home > archive > 2002 > this article
The Communist Party and the American media elite
By Daniel G. Jennings
Is America's left-wing media elite about to suffer the fate of the Communist Party of the old Soviet Union? I ask this question because my weekend reading (Dimitri Volkogonov's history of the Soviet leadership, Anatomy of An Empire and Mark Mathis' tome on the US media Feeding the Media Beast) raised some interesting parallels between the Soviet leadership and the current structure of the US news media.
The similarities between Volkogonov's description of the behavior of the Soviet party leaders and recent revelations by Mathis and others about the thought processes, biases, behaviors and prejudices of American reporters are uncanny. Volkogonov, a Red Army general who advised and observed the last few Soviet bosses first hand, described the Soviet leadership as a cadre of naive, ignorant, narrow-minded, lazy, short-sighted, bigoted and arrogant men with an uncompromising and absolute belief in a simplistic, shallow and completely erroneous ideology. Mathis, a former TV reporter and anchor, and former CBS newsman Bernard Goldberg offer a similar description of today's American media elitists; a cadre of narrow-minded, ignorant, lazy, short-sighted, bigoted and arrogant people with an absolute belief in a silly, simplistic, shallow and completely erroneous ideology.
Like the Soviet leaders, the media elitists publicly espouse high ideals and concern for the common man while privately behaving like aristocrats and devoting most of their energies to protecting, preserving and increasing their wealth, power and privilege. Goldberg revealed that when newswoman Connie Chung's popularity started to rival that of Dan Rather's, Rather deliberately destroyed her career. Much as the Soviet Communist Party bosses deliberately stripped Marshal Zhukov, the great Russian hero of World War II, of his power and position because he was more popular than they were. Get the picture? Rather's position as the number one news anchor is more important than anything else.
The similarities go beyond this, the Communist bosses believed that they had an absolute mandate to rule the Soviet Union, and that their ideology was absolutely correct. The American media elite believes that the collection of prejudices, half-truths, truisms and liberal politics it calls an ideology is the absolute truth and that they have an absolute right to force those truths on the American people. Just as the Communists believed that their ideology was the gospel truth and that they had an absolute moral right to force their beliefs on the Russian people by any means possible.
The old men in the Kremlin just couldn't understand the simple fact that their ideology and the system based upon it couldn't and wouldn't work. They couldn't understand why Soviet agriculture, industry and technology weren't able to keep up with other nations and why the Russian people weren't happy under their rule. America's media elite can't grasp the obvious truth that the liberal system and ideology they favor simply doesn't work and is actually harming the nation. (For example: social problems like poverty, homelessness and racism haven't disappeared despite massive government programs and high taxes; racism hasn't disappeared despite political correctness; liberal policies may be harming the family and encouraging crime; liberal peace agendas may actually encourage war and conflict with other nations etc.)
Today's news media leaders find themselves in a similar situation to the Soviet leaders. They retain much of their power, position and influence but nobody actually believes in them or their ideology any more. Just as the Russian public in the 1970s and 80s considered the Soviet leadership a bad joke and saw the obvious truth that Communism was a shoddy lie. Average Americans today consider the media leadership (particularly the big three network anchormen Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather) a bad joke and no longer believe anything the big media says. According to the Pew Research Center, two-thirds of Americans do not believe what they see on the TV news is real. Radio talker Rush Limbaugh now probably has more influence than all major TV news personalities put together. Rather, in particular, can't understand why he is not a beloved and influential national figure like Walter Cronkite was at the height of his popularity. Just as Leonid Brezhnev failed to grasp why he couldn't command the kind of respect and fear as a Soviet leader that Lenin and Stalin did.
The media leaders' behavior in light of these developments is interesting. At first, they ignored them like the Soviet leaders. Then when the evidence became too convincing, the media leaders started to make superficial changes rather than real or substantial reforms much like the Soviet leaders did.
Just as Gorbachev allowed McDonalds to open in Red Square but failed to reform Soviet agriculture, the media elitists cover their broadcasts with flags and write books praising World War II veterans rather than implement policies of balanced reporting, hire a better grade of journalists, or give the most blatantly biased reporters the boot.
The Communist Party leaders ignored or tried to silence their critics - the Russian dissidents. The media elitists also have ignored and tried to silence their critics, especially those news people who have dared criticize them. For years, they deliberately destroyed the careers of those news people who voiced views counter to the `party line.' Remember the discipline conservative ABC newsman John Stossel faced for practicing the same kind of biased reporting as the rest of his reporters? Stossel's crime was not filing biased stories based on questionable and inaccurate information (something of which Stossel was undoubtedly guilty). It was attacking liberal sacred cows and adopting a conservative bias. More recently they have thrown individuals like Goldberg who raised legitimate criticisms out of their organizations and ignored them.
Like the Communist Party bosses, the media elitists have failed to see the disastrous situation they've created for themselves. And like the Communist Party bosses, the media elitists will probably find themselves out in the cold when their system collapses.
Daniel G. Jennings is a freelance writer and journalist who lives and works in Denver, CO. He has worked as a reporter and editor for daily and weekly newspapers in five states.
Buy Feeding the Media Beast: An Easy Recipe for Great Publicity by Mark E. Mathis at Amazon.com for only $24.95
Other related stories: (open in a new window)
Get weekly updates about new issues of ESR!
© 1996-2020, Enter Stage Right and/or its creators. All rights reserved.