• Connecticut’s Left Of Center Media

    September 8, 2023

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    In Connecticut, following the decimation of independent newspapers, the captured, monopolistic press tends to exert its power and message from afar, and the message, which lacks intellectual vigor, tends to be wearily the same.

    The media in Connecticut is not only censorious, mostly to a center or right of center vision of the world, it tends to be a rigorous censor of views, a sort of doctrinal overseer of the left, the secular equivalent of the Catholic Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF).

    One of the benefits of such exclusionary censorship for those censored is that the excluded, if ever they had been connected to a neo-progressive media, find themselves free of ideological and business obligations. This sudden liberation makes some stranded journalists go batty, if they weren’t batty before.

    The truth that sets you free is always foreboding, hard-edged, and a career-threat. If King George could have caught Boston publicist Sam Adams, known even during his own day as “The Father of the American Revolution,” he surely would have hanged him.

    Connecticut is, without question, one of the most doctrinaire, neo-progressive states in the union, “San Francisco on the east coast,” one disembowel contrarian political writer has called it.

    I will leave it to others, for the time being, to account for the fact that a state rich in millionaires continues on a bright blue path towards an ever glowing and glowering neo-progressive political Oz.

    Nearly all Connecticut’s large cities have been, for three decades at least, dominated by the state’s energetic Democrat political party. All the state’s constitutional offices are held by Democrats. All the members of Connecticut’s U.S. Congressional Delegation are reliable neo-progressives. So larded with Democrats is the state General Assembly that the dominant party in Connecticut now has a nearly veto-proof majority over Republicans, and the state’s putative “moderate” governor, Ned Lamont, a millionaire several times over who lives in tony Greenwich, Connecticut, a peapod of conspicuous consuming millionaires, regularly permits himself to be wrenched to the left by progressive state unions, political circumstances and a windy left of center media.

    Greenwich, Connecticut, once reliably Republican, is now filled with blue-gilled, redundantly wealthy, apolitical millionaires anxious to stuff Democrat collection baskets with hefty campaign donations.

    Connecticut Democrats have discovered that the easiest way to earn a vote is to buy it with tax dollars, and Greenwich millionaire CEOs have discovered that the easiest way to kill competition is to buy out the competition with political donations that purchase killing regulations small businesses simply cannot afford.

    Connecticut’s establishment media unfailingly supports the political establishment, some suspect, for both ideological and business reasons. Just as you cannot get water by squeezing a stone, so you cannot get news by establishing journalistic relationships with a party, the state GOP, that has been effectively marginalized for more than three decades.

    If you are a closet partisan editorial page editor loudly affecting objectivity, or a soft-spoken pro-Democrat journalist with sharp neo-progressive claws, there are two effective ways, you will soon discover, to marginalize what used to be considered contrarian opinion in Connecticut. You may ignore it in your op-ed commentary section, or you may give it brief and passing notice in news reports, while showering journalistic indulgences on the reigning neo-progressive establishment party – in Connecticut, former liberals with a penchant for overturning liberal presuppositions.

    May we agree at the outset that Connecticut’s current Democrat Party is not “liberal” in the fashion of President John F. Kennedy, former Democrat Governor Ella Grasso, or any of the leading lights of a liberalism now gone to seed, such as John Locke or John Adams? 

    It is a categorical mistake of the first order to suppose that the neo-progressive Democrat Party in Connecticut is the party of change, the Republican Party being the party of stasis.

    In Connecticut, the reverse is true. The Democrat Party, which presents itself enticingly as the party of forward movement, has been, particularly in large Connecticut cities, the party of a frozen stasis. For nearly a half century in Connecticut, urban Democrats have ruled the roost in the state’s larger, crumbling cities – with predictable results.

    The one party city, like the one party state, tends to move rapidly from a representative form of government to a blind, unheeding and unrepresentative authoritarian political structure, what used to be called in the bad old days of New York’s Tammany Hall an unanswerable “political machine” that runs on empathy and political presuppositions that tend to advance only the interests of the machine.

    In such a machine, copious tears and empathetic assurances stand in place of corrective policies. All this leads to a sort of low-grade loudly trumpeted solicitude for the poor and depressed, a blubbery soap opera in which single party candidates jostle with each other on a the campaign field to sweep into their corners a majority of voters suffering from problems largely caused by machine politicians.

    By way of example, consider the fate of one of the last privately owned, independent newspapers in Connecticut.

    The Journal Inquirer (JI) is now a part of the Hearst Media chain. Hearst has been growing by leaps and bounds in the state during the last decade. At the same time, many newspapers in Connecticut have shrunk in size, the result, some people seem to think, of ad revenue that smaller newspapers have lost to burgeoning internet sites and a declining newspaper reading public. Surviving papers are now seeking to recover the lost revenue by erecting “pay walls.”

    Like most besieged businesses, newspapers also are attempting to recoup lost revenue through staff reductions, reductions in the size of the product – both candy bars and newspapers are much smaller than they had been in the past – and sell-offs to large media chains that operate according to the Social Darwinian principles of monopolistic “red in tooth and claw” giant corporations. The first principle of the successful mega-firm is: Buy out your predator before he swallows you.

    The Hartford Business Journal (HBJ) mentioned the sale of the JI  to Hearst in a story titled “Hearst completes JI acquisition; offers jobs to half of newspaper’s staff.” HBJ pointed out “Hearst Connecticut said it operates 16 websites and more than 20 print publications, including a number of weekly newspapers.”

    Independence does matter in journalism. The original Hearst, William Randolph, was fiercely independent, inventive, expansionary and feverishly competitive. “You furnish the pictures,” he wrote to artist Fredrick Remington, then on site in Cuba, “and I’ll furnish the war.” The Spanish-American war commenced after pictures of the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor appeared in Hearst papers. Orson Welles’ movie “Citizen Kane,” which features a leading character suspiciously like Hearst, may have taken some liberties with the facts of Hearst’s life but, in the main, it was on point.

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    An HBJ reporter mentioned Chris Powell in an interview on an AM radio station. AM, the reader may have heard, has been put on a list of vanishing news outlets. The reporter speculated that the new arrangement might or might not make room for Powell’s frequent commentaries.

    Powell was for many years both the Managing Editor and the Editorial Page Editor of the JI. Upon his retirement, he was still writing op-ed pieces for the JI.

    How important is Powell in this new scheme of things? Will Hearst carry him, now that it has bought the JI? Always fiercely independent, Powell may be the vanishing canary in Connecticut’s media mine shaft.

    Like most news media in New England, Hearst is giving way to a leftist tropism. The media in the increasingly neo-progressive Northeast corridor tends to lean to the left on most issues of importance because many neo-progressive politicians in New England have drifted left during the last few decades, and what Karl Marx used to call “the correlation of forces” here in the Northeast is now leftist. The offspring of a one party state is a one party media.

    Papers covering the news of the lamented disappearance of an independent media – at most a one day story – also covered at the same time the forward progress through Connecticut’s Education Committee of Senate Bill (SB) 1165.

    CTMirror reported that the ambitious bill will, according to State Representative Cory Paris, “ultimately set many young people across our state, at a pivotal life stage throughout their educational career, on a path making good financial decisions and place them on a path for a brighter future.”

    Paris did not tell us whether the high school course would also be mandatory for state politicians responsible for Connecticut’s less than bright financial debt. According to Statista, “In the fiscal year of 2021, the state debt of Connecticut totaled to about 41.97 billion U.S. dollars. In that same year, the state's local government debt was about 11.8 billion U.S. dollars. By the fiscal year of 2027, the state debt of Connecticut is forecasted to be about 49.96 billion U.S. dollars, and the local government debt is forecasted to be about 14.31 billion U.S. dollars.”

    Of all the columnists, editors and reporters I’ve known, directly or indirectly, Powell was the most welcoming to controversy. In plain speech, controversy, always controversial, is a binary account of true facts and occasionally true opinions. News stories are always at first incomplete accounts on the way to completion. The complete account is the end product of a search for truth. This process is killed in the crib by editors who are unwilling to allow opposing points of view in newspapers. As Managing Editor and Editorial Page Editor of the Journal Inquirer for many years, Powell welcomed controversy every bit as much as great defenders of freedom of speech in past times such as John Stewart Mill.

    Mill’s declaration of freedom of speech was uncompromising: “If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”

    Surely we can all agree that unitary reporting and unitary political parties will be the death of both politics and news reporting.



    Don Pesci

    Don Pesci is a political columnist of long standing, about 40 years, who has written for various state newspapers, among them The Journal Inquirer, the Waterbury Republican American, the New London Day, the Litchfield County Times, the Torrington Register Citizen and other Register Citizen papers. He maintains a blog, among the oldest of its kind in Connecticut, which serves as a repository and archive, for his columns; there are approximately 3,000 entrees in Connecticut Commentary: Red Notes From A Blue State, virtually all of them political columns stretching back to 2004. He also appears once a week Wednesdays on 1080 WTIC Newstalk radio with Will Marotti.

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