With apologies to Professor Reynolds . . . .
Over the weekend I read Angelo M. Codevilla’s outstanding American Spectator essay, America’s Ruling Class — And the Perils of Revolution. It is a detailed dissertation on the rise of the American “Ruling Class” and the majority “Country Class” that lives under their (*cough*) benign compassion. In the first QotD, I pulled this excerpt:
Never has there been so little diversity within America’s upper crust. Always, in America as elsewhere, some people have been wealthier and more powerful than others. But until our own time America’s upper crust was a mixture of people who had gained prominence in a variety of ways, who drew their money and status from different sources and were not predictably of one mind on any given matter. The Boston Brahmins, the New York financiers, the land barons of California, Texas, and Florida, the industrialists of Pittsburgh, the Southern aristocracy, and the hardscrabble politicians who made it big in Chicago or Memphis had little contact with one another. Few had much contact with government, and “bureaucrat” was a dirty word for all. So was “social engineering.” Nor had the schools and universities that formed yesterday’s upper crust imposed a single orthodoxy about the origins of man, about American history, and about how America should be governed. All that has changed.
Today’s ruling class, from Boston to San Diego, was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits.
Just a couple of days before, as another Quote of the Day, I pulled a couple of paragraphs from a 1981 Time magazine article on the power of the National Rifle Association, pointing out the clichés and negative slant, and referred to both Professor Brian Anse Patrick’s book The National Rifle Association and the Media: The Motivating Force of Negative Coverage, and the piece I wrote about it back in January of 2008 – The Church of the MSM and the New Reformation. If you haven’t read my essay, I recommend you do, but I’ll try to boil it down a bit here.
There is most definitely a bias to the way that members of the media treat news stories. That bias Professor Patrick says – and has evidence to back – is what he calls administrative control bias, defined:
Administrative control in this usage means rational, scientific, objective social management by elite, symbol-manipulating classes, and subclasses, i.e., professionalized administrators or bureaucratic functionaries. The thing administered is often democracy itself, or a version of it at least. Here and throughout this chapter terms such as “rational,” “objective,” “professional,” and “scientific” should be read in the sense of the belief systems that they represent, i.e. rationalism, objectivism, professionalism, and scientism. Scientism is not the same as being scientific; the first is a matter of faith and ritualistic observance, the other is difficult creative work. William James made a similar distinction between institutional religion and being religious, the first being a smug and thoughtless undertaking on the part of most people, the second, a difficult undertaking affecting every aspect of a life. The term scientistic administration would pertain here. Note that we move here well beyond the notion of mere gun control and into the realm of general social control, management and regulation.
Compare this to Professor Codevilla’s assessment of the “Ruling Class”:
Its attitude is key to understanding our bipartisan ruling class. Its first tenet is that “we” are the best and brightest while the rest of Americans are retrograde, racist, and dysfunctional unless properly constrained. How did this replace the Founding generation’s paradigm that “all men are created equal”?
The notion of human equality was always a hard sell, because experience teaches us that we are so unequal in so many ways, and because making one’s self superior is so tempting that Lincoln called it “the old serpent, you work I’ll eat.” But human equality made sense to our Founding generation because they believed that all men are made in the image and likeness of God, because they were yearning for equal treatment under British law, or because they had read John Locke.
It did not take long for their paradigm to be challenged by interest and by “science.” By the 1820s, as J. C. Calhoun was reading in the best London journals that different breeds of animals and plants produce inferior or superior results, slave owners were citing the Negroes’ deficiencies to argue that they should remain slaves indefinitely. Lots of others were reading Ludwig Feuerbach’s rendition of Hegelian philosophy, according to which biblical injunctions reflect the fantasies of alienated human beings or, in the young Karl Marx’s formulation, that ethical thought is “superstructural” to material reality. By 1853, when Sen. John Pettit of Ohio called “all men are created equal” “a self-evident lie,” much of America’s educated class had already absorbed the “scientific” notion (which Darwin only popularized) that man is the product of chance mutation and natural selection of the fittest. Accordingly, by nature, superior men subdue inferior ones as they subdue lower beings or try to improve them as they please. Hence while it pleased the abolitionists to believe in freeing Negroes and improving them, it also pleased them to believe that Southerners had to be punished and reconstructed by force. As the 19th century ended, the educated class’s religious fervor turned to social reform: they were sure that because man is a mere part of evolutionary nature, man could be improved, and that they, the most highly evolved of all, were the improvers.
Thus began the Progressive Era. When Woodrow Wilson in 1914 was asked “can’t you let anything alone?” he answered with, “I let everything alone that you can show me is not itself moving in the wrong direction, but I am not going to let those things alone that I see are going down-hill.” Wilson spoke for the thousands of well-off Americans who patronized the spas at places like Chautauqua and Lake Mohonk. By such upper-middle-class waters, progressives who imagined themselves the world’s examples and the world’s reformers dreamt big dreams of establishing order, justice, and peace at home and abroad. Neither were they shy about their desire for power. Wilson was the first American statesman to argue that the Founders had done badly by depriving the U.S. government of the power to reshape American society.
The cultural divide between the “educated class” and the rest of the country opened in the interwar years. Some Progressives joined the “vanguard of the proletariat,” the Communist Party. Many more were deeply sympathetic to Soviet Russia, as they were to Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. Not just the Nation, but also the New York Times and National Geographic found much to be imitated in these regimes because they promised energetically to transcend their peoples’ ways and to build “the new man.” Above all, our educated class was bitter about America. In 1925 the American Civil Liberties Union sponsored a legal challenge to a Tennessee law that required teaching the biblical account of creation. The ensuing trial, radio broadcast nationally, as well as the subsequent hit movie Inherit the Wind, were the occasion for what one might have called the Chautauqua class to drive home the point that Americans who believed in the Bible were willful ignoramuses. As World War II approached, some American Progressives supported the Soviet Union (and its ally, Nazi Germany) and others Great Britain and France. But Progressives agreed on one thing: the approaching war should be blamed on the majority of Americans, because they had refused to lead the League of Nations. Darryl Zanuck produced the critically acclaimed movie [Woodrow] Wilson featuring Cedric Hardwicke as Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, who allegedly brought on the war by appealing to American narrow-mindedness against Wilson’s benevolent genius.
Franklin Roosevelt brought the Chautauqua class into his administration and began the process that turned them into rulers. FDR described America’s problems in technocratic terms. America’s problems would be fixed by a “brain trust” (picked by him). His New Deal’s solutions — the alphabet-soup “independent” agencies that have run America ever since — turned many Progressives into powerful bureaucrats and then into lobbyists. As the saying goes, they came to Washington to do good, and stayed to do well.
As their number and sense of importance grew, so did their distaste for common Americans. Believing itself “scientific,” this Progressive class sought to explain its differences from its neighbors in “scientific” terms.
And they still do. But what Professor Patrick explains is that the members of the media have done, in their self-appointed place as “rational,” “objective,” “scientific” professionals, assumed the vestments of the secular clergy:
Previous to objective journalism, baldly partisan news media were the norm; under objectivity news became a scientific tool of social progress and management. The elite press continues also to serve this function, connecting administrators and managers not only ot the world they seek to administrate but also to other managers with whom they must coordinate their efforts. So in this sense social movement-based critiques have been correct in identifying a sort of pseudo-pluralism operating in the public forum, a pluralism that is in reality no more than an exclusive conversation between elite class subcomponents – but this over-class is administrative in outlook and purpose.
We should not think of this way of thinking and interpreting reality as an entirely deliberate process. We are dealing here with the diffusion of a hermeneutic that accompanies an organizational and cultural style, a scientific management method of proven effectiveness, with wonderful social benefits and also terrible side effects. Journalists, like everyone else, steep in this hermeneutic throughout their education and upbringing; moreover they work in and serve organizations that arose in response to administrative needs. High-level journalists especially have survived a rigorous selection process that favors those who are most suitable and effective for this environment. Journalists are probably no more conscious of the hermeneutic that fish are conscious of the water around them.
And, again I will have to disagree with Professor Patrick on this point, as the recent Journolist exposés have vividly illustrated. The major players in major media have been actively organizing in order to sway public opinion. It’s not a case of “Oh well, they all just think alike.” It’s a case of “We all think alike, and YOU’D BETTER TOO!” Their job, as they see it, is to tell the unwashed masses what they ought to know and believe, and keep from them anything that they shouldn’t know or believe.
Bernard Goldberg nailed his version of the 95 Theses to the doors of the Wall Street Journal in 1996. Gutenberg’s 1440 movable-type press was finally superseded by the Internet starting about 1995. Now there are thousands, tens, hundreds of thousands of people who bypass the traditional Gatekeepers of what is or isn’t news, and more connect every day. We are Prof. Codevilla’s “Country Class,” the people despised by the “Ruling Class” who have been protected by the Media Clergy for the last ten decades or so while they grasped for the power to tell us how we ought to run our lives.
They wish to be our masters, but take it from a proud American redneck: those sumbitches ain’t been BORN.