The Revenge of the New Thinkers: Joining The Cultural Revolution

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More than ten years ago liberal views seemed to be making galloping progress.

Back then, the orthodoxy was virtually unchallenged. Identity politics was the incontestable ideology that had made giant strides across the moral landscape. In nearly all of the cultural institutions in the West – from museums, to libraries, to parliaments, to entertainment – the secular liberal worldview not only seemed riveted in place, but appeared to be in a state of cancerous expansion.

It was a different world fifteen years ago.

On one hand, the institutions of power largely dictated to the people. To have cultural influence you needed to invest in hard infrastructure like a TV studio or a publishing house. Or you needed to rise through the ranks of an institution. Every once in a while, like Martin Luther, someone might make a tilt at reforming an institution from the inside, but, as Luther himself discovered, this is not usually a winning strategy when the institution does not want to take its medicine. Besides, it was hard to make change when the deck appeared to be heavily stacked against anyone who held to a worldview centered on continuity and moral consistency.

In the early 2000’s traditional boundaries, like marriage, did still exist. In fact, it was even still possible for a Democratic president opposed to same-sex marriage to come to power in the United States. But though the boundaries remained, it was a foregone conclusion by nearly everyone (especially despondent Christians) that these structures were doomed.

Many concluded that the march of liberalism was unstoppable, and some of us sunk into a pervading sense of hopelessness. Like ill-equipped defenders in the trenches, it sometimes felt that the best we could do was set up flimsy wooden barricades only to stand back and watch as the enemy tanks smashed their way through. It often seemed as if nothing Christians or conservatives did worked.

The Proposition 8 ballot in California was a classic example. Organised by defenders of marriage in 2008, California voted narrowly to eliminate provisions for same-sex marriage. Despite winning the popular vote, the proposition was overturned by courts after a convoluted legal process. Thus, even when a majority of the electorate expressed a preference for conservative social policy, their wishes were trampled over by a handful of judges. In such an atmosphere, what hope remained?

Near-nihilistic despair was palpable within Christian circles. Even a cursory reading of apologetic materials from the time will attest to the general sense of gloom. Piles of articles were published by Christian scholars lamenting the apparent decay of the Church. Other Christians sighed and declared that the moral condition was due to the decline of prayer in schools. Still others were worried by the lack of Christian and conservative influence within academic circles, fueled (in part) by David Horowitz, the editor of FrontPage Magazine, who published evidence suggesting that the ratio of liberal academics to conservative ones ran at about 10 to 1. Other Christian scholars referred to the sense of “post-Christian” torpor.

And on it went. In a way, the early 2000’s was a period of protracted mourning for the death of a short-lived era of cultural Christian supremacy – a supremacy that actually did the Church no favours. It was accompanied by tremendous pessimism. It seemed everyone wanted to go back the halcyon days when children prayed at school and most people in communities trotted along to church – and try as they might to offer solutions, most of these were focused on trying to rehabilitate the golden past.

Thus the Christian attitude of those years was often far removed from the unbridled optimism and cheerfulness of the Apostles as they set out into a far bleaker world dominated by the dark sophisticated totalitarianism of the Roman Empire.

This pessimism produced crooked fruit. Ten years ago, the discussion among believers was sometimes tragically silly (and naive) perhaps reflecting a theological or spiritual paralysis; a nearly existential shock at the suddenness of the moral collapse. At the time, a lot of Christian discussion centered around the need to inoculate Christians – especially the young – against the ravages of the culture. We will lose quite a few along the way, went the attitude, since the society is doomed and our heyday is past, but hopefully we can salvage something.

This ecclesiastical salvage operation did not involve a proclamation of the glories and certainties of the Most High Jesus Christ with thundering apostolic confidence from pulpits. Rather, the preferred methodology was programmes and techniques that focused more on behaviour, improving critical statistics (like teenage pregnancy rates among children of Christians), and other measurable criteria.

The late 1990’s and early 2000’s are pockmarked with religious fads. For example, one idea that did the rounds was that young Christian men should be trained and disciplined to think of themselves as medieval knights. Robert Lewis’ (1997) book Raising A Modern-Day Knight, was particularly instrumental in the explosion of knight-themed discipleship. One website introduces the technique in this way:

Christian youth listen closely when knighthood themes are used to convey Christian truth. We have seen rooms of hundreds of youth in today’s churches instantly quieted when a knight dressed in full armor comes to teach a lesson. Sword play, stories, and skits surrounding the knight theme have proven to be a highly effective way of conveying God’s truth to young audiences.

Another idea that flourished ten years ago was that young people should have chaperones when they date, or that dating should be abolished altogether among Christians and replaced by “courtship”. This was spearheaded by a book published by Joshua Harris, I Kissed Dating Goodbye (1997), as if the method by which young people met each other and got to know their partner was a guarantee of future marital success. Then there was the strange “purity ring” movement in which young people would wear rings to keep them in mind of a hypothetical spouse, coupled with the very odd “virginity pledges” that young people were urged to sign by some churches.

And on it went. These silver bullets have not aged well.

But today, things are different. Winds of change are blowing through the stale air. Not just in the Church but in the wider society as well. There is a newness of thought (although really, it is the rediscovery of the brilliance of the Christian worldview) that is starting to make its presence known. These “New Thinkers” are combating the acidic triad of political correctness, secular liberalism, and identity politics. If Christians want to make inroads for the gospel unquestionably they need to set their sails to catch this new wind and ride it so that they can have a serious impact.

This is because insightful and sceptical thinkers in the New Media have finally reached a critical mass. A new intellectual spirit is emerging – one that is bold, that rebels against the cultural orthodoxy, and champions the human birthright to be free to think and speak. The New Media is dominated by these New Thinkers and they actively threaten the empires of the Old Media. They do this through the power of their material, but also because they have adopted some of the timeless tools of the Church. The New Thinkers, for example, engage in street debate, in old-school lectures, and utilise the spirit of free speech respectfully yet intelligently, just as it was intended to be used. The New Thinkers are not generally dogmatic. They purposefully contrast ideas and let their audience make up their minds about the strength of them.

Above all, the New Thinkers are saying interesting things because they are saying things that have long needed to be said. The ideas they are tackling have been considered to be politically taboo, suppressed by the rigid orthodoxies of the elites. But they are also examining issues from an interesting angle, such as applying real world data sets to interpreting problems and arriving at novel solutions. This is very threatening to an ideologically-based worldview like secular liberalism which requires certain data to be ignored, or suppressed, or explained away.

In the process, the New Thinkers are deconstructing the cherished shibboleths of the left. This is being done logically, scientifically, medically, and morally, and their arguments are irresistible. This is the direction the battle is moving. Bad ideas are being exploded, but not with sophisticated word play and emotional sob stories, but by simply pointing to the real world. Reality itself, as expressed by hard scientific fact and by living experience, is proving to be a devastating weapon against many of the tenets of identity politics.

Increasingly, Christians are in the forefront of this intellectual wave, although non-Christians are perhaps still better represented on this coming crest. Nonetheless, it is a wave that is strengthening the Church’s collective intellectual and philosophical thought. We are being sharpened. We are being shaped for God’s purpose.

And it is not before time.

Our culture urgently needs antibiotics, since it is now clear that secular liberalism and identity politics are beyond cure or correction. They cannot be safely harnessed for anyone’s good, and both social philosophies are rocketing downward into bizarre and freakish radicalism with the pedal firmly planted to the floor.

Secular liberalism has become a grotesque circus of ideas; a festival of insanity, where, for example, mental disorders are normalised and the mentally healthy are pressured to behave in dysfunctional ways. Identity politics has become the realm where unhealthy lifestyles are celebrated as if they were healthy; death is celebrated as an individual right; and the whole of society is upbraided unless it follows the madness. A vivid example of this is the Size Acceptance Movement (sometimes called “Size Diversity”) with its manifestly false slogan “health at any size“.

Then there are the sinister thugs of the Antifa movement which do represent a serious threat to citizen freedoms. These are tacitly aided by the liberal media. For while the liberal media has no problem excoriating Neo-Nazis even though their members are cartoon characters and their numbers are minuscule, it has a much harder time even mentioning the crimes of Antifa. Indeed, the liberal press seldom condemns or even mentions Antifa, despite their numbers being much higher and despite their blatant, criminal, and well-documented efforts to shut down legitimate public speeches and lectures they happen to dislike.

These radicals dress in black, cover their faces in masks, intimidate people with the “wrong” beliefs, and engage in violent and destructive behaviour. They bluster and roar that their opponents are fascists. And yet their behaviour is indistinguishable from the bully tactics of the Brownshirts in Wiemar Germany or the Blackshirts in fascist Italy. It seems you can get away with mirroring evil if you just shout loud enough that you hate the evil you are imitating. The liberal media will certainly give you a free pass.

The more the lunacy flows out of the ungodly worldview of liberalism, the greater the pillory it receives. There are now hundreds of Youtube channels that are dedicated to compiling the shrieking, sanctimonious, melodramatic and even violent outbursts of identarians. (Just a few examples can be found here, here, and here). These are presented as forms of comedic entertainment and they are wildly popular. People operating these channels are clocking up views and money from doing nothing other than sticking video segments together, without even the whisper of commentary. This is because the insane behaviour and complete lack of reason speaks for itself.

Whether it is college students introducing themselves with the prissy phrase “My name is Shaynalah and my pronouns are…“, or the well-documented arrest of a young man for calling a police horse “gay”, or videos of police smashing the stuffing out of protesters (to the applause of all onlookers) for holding up traffic on a busy road, liberalism has become a movement of comedy. Ridicule. And contempt. People either find it amusing in its lunacy, or they find it horrific in its intellectual violence and mutant thought. Others have such antipathy toward it that this expresses itself in interesting ways. For example, there are channels dedicated to showing protesters being beaten up by police or getting injured by angry bystanders. These videos are popular.

It has become very obvious that liberal social ideology is not based on meaningful thought, but an internal contest for virtue, and this is why it is dangerous. The animating impulse behind most of its ideas is the sheer force of emotion – self-righteousness coupled to melodrama. These emotions always race to the edge. Always try to get a peg or two higher. You have to continually jack up to ever-escalating levels of sanctimony in order to be always more virtuous. The melodrama then becomes more juvenile, shrill, and self-indulgent until the melodrama gets to the point where mere words are seen as murderous bullets that cripple a person’s entire life if they are heard, or even if they are anticipated but not heard (e.g. trigger warnings!). This never-ending climb up an emotional Mount Fuji is exhausting. No society can sustain such faux virtue forever.

Liberal social ideology is predicated on “guiltifying” people into silence with magic mantras like “that’s extremely offensive“. It is built on harnessing the power of the state, whether by criminalising certain beliefs or criminalising certain words. Most chillingly of all, liberalism has harnessed censorship, speech codes, and the social media pitchfork brigade – the “unintellgensia” – who set out to get people sacked if they do not like their opinions. Unable to engage on the level of rational discourse, all that is left is force.

Above all, liberal social ideology is built on massive contradictions. It is these contradictions that the New Thinkers in the New Media are diligently exposing. This work may seem insubstantial but it is actually producing a quiet revolution deep in the currents of the culture, far from the surface waters of TV and Hollywood. Most significantly, it is making inroads among young people, particularly young men.

It is within these realms that Christians must work. When we can, preaching the gospel. When that is not possible, Christians must preach a worldview based on the gospel. A worldview of integrity, moral sanity, of freedom and liberty for the human mind and soul. A worldview of personal responsibility. A worldview that confronts error with reality. Such an approach will destabilise identity politics and liberalism because it is already doing so. This very hour. In fact, the increasing intolerance of elites and the demands for censorship by the Old Media is proof that the edifice is crumbling.

Far from quitting social media, Christians need to be more busy on Facebook, personal blogs, in online public discussions, on Instagram, and on Youtube. They need to engage regularly, intelligently, and with an attractive confidence and poise.

For social media is the cultural point where the New Thought and the New Media are ushering in a generation of change. This is where we must be at work, and have the greatest opportunities to be fishers of men, and make disciples, or at least build sympathy and admiration for the robustly Christian view. It is at this nexus of people and technology – this welded seam – where the liberal empire is weakest and most susceptible to defeat. This is where Christians can unquestionably make a cultural impact and advance Christ’s Kingdom.

It is time for every Christian, great and small, to be at work in this realm, emboldened to say with St. Paul: “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of salvation unto all who believe“.

Newspaper Cartels: When the Media Combine

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Last Thursday, led by the Boston Globe, about 350 newspapers ran coordinated editorials to criticise Donald Trump.

Despite the breathless, celebratory reporting by the liberal media who tried to make it sound like a tsunami wave of dissent was washing across the American landscape, this campaign did not involve the majority of newspapers in the United States. According to Wikipedia – whose lists are usually credible – the United States has more than 1,300 newspapers. This means that only around a quarter of the United State’s print media participated in this protest.

For the most part, the participants and their shtick were predictable. The Guardian, for instance, reported it as a “defence of press freedom”, despite there being absolutely zero legislative effort to curtail the freedom of the press. In amongst its story, it added:

The Guardian has also joined the effort and has published an editorial alongside outlets around the United States.

Which is laughably redundant. Was there ever any doubt? Just as a manure seller goes in search of dung, and a jackal is drawn to rancid carrion, so the Guardian is irresistibly drawn to any fashionable liberal shibboleth and any anti-Trump crusade.

This mass media protest appears to be the brainchild of the Deputy Editor of the Boston Globe, Marjorie Pritchard, who “put out the call” to other newspapers. Most newspaper ignored the campaign and a few reacted by strongly distancing themselves from the project. It seems likely that Pritchard hoped this would be a watershed moment of media solidarity.

As Geoff Caldwell of the Joplin Globe wryly observed:

I’m sure when she dreamed it up, she thought it one of those “Yes, that’ll show ’em!” moments.

In an interview with NPR, Marjorie Pritchard emblemised the problem with the modern media. Her remarks demonstrate an extreme narrowness of thought and a worldview that is built over the rubble of mere assumptions.

One gets the impression from listening to her comments that many modern journalists are not very bright and, as a profession, have experienced tragic decline from the trailblazers who went before them. Gone are the trenchcoat-wearing, fedora-capped stalwarts skulking around dark alleys armed only with a notebook and pencil. The sun has set on the days when telling the truth to the public – and properly informing them – was the high calling of the profession.

In the NPR interview, Marjorie Pritchard insisted:

This editorial project is not against the Trump administration’s agenda. It’s a response to put us into the public discourse and defend the First Amendment.

Pritchard simply assumes that the First Amendment is critically endangered in the United States but she never explains why. If an alien beamed down and heard this comment he might justly wonder, “Is there some law being proposed to squelch the freedom of expression?” The answer is no.

Despite the liberal media’s persistent demand for other people’s opinions to be criminalised or marginalised, neither the United States Congress nor the United States President has even hinted that they would yank on the levers of power to trammel the freedom of the press.

It seems in Pritchard’s ivory tower, scrutiny and criticism of the massed media is a form of unconstitutional attack. There is no other way to interpret her remark here.

She goes on:

He’s calling the press a domestic enemy. And we are fellow countrymen. And our profession is to hold the powerful accountable.

The self-indulgence is off-the-charts. Now that the liberal media has had a taste of public excoriation, it suddenly wants to be accorded respect as “fellow countrymen”. Pritchard argues that the media should not be subject to pillory and savage rhetoric because, after all, they are fellow citizens too. They are citizens who just happen to have a different view.

Hypocrisy rises from these words like dust clouds from a third world mining operation.

This is the same liberal media that through their poisonous writings have mercilessly persecuted Christian bakers, florists, teachers, CEOs, and marriage certificate issuers.

This is the same liberal media that fanned the flames of racial tension by uncritically supporting narratives that later proved to to be false.

This is the liberal media that has subjected both the President and his supporters to violent pillory from the moment he was elected. The Guardian, for example, commended the actions of the Red Hen restaurant that threw out Sarah Sanders.

This is the same liberal media that showed a Vaticanesque reluctance to publicly expose horrific instances of child abuse and predatory sexual harassment within their own profession, even when the perpetrators were widely known.

And on it goes.

The media have been a toxic influence on the culture for decades. To now tremulously hold out the hands that have bloodied others and plead for cordiality as “fellow countrymen” is to ask for the sort of civility that the liberal media has never accorded its victims. For all his faults (and they are numerous) Donald Trump represents a justifiable outpouring of disinfectant upon this whole cartel. He has opened it up to the sunshine of scrutiny, factual critique, and overdue scepticism. In other words, journalists are discovering they are not immune from being judged and weighed in the balances.

But the delusions of grandeur get even worse.

In the NPR interview, Pritchard tries to suggest that the media must “hold the powerful accountable” as if they were latter-day John the Baptists denouncing a modern Herod.

But Geoff Caldwell rightly points out that the reason the public is unimpressed with the liberal media is precisely because it does not tell the truth. Instead it lies in order to service its own narratives and agendas.

Neither does it hold all powerful people accountable. It only holds some of them accountable, those it does not like. A good many powerful people get a free ride in the press. Genuinely shocking evils are left hidden even when they would be easily discoverable, simply because liberal journalists have no desire to find them.

Caldwell writes:

It wasn’t Trump who spread the Michael Brown, “Hands up; don’t shoot,” lie around the world from Ferguson, Missouri.

It was The Washington Post, not Trump that falsely reported that Russian hackers had penetrated the nation’s electrical grid via a Vermont Utility.

In Charlottesville, Virginia, a week ago Saturday night, NBC News reporter Cal Perry and crew were attacked by radical left antifa protesters in an event Perry documented on Twitter as it happened.

Yet the next morning, on NBC’s own “Sunday Today” show, none of Perry’s footage of the attack was shown and reporter Garrett Haake referred to it as but “tense moments in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, with far-left protesters heckling the media and chanting anti-police slogans.”

He goes on to add:

Where was that accountability for eight years of a Barack Obama administration? Where was that “truth to power” as Hillary Clinton and staff erased servers, destroyed phones and refused to turn over information duly requested by investigators?

Where is that dedication at this very moment regarding the glaring amount of questionable activities by a multitude of FBI, Department of Justice and intelligence figures that let Clinton skate and brought a sledgehammer to the ice pond against Trump and crew?

Not surprisingly, many of the protesting newspapers looked faintly farcical in the end.

The Morehead News in Kentucky ran a piece that began with a quotation from Josef Goebbels, the minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda in Nazi Germany. It was all downhill from there with the editor invoking Hitler and Nazis left and centre.

At one point it was asserted:

We believe the Nazi tactic of “the big lie” is alive and well at the White House because of President Donald Trump’s continuing “fake news” claims since the 2016 presidential campaign.

It should be clear to most Americans that Trump is relying on another Goebbels’ principle of propaganda:

“A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth.”

The glaring disanalogy seems to have passed over the top of the editor’s head.

In Nazi Germany the state tightly controlled the media. The example of Goebbels only has any relevance in a system where journalists are coerced by force to be complicit with the state. But this is 21st century America. In contrast to Goebbels, poor Donald Trump has no capacity to dictate to the media at all. If anyone needed proof of this, you need only look at this selfsame vanity project where editors pretend the President of the United States is a clear and present danger to the press freedom!

When Trump criticises the press, he is not angling to control it. So spouting off about Nazis and Goebbels is merely a crude editorial effort to manipulate its readers.

But, the editors at the Morehead News are not only illogical, they are also wrong.

The above statement – apparently written with a high school generalist level of historical knowledge and perhaps a Facebook meme as a source –  is a misquotation.

There is no record that Goebbels ever said what the Morehead News claims. The statement was first attributed to Goebbels in Publications Relating to Various Aspects of Communism (1946), by the United States Congress, House Committee on Un-American Activities, Issues 1-15, p. 19. But no reliable source has been found in which this attribution can be credibly said to have originated from Goebbels.

Furthermore, when Hitler wrote about “big lies” in the opening chapter of Mein Kampf, he did not recommend it as a political strategy but instead argued that this was the methodology of Jewish Marxists and their alleged 1918 “stab in the back” of the German army and General Ludendorff. The Jews, Hitler claimed, were widely believed because their lie about the weakness of the German army was so incredible nobody would ever dream it could possibly be false.

Goebbels also wrote about “big lies” but he directed his comments toward the English:

“The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, it should be a big lie, and one should stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.”

(Aus Churchills Lügenfabrik, published in Die Zeit ohne Beispiel on 12 January 1941.)

The Morehead News‘ historiography is flatly wrong. It may not be a big error, but it is a falsehood all the same. It also shows precious little fact checking. Five minutes of Googling would have yielded the above information. Moreover, the tormented application to an inverse modern situation makes for a dizzying display of irrationality.

This, then, is the quality of a journalistic rebuke in 2018 against the term “fake news”: a rebuke that includes demonstrable fakery. You really could not make it up.

Meanwhile, the Guardian adopted the standard liberal stratagem of arguing that viewpoints and opinions it detests are potentially dangerous to society. Not for the first time, the Guardian virtually suggests that Trump’s comments about the media is putting journalists at risk of being murdered:

The anti-media mood at some Trump rallies has been intimidating. Social media trolling, violent abuse and threats to journalists (especially sexual threats to women journalists) have reached unprecedented levels. The United Nations human rights commissioner warned this week that Mr Trump’s attacks on the press are “very close to incitement to violence”. In June, five staff members at the Capital Gazette in Maryland were shot dead by a local man with a local grievance. They may not be the last.

As the Prophet Hosea warned, “For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7). And likewise St. Paul cautions, “Whatever a man sows, that shall he reap in return” (Galatians 6:7). If is true that the liberal media now feel the pressure of public opprobrium, they must examine themselves to find the cause. For it is the liberal media that have sown the wind.

It is the liberal media that have long published reams of material that can only be viewed as a calculated (and at times cynical) effort to create fear and division. They have sought to manipulate social outcomes by sacrificing truth. They have even tacitly tried to inflame segments of society and aim them against others.

They have emboldened violent and intimidating movements (like Antifa) with soft soap reporting. They have attacked law enforcement over one-sided BLM narratives. Many liberal media outlets have approvingly promoted every nonsensical, shrieking, finger-pointing movement that comes down the insane pipeline of the left wing. They attempt to silence or delegitimise people who speak against the liberal agenda (e.g. Dr. Jordan Peterson, Lauren Southern, or Stefan Molyneux). They support speech codes and advocate for censorship in the name of “tolerance” and “diversity”.

Now they are reaping a taste of the whirlwind.

It is simply stupid to imagine that Trump has created a resentment toward the media out of whole cloth. Of course he has not. But he is a convenient scapegoat for a profession that knows it is under siege. On the one hand it is frightened by declining circulation as the New Media displaces the Old (hence their desire to censor the social media space). On the other hand they are battling fresh outbreaks of public contempt.

Donald Trump has tapped into this existing wellspring of anger. He has given that attitude a voice. Even some of the dissenting newspapers recognise this to be true. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette opined:

Just as his lack of restraint has often been the president’s self-inflicted wound, the bias of some of the press has hurt journalism, at the very moment when it is most needed to save itself… It is time for a truce.

The Horn News was even more cutting in its analysis:

Polls show Republicans have grown more negative toward the news media in recent years: Pew Research Center said 85 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said in June 2017 that the news media has a negative effect on the country, up from 68 percent in 2010.

When is the “fake news” going to wake up to the damage their rhetoric is causing this country — and their own professional integrity?

One must ask some questions.

Who do these 350 newspapers think they are appealing to and what do they really hope to achieve? Certainly, there is an obvious profit motive. Many of the newspapers implored readers to subscribe to their papers in order to “defend a free press”. As a stunt, this does have the potential to give the bottom line of the account books a bit of a bounce.

But are these coordinated editorials going to persuade Trump supporters or even Trump-opposing conservatives? Highly unlikely. Conservatives of every sort have long decried the liberal media. That’s one of the reasons Fox News exists and survives. Is it going to appeal to the young to buy newspapers so as to fight the power? Hardly. Young people do not read newspapers, neither do they typically pay for their news. The media can channel the vibe of the French Revolution all they like, but it is not going to save their papers from the inevitable end.

Even critics of the current President think this gesture is a grand form of virtue signalling to fellow liberals that highlights the groupthink of the media class. Jack Shafer at Politico writes:

Another problem with a nationally coordinated pro-press catechism is that the audience likely to reap the greatest benefit from the haranguing—Trump and many in his base—tends not to read newspapers in the first place. While there’s always value in preaching to the choir—that’s why churches hold services every Sunday—the combined weight of 200 pro-press editorials is not likely to move the opinion needle or deter Trump from defaming and threatening reporters.

Most newspaper editorials are already a watered-down product of groupthink. It’s unlikely that expanding the size of the group and encouraging everybody to bake and serve a tuna-fish casserole on the same day will produce editorials that are more interesting and persuasive than the normal fare.

But maybe I’m wrong. If a single day of pro-press editorials is a good idea for a collective assignment, then maybe newspapers should set aside next Saturday for 200 editorials on tariffs and next Sunday for 200 editorials on global warming and next Monday for 200 editorials on Afghanistan. Surely these issues are as compelling and urgent as press freedom.

If anything, this stunt has proven that a large segment of the media really is an ideological cartel – a kind of informational mafioso – that is largely isolated from the grit of the wider society. It shows what a slanted view of the world they have; what disrespect they have for opposing viewpoints; and a chronic over-estimation of their own importance to democracy. It shows what microscopic interest they have in perspectives that differ from the liberal buzz. They have become propagandists.

Fortunately, newspapers are doomed to largely vanish within a generation. Liberal journalists already stand in the centre of the small shrinking islands of their readership. They wish to salvage their credibility without any material change to their stinking methodology. As a result, each time they attack they end up injuring themselves. Like a bumbling knight who falls in his armour and spears himself with his sword or an inept soldier who accidentally shoots his fingers off, the liberal media seem intent on ever-more grievously wounding themselves.

I can remember shortly after Trump’s election, the Guardian (and many other liberal media outlets) started to bitterly report on “fake news”. I could hardly believe that such a term was getting such circulation within the media. If an organisation of heart surgeons exists somewhere, I am very sure they would be careful never to popularise the concept of “fake heart surgeries”. They would avoid any such suggestion because the slightest doubt regarding the efficacy and value of surgery would do irreparable harm to their profession as a whole. Yet though it runs contrary to all common sense, the liberal media promoted such a concept and in the process, effectively undermined their own franchise.

The media confidently assumed that the “fake news” terminology could be safely quarantined. It would be a spear that would be thrown only at conservatives, social media news, or other sources of information that they disliked.

But the term would never remain static. Overnight, it was weaponised against the liberal media, and because of the super-abundance of double-standards and transparent agendas, has become irrevocably associated with the liberal media. They kicked a goal for the opposition.

It is not difficult to see that the Boston Globe and the 350 news outlets have done the same thing here. Again. They have lent fuel to Trump’s fire. He accuses the media of being in cahoots against him. They are the “opposition party”, says Trump, who are working together to destabilise the presidency, torpedo our agenda, and spread misinformation. Thanks to the Boston Globe, the liberal media have just handed him a perfect exhibit for his case. He will forever be able to point to the 350.

They have also just confirmed in the minds of sceptical people that large and disparate media companies will band together to forward a common agenda when they sense that their survival is at stake, or when their politics is threatened. Pritchard’s project will promote the popular anxiety that media groups are merely different branches that spring from the same root. Can any be trusted? For there are few things that so greatly arouses concern among the public than coordinated efforts by big industries, powerful people, influential institutions.

Lastly, the hyper-ventilating and hand-wringing from a profession that are not widely respected will only magnify the impression that the media are worried. They are weakened. They are fighting for survival. In the minds of many people, if the liberal media is worried it is surely because they have something to be worried about. Moreover, it will reinforce the view that whatever is going on with this presidency, it is significant, even historically unprecedented. Unlike anything in living memory. After all, you only get special denunciations from special events, from unparalleled developments, and personalities hitherto not seen before in high office.

Whatever happens, people will be able to point to the participating newspapers and say, “There’s the collusion. There’s the groupthink. There’s the fake news.”

Free Speech and Mr Jones: The Old Media Resorts to Censorship

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If you have not heard of Alex Jones by now, you certainly will before too long.

Articles about Jones have appeared seemingly everywhere over the last few days.

His name has appeared in every media outlet from the Daily Telegraph to Breitbart; from the Washington Post to the Weekly Standard. Even international outlets like the Jerusalem Post and Al Jazeera have referenced Jones.

He has been at the centre of countless opinion pieces published over the past few days. In the process, he has become a symbol of the precarious future of free speech. The Empire of the Old Media is striking back. They want to dictate your content choices.

But let’s start at the beginning: who is Alex Jones and why is he suddenly noteworthy?

Well, frankly, Alex Jones is a bit of a nutter. He is a conspiracy theorist who rides a white horse at the head of the pack of the international conspiracy sub-culture – now involving millions of people – that reject established historical and scientific facts.

Sociologically, he is grit in the machine for he reveals one of the great paradoxes of an unrighteous age: that just as mankind gets a super-abundance of easily accessible information, we also get bizarre conspiracy theories by the truckload. Our culture now pumps out spittle-flecked nuttiness faster than a bicycle factory in China. And within this irrational world, Mr Jones is a star in the firmament. An information-age Stakhanovite.

Alex Jones promotes so much paranoia he practically sweats.

He says that 9/11 was an inside job by the U.S. government. He maintains that a shadowy “new world order” is taking over the planet. He argues the moon landings were falsified. He criticises vaccinations. He has claimed that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) operates secret concentration camps. After the Sandy Hook massacre, he said the shooting was a false flag operation by supporters of gun control. The survivors of school shootings, he declared, were “crisis actors”.

Selecting a broadcast at random, and clicking to a random time index, immediately yielded the following quotation:

Do you understand the grave danger of the Jacobins? We are in grave danger of total Illuminati revolution. And what does the Illuminati call for in their own writings? That are in the Encyclopedia Britannica? Murder; death; mayhem; a boot stomping on the human face; human sacrifice; fires; burning cities; slaughter; death! Because that’s what they like. The journey is the destination for these people.

It seems there is scarcely a single anti-government, anti-authority, anti-science narrative in existence that Jones does not uncritically embrace. It is no wonder that Rolling Stone magazine titled him “the most paranoid man in America”.

One feels a bit sorry for the Mr Jones. It must be exhausting to live in a world so full of malevolent schemes. It must be terrifying to see the long hand of sinister people at work in every joint and fold of the social structure.

It’s tragic that any man’s life could end up in low orbit around such ideas. But this is where Jones has ended up. One wonders what life experiences led him to such a mental void, because Alex Jones gives himself mind and soul to this stuff. He lives and breathes conspiracy. Conspiracy is his life mission. Conspiracy is his consuming passion. He is inextricably deep in the sub-culture, like a miner buried under a hundred feet of rock. You get the impression that Alex Jones will not return to the land of the clear-headed any time soon. For Jones and his legion of disciples, conspiracies serve as substitute religions.

For those who tune into his radio show, he is regarded as a latter-day prophet from whom comes a steady trickle of truth. He commands a following in the hundreds of thousands. But despite his big fan club, Alex Jones has been booted off Facebook, Spotify and Youtube. He still has his website, radio show, and other means of communication so it is not quite the same thing as the smashing of Protestant printing presses by the counter-Reformation. Yet, there is a deeply unsettling dimension to this.

The silencing of Alex Jones on these platforms was greeted with thinly-disguised triumph by a range of commentators who work in Old Media outlets like the Guardian and CNN.  In fact, it has been quite remarkable to witness the degree of collusion among the Old Media against the operators of the New Media.

This is because the New Media is a threat to the Old. Its power is growing.

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Part of the attraction of the New Media is that anyone can be a journalist. If you have worthwhile and interesting things to say, you can get a loyal following that would be the envy of many newspapers. But even more disconcerting (from the viewpoint of the Old Media) is that the content produced by “amateur” journalists is mostly free. It is also mostly uncontrolled. People can say anything, and they do. There are no corporate bean counters; no bottom line; no CEO; no bosses; and no “party line” that needs to be followed. The New Media has remarkable independence.

As a result, the New Media reflects a true diversity of opinion – far more so than any of the Old Media organisations. In other words, thanks to tools like Facebook, Youtube and delivery systems like Spotify, what has emerged is an exercise in true democracy. It is the creation of an open marketplace of ideas where the best ideas gain traction, and the worst ideas are pilloried and ridiculed. It is wild and untamed land, but reflects the rational democratic ideal far better than any Old Media news organisation can possibly do with their rigid, simplistic, stuffy command-style approach.

The attacks on the stars of the New Media follow the failures of the Old Media to really tap into the online world and get a loyal following. Mind you, they tried once. A lot of news organisations built online websites, created new content streams, published apps, and tried to “buzzify” their news stories so they sounded hip, edgy, and too-cool-for-school. But this was always doomed to fail. The social environment has changed. At the rate things are going, Old Media influence will wane within a generation.

But worse than all of this – again, from the view of the Old Media – is the disintegration of their social power. These vast media empires once could break politicians. Like Pope Gregory VII who left the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV kneeling in the snow for three days in penance, the Old Media establishment could leave leaders sweating and grovelling too. They could ruin the lives of celebrities and commoners alike. They could break men like twigs. They could call the shots of social policy.

But those days are passing and the empires are collapsing. Increasingly, the Old Media is being heavily scrutinised, criticised, and at other times completely by-passed. The most powerful man in the world – Donald Trump – has identified the Old Media establishment as the “opposition party” and he goes for the jugular. Other Republican politicians have adopted the same tactics. Internationally, other politicians are using the same approach. A minister in the Hungarian government recently openly rebuked the BBC for their ideological interview methods.

Brilliant new thinkers appear on Old Media talk shows and make the journalists look wooden-headed and deeply unintelligent – one only needs to consider the fate of Cathy Newman and Patrick Gower whose names are forever linked to disastrous, self-righteous interviews that went very sour. Other media organisations are embattled from their own readership. The frequent rift between the readers and the opinion pieces in “quality newspapers” like the Guardian is striking.

As our Lord once said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand” (Mark 3:25). And a left-wing news organisation that cannot even count on the affirmation of its own left-wing readers cannot surely endure for long.

Throughout the world, media organisations continue to hemorrhage millions of dollars of advertising, and thousands of readers, fans, and consumers. Time and again, cash strapped news organisations announce rounds of job cuts, layoffs, hiring freezes, and efficiency shuffles. Each time they streamline they promise this will make their organisation “leaner” and better able to “meet needs going forward”. And yet, no organisational change seems to prevent the decline of circulation – the New York Times, for example, has seen a 50% decline in print circulation in the last 12 years. Readers may click onto the websites and even pay subscription for iconic boutique news, but digital subscribers are nowhere near as profitable as print news consumers. Furthermore, like other Old Media companies, the New York Times share price in 2018 is about half of what it was in 2002 which means the market does not consider the company to be anywhere near as worthwhile as it was at the turn of the millennium.

As for the Guardian, in April of this year it published a financial update in which it reported that its losses were less than expected. They only made a 19,000,000 pound loss in the year to the end of March. This is distinct from the 38,000,000 pound loss they made in the previous financial year.

At present, the Guardian is in the midst of a three year plan to reach their grand objective of “breaking even”. That is to say, to make a profit of exactly nothing, while at the same time adding nothing to their debt. “Breaking even” is usually only ever a goal for a business that is so derelict that the investors one forlorn hope is to be able to walk away without a loss. If “breaking even” is the operating goal of a media organisation, it suggests severe stagnation.

The Guardian is now principally supported by donations from its readership as if it were a charity. It trumpets that reader contributions now earn it more money than advertising, as if this is a good thing. What it really means is that advertisers know which way their bread is buttered. With additional costs, the Guardian will make a total loss of around 24,000,000 for the year. Another rousing success story for the Old Media.

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The Old Media – and the left-wing professional class that is allied to them – have responded to the ground-level revolution of the New Media by making the case for censorship. It is truly staggering to read articles in the Guardian and other liberal media outlets that use sophistry and pretended-rationality to argue, at basic, for a person to be unable to use social media platforms – although they try to re-badge this as “corporate responsibility”. In their view, social media corporations that host so much of the New Media have the responsibility to monitor and regulate the opinions that circulate so that nothing they find objectionable will ever be encountered in that social space.

They argue – usually without a shred of evidence – that people like Alex Jones produce “hate speech” and therefore ought to be de-platformed. This is a chilling precedent indeed, and can be understood as a protective measure by the Old Media in response to the fundamental shift that is occurring in regard to their social status.

It was heartening to read on the Guardian website this morning the sheer number of readers who were able to express disdain for Alex Jones and yet vehemently support his right to express his opinion untrammeled by politically-correct tyranny. Many recognise, (despite the fog of progressivism), that free speech should be a value enshrined in any democratic practice; and to the greatest extent possible in the arts, pursuits, and behaviours of a democratic people. It should be expanded and guarded. And the inverse – censorship – should not be celebrated and promoted.

But the Old Media is not a consistent beast. It will howl against the alleged censorship of bakers refusing to make cakes for same-sex couples, yet demand its use against people they dislike. And we may be certain it has not finished its assault yet. Some predators are most dangerous when they are wounded, and we can predict with some confidence that the Old Media establishment will champion censorship and the control of information more aggressively and zealously before their sun finally sinks below the horizon.

If Alex Jones has performed a service to the age, it is the demonstration of how fragile free speech is becoming. If a relatively harmless nutter cannot be allowed to broadcast his preposterous beliefs in peace; if a conspiracy theorist is referenced by a CNN journalist at a Facebook press conference as if this was a pressing concern, it will surely not be long before any one else with views that do not fit the cultural orthodoxy (like Christians!) will find themselves fighting for a voice too.