Saturday, April 30, 2005

Hugh Hewitt's challenge and CBS's Survival

Center-Right radio talkshow host Hugh Hewitt has posted a challenge to bloggers and others to offer up suggestions on how CBS can pull itself -- and by extension the other dying dinosaurs of the Old Media -- out of its likely fatal ratings spiral.

In order to solve a problem, of course, one must first understand what the nature of that problem is. At CBS and the rest of the Old Media the problem is not one of cosmetics but rather one of philosophy and therefore it is not something that can be quickly fixed with a new set or by the promotion of the next leftist in line -- not even the one with the nicest hair and shiniest teeth.

The problem isn't the "look" it's the leftism.

The bottomline that CBS (et al) must come to recognize is that leftism is such an intellectually and morally vacuous philosophy that it can only survive in, well, a vacuum. For nearly half-a-century the leftists at the elite media enjoyed such a vacuum in the monopoly they held on the dissemination of information.

In owning a monopoly the Old Media was able to play the old "bait and switch" on its customers, promising to deliver facts and information but instead providing only ideology masquerading as such. With nowhere else to turn for information the consumer of news was stuck with the leftists and the leftists could earn both profit and propaganda value for their cause without fear of ever being exposed.

This was the era when the term "pack journalism" came into vogue. The wolf pack, of course, offers no unique thinking but, instead, sees all work together towards the common goal. By thinking alike and parroting each other the leftists ensured that their manipulation of the news would rarely -- if ever -- be challenged.

It is not a coincidence, of course, that the story of the latest MSM deception, this one by the Managing Editor of CBS News, was broken not by any of the Old Media clique who would never think of exposing one of their own, but rather by the outsiders of the New Media -- most prominently within the blogesphere.

The corrupt leftists, of course, do not see themselves as corrupt. Even as CNN was engaging in a decade-long fraud in cahoots with Saddam Hussein the arrogance of the leftist prevented them from admitting to themselves what had become abundantly clear to the vast majority of Americans. While poll after poll showed that even Democrats recognized that the MSM was far to the left of them and virtually no one trusted the Old Media any longer, the NYC elitists and their ilk were steadfastly denying any bias -- much less corruption.

This is because many in the MSM were able to fool themselves into believing that their spin and lies were simply part of their job. That is, since the product they were selling was "truth" the objective of their job was not to provide fact and evidence in a fair and balanced manner but rather to supply only that which would lead the yokels and yahoos outside the approved zip codes (typically starting with a one or a nine) to understand "the truth." And since the leftist was so intellectually superior to everyone else it was simply a given that that "truth" was whatever the leftist himself believed via his leftist interpretations.

Clearly the rabble and the rednecks couldn't be trusted with to come to the truth on their own, after all these are people so stupid as to believe in American exceptionalism, God's existence and universal truths. To help these poor, uneducated dolts, then, the upper eastside of Manhattan crowd would pre-digest the information for them and regurgitate only that would which lead these illiterates to "the truth." If Fox News Channel's slogan is "We Report, You Decide" the elitists' was "You're Too Stupid To Decide So We've Done It For You."

If someone in the wasteland between Hollywood and New York was so ignorant as to believe, for example, that the Vietnam War was a noble effort to staunch the spread of Communism it was the Old Media's job to disabuse them of this conclusion and guide them to "the truth" no matter how much misinformation and disinformation that required.

Thus the Old Media was "only doing its job" in portraying the Tet Offensive -- an overwhelming victory for the American troops -- as a backbreaking defeat for the United States for such a portrayal, while an outright lie, was needed to make the yokels (so stupid they actually preferred American beer to French wine) outside of the Upper East Side of Manhattan to see "the greater truth" that "war is not the answer" and to debunk that nasty inconvenience to "multiculturalism" that is the recognition of American exceptionalism.

This is, of course, what Dan Rather was thinking when he tried to sell forged documents and portray a mentally disturbed Democratic Party partisan with multiple contacts at the highest levels of the Kerry campaign as "an unimpeachable source." Rarely does a leftist actually come out and say it but Rather did. When caught red-handed he implored the dolts to ignore all the facts and evidence and simply get the "bigger truth." That "bigger truth," of course, was the leftist position that George Bush should not be reelected.

What Rather failed to recognize (but what CBS and the Old Media must if they are to survive) is that this isn't the 1970's, 80's or 90's and the spoken or unspoken collusion between a handful of leftist, NYC media pretty-boys is no longer a guarantee of protection from a handful of like-minded zealots.

With the advent of alternative voices it is no longer possible for the leftists to sell misinformation and disinformation in the guise of "journalism" secure in the knowledge that the other networks share their ideology and agendas. Try as they might, for example, in the twenty-first century these sources could not convince the American people that the war that liberated Iraq was a "Vietnam-like quagmire" now that these same viewers could turn on the Fox News Channel and see for themselves that American troops were standing in Baghdad in what was, in fact, historically unprecedented time.

It is because leftism cannot survive in an environment where it is challenged that the last bastions of leftist domination of the news are formats where debate and discussion is impossible. Conversely, every venue where debate and discussion is part of the format the intellectual and moral vacuousness of the leftists is quickly exposed and its purveyors uniformly rejected by the people.

So it is that the last gasp of leftist controlled media-- the Old Media -- includes the twenty-three minute a night network newscasts where the likes of Dan Rather and Peter Jennings dictate "the truth" to viewers without interruption or counterpoint. This same ideology espoused on the cable news channels, though, with their hour-long debate and discussion formats. sees the consumer of news turning off the leftist CNN in favor of the more reasonable and reasoned -- and accurate -- Fox News Channel.

Similarly the leftists continue their hold on the print media where the likes of the New York Times puts down on paper whatever their politically motivated agenda demands and, as if gospel, "it is written" but when these same arguments are put forth on talk radio programs, where they must be defended against twenty or thirty challenges by intelligent and engaged listeners, the leftist talk show host is soon vanquished.

To solve their problems, then, and to have any chance to be of relevance in the future the Old Media -- and CBS in particular -- must go beyond cosmetic change and come to understand that the days of the leftist monopoly and unquestioned "facts" are gone. Consumers of news want facts and information not ideology and to test these facts they want anchors who are not just willing but able to stand up to challenge from thoughtful and intelligent sources.

This is going to be difficult for the elitists in the Old Media to accept, however, as, in their arrogance the very definition of "thoughtful" and "intelligent" is simply anyone who agrees with them and tells them how smart they are. So the next thing that CBS must do is reject the arrogance that is so prevalent CBS News insider Bernard Goldberg used the word as the title of his book.

This will be a difficult choice for the elitists at CBS (et al) who are basically being given a choice between chucking the narcissism that is at the core of their being or losing the battle of the news shows to the likes of Fox and other non-leftists news sources that are sure to appear as the Old Media is more and more exposed in their folly.

CBS will have to, at the very least, feign respect for the non-leftists outside the approved zip codes and to the growing numbers within those zip codes who have come to recognize that truth is simply not a premium to the ideologues of the MSM. Few businesses (outside of a monopoly) can survive when they hold their customers beyond contempt -- often to the point of hatred.

What specific changes should CBS make? Should they go with viewer calls or in studio guests who honestly represent an opposing point-of-view? I'll leave that to the marketing department. But unless and until CBS and the rest make the decision to become purveyors of truth rather than hucksters for ideology shiny teeth and pretty hair just ain't gonna do it.

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