• Media Tropism And The Conscientious, Contrarian Journalist

    September 2, 2023

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    Some journalists believe it is the business of Connecticut’s media, or any media that proudly wears upon its breast a journalist’s badge of honor, to say the inconvenient truth boldly and often.

    A timid journalism will always avoid asking questions that make establishment politicians uneasy, unless the politician falls on the wrong side of the ideological barricades. Connecticut’s media tends to veer left because they are pulled in that direction by a neo-progressive dark star.

    Why should conscientious journalists discriminate between liberals, progressives and neo-progressives?

    That is an example of a good question, precisely the sort of question that is rarely asked or answered in public political discussions here in deep blue Connecticut.

    For reasons not often discussed, western and eastern seaboard states have been trending left for decades. But progressivism, much older than people think, has little to do with postmodern progressivism.

    Bull-Moose Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican politician, has little in common with, say, soon to be former Governor of California Gavin Newsom. One cannot imagine Newsom racing up San Juan Hill along with a discreditable bunch of Roughriders.

    Woodrow Wilson, a progressive egghead, was closer in spirit to neo-progressives but far apart, ideologically, from progressive precursors such as religion infused Democrat William Jennings Bryant, who ran for president several times and each time lost -- proudly.

    Henry Mencken railed against Bryant as often as possible. Here is Mencken on the recently deceased Bryant: “Wherever the flambeau of Chautauqua smoked and guttered, and the bilge of idealism ran in the veins, and Baptist pastors dammed the brooks with the sanctified, and men gathered who were weary and heavy ladened, and their wives who were full of Peruna [a patent medicine] and as fecund as the shad (Alosa sapidissama), there the indefatigable Jennings set up his traps and spread his bait.”

    That anti-eulogy, we may be sure, would never pass muster at the subtly neo-progressive New York Times or the Associated Press.

    Then too, Wilson put Eugene Debs, a socialist with presidential ambitions, in jail. No neo-progressive Democrat has yet suggested Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders should be jailed. There are hosts of neo-progressive Democrats, some writing for the Times and the Associated Press, who would rejoice – privately, of course, never publically – to see former President Donald Trump spend his remaining years in the hoosegow.

    When the relevant lords and ladies of the neo-progressive movement in the United States proposed setting the FBI dogs loose on Latin Mass Catholics, no one on the left made much of a stir. One cannot imagine Mencken preserving a discreet silence on such matters. A practical atheist, “The Bard of Baltimore” was never-the-less morally courageous. His campaign against African American lynching spared no one.

    In any case, there are exceedingly important differences between progressives, liberals and neo-progressives that should be acknowledged by courageous journalists. Journalism is, after all, the art of naming things correctly.

    American journalism is bleeding from three suppurating wounds: a massive loss in advertising dollars, a no less costly loss in readership, and frequent buyouts by large media conglomerates of once independent newspapers.

    Bob MacGuffie, now running against neo-progressive 4th District Democrat incumbent U.S. Representative Jim Himes, is not the first Republican candidate for high office to have noticed a certain ideological left of center predisposition among Connecticut’s once independent editorial boards.

    MacGuffie recently wrote an article titled “Free Speech is Suffocating Under Blue-Captured Connecticut’s ‘Iron Cloak’ of Corporate Media” that appeared in the state’s dwindling independent media. As expected, the piece received a cold shoulder from Big Corporate Media.

    MacGuffie noted, “the huge and sprawling Hearst Media Corporation established Hearst Connecticut Media Group (HCMG) to acquire CT media properties. HCMG now owns nine daily newspapers, 13 weekly papers and CT Magazine.  Though some have state-wide reach, most are centered in, and focused on Fairfield County. The acquired news outlets range from the larger Connecticut Post and Stamford Advocate, to town papers such as the Trumbull Times and New Canaan Advertiser. In Connecticut’s 4th Congressional District alone [Himes’ political playground], Hearst has acquired the leading town/city paper in 13 of the 17 towns in the district.”

    Postmodern progressives are in some respects more censorious than medieval popes in protecting cherished left of center political doctrines.

    The left of center HCMG, he notes, “… has proven itself as no friend of the free-speech rights of Republicans, or any citizen on the right side of the political spectrum. In the Hearst local papers there’s little commenting allowed on editorials or op-eds, and only subscribers can comment on some articles the editor deems open for comment. Many won’t take letters-to-the-editor or op-eds from the general public either – you need to be someone credentialed. There’s also a single editorial board and a couple writers who pen the editorials, which appear in all the town papers simultaneously. The editorials provide a steady diet of progressivism, with regular salvos of ridicule sprinkled in for anyone among the public who speaks out against the progressive corporate or establishment line. Because of this arrangement, free-speech here in Fairfield County, and indeed much of Connecticut, has now been effectively suffocated.”

    This is all well said. Thomas Jefferson, pilloried by news agents in his own day, thought that the founding republic he helped established could be rebuilt by a free press should it ever be destroyed, because the American view of liberty was a freshet that sprang from the hearts of Americans. So long as truth rules in the media – that is to say, so long as the media itself retains its independence from politicians and influencers – the Republic will be well served.

    And if not, we should bid goodbye to our indispensable and imprescriptible rights as a free and independent people.

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    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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