirror what has been going on with the right.

      You are aware that 1954 was a long time ago, right?

    7. really, most of this is election rhetoric soon to be forgotten until the next one

      That’s what BLM and “White Fragility” was intended to be. Ramp up before the election, then sweep the hot causes back under the rug after the vote is counted. It’s been happening ever since I remember. (“Vote for Goldwater and we’ll end up at war in Vietnam!”)

      But after the 2016 election, when the Left knew Clinton was supposed to win, they went into perpetual outrage mode. They’ve been building the anger for the past four years.

      Especially if Biden wins, the Left isn’t going to calm down short of revolution. As always, the first order of business will be to reeducate the intellectuals who thought being progressive was the key to safety.

    8. But Team X got 50.1% of the vote in an election that represents less than 1/2 of the population! That’s totally a mandate!!

  4. Journalism is rife with Jayson Blairs. Anybody else remember Jayson Blair?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jayson_Blair

    Jayson Blair wasn’t an aberration. He was the future of journalism. And he wasn’t a mistake. The left built this army of Frankensteins, and they did it on purpose. They brought Jayson Blair up with the best of intentions. Dr. Frankenstein’s intentions were good, too. So what? He created a monster.

    That’s what we’re looking at–a publishing world that thinks intentions are the only thing that really matters–to the exclusion of everything else. That’s why not being racist isn’t good enough. It’s because the intent behind it isn’t good enough.

    Meanwhile, journalism continues to crumble as an industry. Major newspapers are lucky to retain 2% of their subscribers once they go behind a paywall. Ad supported websites aren’t picking up the slack either. And the streaming revolution means the markets are coming to destroy broadcast journalism and cable news, too. It used to be that cable companies could bill you for cable news channels in your lineup regardless of whether you watched them. Those days are ending because consumers have options and won’t pay for that crap anymore.

    Indeed, just because an army of Jayson Blairs won’t let publishers and broadcasters put out anything that isn’t created with the best of possible intentions, as the army of Jayson Blairs sees it, doesn’t mean average Americans are willing to pay to read the garbage that Jayson Blair’s army is writing. As the media marches itself off that cliff with enthusiasm, it’s important to remember that market forces eventually solve our problems regardless of whether we believe in them. Thank goodness the news media is crumbling!

    1. So, to sum up, MSM is experiencing cataclysmic change and we are witnessing its death throes?

      I find that encouraging.

      1. Yes!

        See the stats in my post below.

    2. Not to worry — I’m sure that the Biden/Harris administration will push through federal subsidies for “news media” (because it’s “vitally important to the public,” don’t you know!).

  5. The media would be sad to find out how few of the rest of the populace give even one damn what the media thinks.

    1. As Reverend Kirkland would say, that just proves how backward and ignorant they (the American people) are!

  6. Actually Matt, I am not disturbed at the editors being removed.

    My inbox was also inundated with these confessional emails. But most of them came from seemingly every company I had ever transacting business with online, as well as multiple public institutions, colleges and schools, and even the New Jersey judiciary, all confessing that they have tolerated “racism“ in their midst for far too long. All of which led me to ask: who is responsible for this? Who was running these Organizations, and will they be held accountable? In particular, what about the high priced human resources professionals and so-called “diversity officers” whose supposed job was to prevent this sort of thing from happening? Indeed, they were supposedly going to eliminate unconscious bias and “celebrate diversity.” How is it they allowed not merely discrimination, but outright racism to exist? Clearly, they failed their jobs miserably, but to my knowledge, not a single one of them has been held accountable for it. Instead, the companies fire some poor slob who posted a moronic comment on Facebook, or who wrote an article 30 years ago about women in the military.

    These authority figures are on record admitting that they “racism” to exist in their workplaces. They should be held accountable for it. Shouldn’t they? Or maybe they should admit that they were merely mouthing platitudes without seriously meaning what they were saying.

    1. Yes the virtue signal followed by a scape goat

  7. Hey Matt! Good to see your voice here!

    So… here’s a suggestion… How about a deeper look instead of a months late soft rebuke of both sides over the “Trump is super-terrible but we believe in free speech” letter?

    By deeper look, I mean a deep dive into the real causes of the anti-racist wave that crossed the nation.

    A simple (or a simpleton’s) view would be that the world recoiled in horror due to the death of George Floyd. But the groundwork had been laid long before that flashpoint. And it was not happenstance. There was a concerted effort across multiple groups and publications to push these issues and ideas to the forefront. Reasons were articulated behind the scenes, and some of these trickled out to broader audiences.

    Surely you have connections around the industry who will talk about the genesis of this moment? Surely there are people you know at various “grass roots” organizations that have some interesting thoughts on the topic?

    This is what I’d love to see from you. You’ve spent decades building a network of contacts in the industry. A real investigative report on how “you must denounce your whiteness” became not only acceptable, but expected. Outside of academia and the press, the ideas of these various authors pushing “anti-racism” are not exactly what you’d call “widely accepted”. In fact, the idea that we should abandon Martin Luther King’s teachings and move toward a race-only view of the world is rather deeply derided.

    There has to be a reason that (formerly?) great institutions like the New York Times have aggressively embraced the notion that people should not be judged by the content of their character, but by the color of their skin. There certainly seems to be something of a plan behind the whole thing. I know the NYT news editors have expressed their reasons for pushing race and racism to the front burner a year ago.

    1. I second. That’s where Reason could shine right now if they were so inclined.

    2. A real investigative report and not mere parroting to your selected audience? What an idea!

    3. It’d make a heck of a book subject for Welch. I’d buy it, if it looked well-sourced and thorough.

    4. Reason is a sick puppet of the MSM

      1. Long ago, I had a paper subscription to reason, complete with the bonus Reason Free Minds Free Markets coffee cup. The coffee always tasted good in that cup, but it broke a while back.

        Reason has become “reason woke.” Not sleep-walk-woke like the NYT, but kinda woke, and still has some worthwhile stuff. But their web page continues to be a garish hot mess.

    5. It’s simple: government has gotten so big, so meddling, so intrusive in daily life that it is literally more profitable, both financially and emotionally, to sic government on others, before they sic government on you, than to mind your own damned business. This started back in the late 1800s anti-trust wars, but they were just newly hatched amateurs. It took FDR and his gang to learn how to walk, LBJ and the loss of freedom of association started running, and the Internet made coordination and counter-revolution so much easier without the need for slow cumbersome physical visitation, and along came the COVID lockdowns to throw people out of work with nothing to do but focus on how little they had to do.

      I believe most ordinary people (NOT the intelligentsia) would gladly do without government “benefits” if they knew that everybody else would also lose their “benefits”. But everybody knows that ain’t gonna happen; there will be cronies choosing who loses and who keeps what benefits. So nobody is willing to slim down government.

      It can’t continue. This is not one of the dystopias where half the population is heroin junkies leaching off the few remaining productive members of society. This election is going to be the end of the left as currently constituted. If Biden wins, they will run into fiscal reality, and either disappoint their followers as traitors or create such hyperinflation that all bets are off. If Trump wins, they will burn out in a frenzy that makes Portland look tame. Either way, they will have to restructure themselves. Republicans will also have to restructure themselves, because no one else can reproduce Trump, and no one else has his charisma.

      2024 is going to be the interesting year.

    6. What “critical race theory” is trying to convey is that the color of one’s skin defines the content of their character.
      Only this time the positions are reversed.
      This cannot end well.

  8. “Employment in newspaper newsrooms decreased by 45 percent from 2008 to 2017—and by 60 percent from 1990 to 2016. (Even so, newspapers, because they are declining from a high base, still have almost three times as many newsroom employees as digital-only news sites: 38,000 versus 13,000.) Newspapers’ paid circulation has declined from 62.5 million in 1968 to 34.7 million in 2016, while the country’s population was increasing by 50 percent. Just between 2007 and 2016, newspapers’ advertising revenue, their major source of income, declined from $45.4 billion to $18.3 billion . . . . Almost 1,800 newspapers, most of them local weeklies, have closed since 2004

    . . . .

    The Wall Street Journal recently published a depressing chart showing that such outstanding regional daily papers as The Seattle Times and The Dallas Morning News have been able to convert fewer than 1 percent of their formerly nonpaying digital readers into paid subscribers. The figure at The Washington Post, which has the enormous advantage of access to Amazon’s super-efficient payment system, was under 2 percent, and at the Times under 4 percent. The uncomfortable truth is that, in the Internet age, most newspaper readers have found that they can get most of what they want to know from other sources.”

    “Can Journalism be Saved?”

    https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2020/02/27/can-journalism-be-saved/

    The real question is whether journalism should be saved!

    That article blames the damage on search engines and social media letting consumers access content for free and displacing journalism as an advertising platform. While a full page ad in the Los Angeles Times will set you back $50,000, you can reach the same number of people with a Google ad for $7,000 and an auctioned ad on the LA Times website sold through Google will get the LA Times $20. There’s a movement afoot in Congress to make social media and search pay for the content their users access, but social media isn’t about to $50,000 or $7,000 to put an ad next to that content. They’ll be lucky to get $20 for everyone who sources that story.

    Journalism has little hope as an advertising platform. Their only legitimate long term hope is their subscriber base–and only one to two percent of their potential audience is willing to pay a premium to read their social justice articles written courtesy of Jayson Blair’s army of perfectly intended monsters. They must upgrade their content to appeal to a broader cross section of paying subscribers, and those who fail to get their staff under control really should go the way of the buggy whip.

    1. The Wall Street Journal recently published a depressing chart showing that such outstanding regional daily papers as The Seattle Times and The Dallas Morning News have been able to convert fewer than 1 percent of their formerly nonpaying digital readers into paid subscribers. The figure at The Washington Post, which has the enormous advantage of access to Amazon’s super-efficient payment system, was under 2 percent, and at the Times under 4 percent. The uncomfortable truth is that, in the Internet age, most newspaper readers have found that they can get most of what they want to know from other sources.

      This is exclusive content for subscribers only.
      Get unlimited access to The New York Review for just $1 an issue!

      1. There’s this thing called the wayback machine. Also, the article is available as one time deal for a couple of bucks I believe. Or you could link to someone else who’s republished it with or without permission.

        http://www.politique-actu.com/dossier/journalism-saved-nicholas-lemann-nyrb/1785368/

        1. “Or you could link to someone else who’s republished it with or without permission.”

          The ‘not-quite-a-secret’ way to find many full-text scientific papers is to find the authors’ various faculty websites. Many will post copies of them.

          1. Or just trade them by e-mail request.

        2. Also, the article is available as one time deal for a couple of bucks I believe.
          I’m proving their point.

    2. Journalism is heading the way of the hobbyist. One guy with a patreon can churn out higher quality opinion pieces that 90% of the content at your local newspaper, and as that guy had to build his brand on his own, his stuff is far more likely to have basic fact checking occurring and not be brain dribbling stupid.

      Newspapers need to figure out how to provide something you can’t get better from a youtube channel that you won’t feel icky supporting.

      1. “Newspapers need to figure out how to provide something you can’t get better from a youtube channel that you won’t feel icky supporting.”

        Yeah, and as Welch’s article makes clear, the editors can’t change the internal culture or the nature of the work at these publications and outlets–even if they want to–because a revolutionary cadre of underlings has seized control so effectively that anyone who tries to deviate from a strict social warrior stance gets ousted as editor.

        The only model they’ll build is a model that only 1% of their potential customer base is willing to pay for. Meanwhile those statistics are from before the pandemic. Advertising dried up when consumers were isolating themselves. This recession is likely to accelerate the trend, and the trend is bad for journalists of all kinds.

        Four years ago, Americans” trust in the news media hit a new low in the Gallup poll–just a few weeks before Trump was elected. We may test those lows in the upcoming weeks. I certainly haven’t seen anything in the coverage of the lockdowns, the pandemic, or the riots that makes me think the press has reestablished trust.

        The American people mostly hate the news media. Used car salesmen may have a better reputation than journalists. Is it any surprise that American consumers literally don’t want to buy what they’re selling?

      2. This is why about all I listen to now is WFMU and volunteer-operated streams with a pinch of advertising or donations here and there. People who have real lives put out much better content as a hobby than do the pros, with few exceptions.

    3. This is the larger problem of journalism writ large – both print and digital.

      People are not buying it.

      While “newspapers” are still pulling in $18 billion in ad revenue…. how much are kids playing minecraft on YouTube pulling in? How about cute 16 year old girls doing 15 second dance routines on Tik Tok? Or groups of frat-boy wannabees doing stupid stunts for their millions of viewers on YouTube? And that’s just the good stuff.. you also have “unboxing videos”, where someone buys something and takes a video of them opening the box. Yes, that is really a thing, and people make a good living doing it. Or “reaction videos”. There are entire genres of reaction videos. Cute conservative girl reacts to liberal media. Cute liberal girl reacts to conservative media. Cute black girl reacts to old white guy music. (really, that’s a thing… I learned about it when YouTube started suggesting “reaction” videos to Rush after the death of Neil Peart)

      Many of those people are entire media empires unto themselves. I would venture that the entire “this should not exist at all” regime of video content vastly outweighs the traditional print media. And I’ll give them this, the most successful among them seem to seriously outwork traditional media outlets. I saw an interview with a guy who produces videos of himself playing video games. He works 10 hours a day, 7 days a week. He does personal appearances, hawks swag from an online store and does testimonial advertisements. The dude makes millions. Tens of millions. But he works his tail off. Doing something.. uh… I would say “stupid”, but let’s just go with “something I don’t really understand”.

      I suspect that the reason print media is in trouble is not only that people are finding what they want in their facebook feed instead of with their newspaper subscription, but also because “what they want” is increasingly being met by forms of entertainment that did not exist prior to this new age. Although the editors of the NYT never dreamed it possible, they are now competing with a 17 year old kid who plays Fortnight for a living and a 25 year old artist who makes memes for a living.

      1. I made myself curious, so I checked. Youtube took in $15 billion last year. That’s less than print media, but kind of on par. And rising.

        Add in the other forms that this alternative takes, and it is well past the print media in size.

        So I don’t know if my supposition that unboxing videos and Tik Tok dances and game streamers outweigh print media. But it is probably close. And that is probably where a good chunk of that $30 billion in ad revenue has gone.

        1. Note what Ken Shultz said about social media ads being cheaper for the same amount of eyeballs. Ad dollars going elsewhere won’t be a dollar to dollar exchange.

          Also, your supposition is correct. I stopped reading game and comic sites years ago because their journalists actively hate the fans of both (not actually an exaggeration, media around games and comics is fucked up), but I recently got back into hearing news on both areas because I found a youtuber that was actually enjoyable to listen to.

          1. It’s been awhile, but I always thought Ben ‘Yahtzee’ Croshaw was entertaining and informative during his short video game reviews.

            As obnoxiously woke as Sci-Fi/Fantasy fandom persists in being these days, I’d likely hate them too, if I were forced to deal with them for my job. Damn it, you made me just feel some empathy and pity for the Reason staff.

      2. As I’m reading this, I’m listening to a SoundCloud loop of Neil Cicierega’s “Smooth Flow”, a mash-up. I figured I might as well put it on, because I had it so pleasingly looping in my head in the car this morning. They now put an ad between every other loop iteration. Think about that — it now pays for people to advertise on repeated playings of a mash-up.

    4. Abramson remembers Halberstam’s book as a description of a “golden age” in journalism—the 1960s and 1970s.

      Back when there were only a few gatekeepers of information.

      1. That’s true. It used to be that even large cities often only had one newspaper, and the broadcast news, whether it came from ABC, CBS, or NBC was pretty much the same. And people’s trust in the news media was much higher when it was like that.

        I suspect the quality of the news we consumed back then was better–for whatever reason. Oligopolies tend to be more competitive than other market structures in various ways–and maybe that was driving quality.

        Anyway, here’s a historical chart from Gallup of their trust in media survey results going back to 1973. The percentage of Americans who place a great deal or a fair amount of trust in the news media hit a high of 72% in 1977. It hit a low of 32% a few weeks before President Trump was elected in 2016, and I bet it’ll be close to that in 2020.

        https://news.gallup.com/poll/1663/media-use-evaluation.aspx

        If what we’re seeing were happening against a backdrop of an explosion in the growth and profitability of the news media, that would be one things. But the market signals are all negative–as well as consumer sentiment on the industry? They’re imploding for a reason, and it isn’t that new forms of technology aren’t hungry for quality news content. I think a big part of their problem is that the quality of their news content sucks–because it’s being written in the shadow of social justice warriors who don’t care whether their content sells and will ruin any editor that gets in their way.

        1. Content was more moderate back then, because to go to the extreme would have ceeded a large chunk of their audience to the other two providers, but it wasn’t higher quality. There just wasn’t anyone who had a platform to call out the big three when they all made the same ‘mistake’.

          1. Look at the archives. Read the old content. They had their biases. They tried to present themselves as being unbiased–and that effort is gone. Even if it was never true that they were unbiased, there’s a big difference between at least trying to show that you’re not biased, on the one hand, and pushing a view of the world that is so biased, on the other hand, you can’t show any reservations or use fairness for fear of being ousted by your social justice underlings.

            There’s either a difference between social justice reporters pushing a view of everything that happens in such a way that it supports social justice wholeheartedly–or there isn’t. The forced resignations Matt Welch is writing about either have an effect on the way news is written or it doesn’t, and I’m here to tell you that the news editors of the past may have been more liberal than your run of the mill reporter. Nowadays, if an editor approves a story that is insufficiently woke, his or her staff will nail their scalp to their wall and celebrate the day the editor is fired.

            The content they’re creating today is of inferior quality to what came before.

            And I’ll just rest it on the case of Jayson Blair. Here’s the story again.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jayson_Blair

            In 2003, the New York Times fired an African-American, Jayson Blair, for making shit up in support of stories that were pro-civil rights.

            Can you imagine them doing that today?

            I can imagine a room of Jayson Blairs firing their editors at the New York Times for being so unacceptably unwoke as to fire someone like Jayson Blair for making shit up in a pro-civil rights story, but I don’t need to imagine underlings forcing editors to resign–since it’s really happened at the New York Times (at least twice since June 2020) and a whole world of other publications.

            If editors and writers are being fired for writing things that are insufficiently woke because they’re true, then why pretend that the quality of journalism isn’t worse today than it was in the past–when they would still fire reporters for making shit up in support of civil rights?

        2. The news was not better quality back then; it simply had no competition to show how awful it was. When your only choice is Two Buck Chuck, you don’t know how awful it is.

        3. CBS News executive Jonathan Klein made a comment about the “Fake But Accurate” episode:

          It’s an important moment, because you couldn’t have a starker contrast between the multiple layers of checks and balances, and a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas writing what he thinks.

          It was indeed a stark contrast between fake and real.

    5. I think a more satisfactory conclusion to their demise would involve them having a buggy whip applied to them, but then, I’m mean.

    6. Journalism will be saved by the market paying writers directly. This is a good thing because it turns the readers into the customers. Right now advertising and politics drives journalism.

  9. And yet Chris Wallace has been raked over the coals by the same media lately about listing race as a debate topic.

  10. In crime-ridden areas, however, trauma and death also come at the hand of other black people. On average about 50% of homicides nationwide. Whereas it seems to be the case that black people routinely get sentenced more often / severely (as street crime apparently is wont to be), the systemic racism argument cannot be made for the appalling black-on-black homicide and robbery rates; unless one were to deny any agency.

    One can certainly discuss what, if any, penalties there ought to be for nonviolent drug-related behavior. But you can’t reasonably argue that murderers walk free/are just victims of racism.

    Drug laws increase profitability and therefore willingness to use violence. Violent circumstances change police behavior.

    Given the extremely partisan nature of American politics I don’t expect any dramatic improvements but rather using the two sides of the coin for respective political gain.
    Only One Earth, Share and Care.
    Beautiful Butterfly

    1. It’s sad when the primitive AI these new bots have, still makes better posts than most of the trolls here.

      I feel a bit like Kasperov must’ve, watching Deep Thought play its first games.

      1. Yeah, at first glance I wasn’t sure but then there was the link at the end. Pretty butterfly pictures.

    2. black people routinely get sentenced more often / severely

      When you look at the low case closure rates in high-crime neighborhoods, it’s obvious that Black criminals are less likely to be sentenced at all.

  11. The term “racist” has become as useless as “fascist.”

    Consider that the term originally mean one’s own race is superior and should rule other races.

    Now it just means “That’s unfair!” or “I don’t like what you said!”

    1. Or more likely “I don’t like what you didn’t say.”

      After Obama was elected, I recall pundits considering what life would be like in a “post racial society.” No way in hell was that going to play out, so we got “white privilege” and “hidden systemic racism” instead. Race is far too useful a cudgel to ever give it up to any amount of progress.

    2. Consider that the term originally mean one’s own race is superior and should rule other races.

      Incorrect. As in, “Not even superficially correct.” Belief that one’s own race is superior is racist. That it should rule other races is supremacist. History is replete with leaders, people, and races that considered themselves superior (if only transiently and/or by chance) but felt that lesser people and races were free to command their own fates.

      1. Belief that one’s own race is superior is racist.

        And technically it needn’t be one’s own race in order to be racist.

    3. It forces extremists to up the rhetoric in ways that are both completely transparent and unproductive.

      The left went from calling those who disagree with them racists to racists to nazis to white supremacists. Now, according to their rhetoric, the entire country is built on a foundation of white supremacy. The old rhetoric no longer works, so they escalate until there is no relation to reality.

      The same principle has taken hold on the right. Anyone who isn’t pro-Trump supports a communist totalitarian dictatorship.

      Everyone now talks about something other than reality. It’s a scary place now. No one can be trusted.

      We’ve gone from a high trust society to a low trust one in a matter of a decade or less, and the media is a huge reason for that.

  12. “delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments”
    What the hell is the mob supposed to do, ya moron?

  13. Quoting that idiot Kendi is hilarious. He’s a race hustler trying to be the next Sharpton. I would expect a serious rebuke of his ideas which are certainly not about racism at all. But this is 2020, and this is a far different magazine than it was.

  14. Is there anything more more racist than proclaiming your streaming company to be antiracist and then having a “Black Awareness Week” featuring Blaxploitation films? Or the other service with showing their solidarity with Black Lives Matter by showing films with Black people in them, but none of whom have a Black star or co-star.

    This is just one small corner of the media, but it typifies the whole. Empty symbolism to the point of mockery.

    Everyone but Hollywood knew that Hollywood was racist and misogynist, so only Hollywood was surprised when its biggest producer was caught being a racist and misogynist pig. Hollywood is still sexist and we’ve seen little real change. We are seeing the same thing now with racism. We all know parts of the media is racist in so many subtle ways, and how hypocritical they are in lecturing us about it. And it’s the media who are first to be shocked, shocked to discover they are racist.

    The truth is that we have mostly solved the problems of sexism and racism. They still exist, but the tree is dead and no longer produces fruit. But the progressive Left needs to keep it around as a political tool and their witch hunts are just now discovering that it’s ubiquitous amongst themselves.

    1. The tree of non-reverse sexism and racism is dead, true. But the poisonous deliberate lie called Critical Race Theory has created a huge new crop of anti-white racists. We the people must purge the media by abandoning any pundit, publisher, or broadcaster that supports CRT. This means that all the former mainstream media are already garbage. They have forfeited the public’s trust forever.

      1. Trump is a below-average fraud and is ruining the country six ways to Sunday, and your big fixation is discourse in an obscure academic discipline. Because you’d usually care about what’s going on in various freshman seminars in towns you’ve never heard of.

        You are being had, dude. Stop being their puppet. It’s sad.

          1. You’re on Team Nazi. You should be ashamed of yourself, if not denied the right to vote.

            1. Calling someone a Nazi and wanting to deny them the right to vote. Choice.

              1. From someone who doesn’t know what a Nazi is. Put Tony in charge!

                1. I’m sure some of them are fine people.

              2. Do you concern yourself with the threat of Antifa?

                Now what about the Nazis who have actually murdered people? And sent bombs to Democratic politicians and members of the media and support Trump? More concern, less, or about the same?

      2. It’s not that CRT is racist against Whites, it’s also racist against Blacks! By redefining “racism” to be a political stance, they are now able to call everyone but themselves racist. Which is why CRT peeps are so anxious to demonstrate their own bona fides, lest they themselves get called out as racist.

        And the best way to avoid getting called out is to call out everyone else, until no one is left to call them out.

        1. Its a circular firing squad in the end.

    2. “Is there anything more more racist than proclaiming your streaming company to be antiracist and then having a “Black Awareness Week” featuring Blaxploitation films?”

      Yes.

      1. Agreed. An upper middle class white kid in skinny jeans protesting for BLM calling a black man who disagrees with him ‘uncle tom’ definitely comes to mind.

        1. Also the Nazis.

          1. We’re surrounded by National Socialists! They’re crawling out of the woodwork!

  15. All of this nonsense and they still manage to control the levers of power in academia and journalism. What lazy fucks you all are.

    Has there ever been a black employee of Reason magazine?

  16. The anti racists are the worst racists

    1. I think the Nazis are the worst racists.

  17. This witch-burning moment will hopefully recede, but the fuel in this accursed year will continue piling up.

    Good article, Matt, and Reason desperately needs more of this.

    And the witch-burning won’t recede until people spend more time forcefully speaking out about this.

    We need to have more people with a voice speak out in defense of Western liberal values. The people mostly responsible for the state of the culture are the very people who most benefit from said values, but can’t be bothered to defend them when they come under attack from anti-liberal leftists. Apologizing, raising your fist, posting a black picture on instagram, changing the colors of your publication banner to ‘black’, taking a “swipe at Donald Trump”– none of these things will buy you any good will.

  18. When McCarthy was running rampant, and it was the Army hearings, Bob Hope was scheduled to perform at the Wisconsin State Fair. One of his writers prepared anti-McCarthy jokes. Hope was very reluctant to perform them, but his writer convinced him to do so. When he did (McCarthy just uncovered one million Communists. He found the Moscow phone directory), the crowd roared in a nervous, pent up release of energy.

    I wonder how going into the lion’s den and ridiculing McCarthy undermined him.

  19. ‘Intelligentsia.’ Funny, that, as they are really not particularly intelligent, but are quite opinionated, the chattering types.

    A quote: Intellectuals are the shoeshine boys of the ruling elite. As they lean socialist, the elite are the proletariat, those toward whom they dedicate so much time sneering.

    And, a paraphrase: Their place is digging their own graves with their noses with someone’s dick in their ass. Oderous said it better, but he’s dead. They got off light in my opinion, for virtue-signaling and playing mock-revolutionary.

    Welch is absolutely correct, there is a similarity to Manichean dualism, but it stops at the immaturity and insistence on public spectacle to debase themselves. And the expectation that there will be no real-world consequences for them.

  20. Kendi is getting rich off this scary shit anti-racism shit. Is this a great country to what?

  21. The BLM types are very creative. They can put a “racist” interpretation on just about anything someone says or does, or fails to say or do.

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