At other times, you encounter somebody passionately offering a deadly serious warning about a situation that all those within range of his voice need to respond to for their own good.
But what happens when both types of speech are a single commentary delivered by just one person?
That’s what took place late last month, when former Democratic pollster Patrick Caddell told a conference sponsored by a conservative media-watch group, “We’re at the most dangerous time in our political history in terms of … whether we maintain a free democracy or not.”
Now, I’ve been watching Caddell on TV for years, and despite his time monitoring public opinion for Jimmy Carter, he is no further left than the average American and certainly not an ideologue of either left or right.
So when a political veteran of the center-left starts warning about the future in near-apocalyptic terms, it might be worthwhile to pay attention.
And, as it turns out, his Paul Revere-style alarms, offered at a Sept. 21 conference sponsored by Accuracy in Media, gained some immediate echoes in academia and the pundit class that are also worth attention.
First, Caddell: “You know, when I first started in politics—and for a long time before that—everyone on both sides, Democrats and Republicans, despised the press commonly, because they were SOBs to everybody. Which is exactly what they should be. They were unrelenting. Whatever the biases were, they were essentially equal-opportunity people.”
But that started changing in 1980, he said, and showed up when the press wouldn’t offer the same scrutiny of Democratic candidates’ records as they did of Republicans.
That’s true enough, of course, but anybody who has read the history of the 1964 election (or, like me, watched it happen) knows that media bias goes back a lot further than Ronald Reagan’s first presidential campaign.
Nevertheless, Caddell said, the bias is now “overwhelming” and is “very real and very dangerous.”
One of its spurs, he said, is that there is a deep cross-pollination between government and the media, with married couples where one is a journalist and the other a functionary keeping nepotism alive in both camps.
The revolving door between Democratic administrations and top media jobs also helps keep the liberal point of view in the media’s wheelhouse.
That keeps important questions from being asked, as when former Obama campaign director David Plouffe got $100,000 for speaking to what Caddell called an “Iranian front group,” and yet was never asked about it when interviewed by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos—who himself is a former adviser to President Bill Clinton.
“Now, let me tell you,” Caddell said. “There’s nobody that hands … no stranger gives you $100,000 and doesn’t expect something in return, unless you live in a world that I don’t. And no one has raised this in the mainstream media.”
So, who’s surprised? Let’s not all say “not me” at once, okay? Every reader can list a series of media cover-ups and omissions that spans not only the current campaign, but many more.
Let’s have a couple more Caddell quotes, and then we’ll move on: “When I have polls that have the preference of Democrats over Republicans higher than it was in 2008, which was a peak Democratic year, I know I am dealing with a poll that shouldn’t be reported. And yet they are.
“We have a political campaign where, to put the best metaphor I can on it, the referees on the field are sacking the quarterback of one team, tripping up their runners, throwing their bodies in front of blockers, and nobody says anything. The Republicans don’t.”
And, after taking the Romney campaign and the GOP in general to task for being too afraid of the press to present the conservative case about media bias directly to the voters, he added:
“The fundamental danger is this: I talked about the defense of the First Amendment. The press’s job is to stand in the ramparts and protect the liberty and freedom of all of us from a government and from organized governmental power.
“When they desert those ramparts and decide that they will now become active participants, that their job is not simply to tell you who you may vote for, and who you may not, but, worse—and this is the danger of the last two weeks—what truth that you may know, as an American, and what truth you are not allowed to know, they have, then, made themselves a fundamental threat to the democracy, and, in my opinion, made themselves the enemy of the American people.
“And it is a threat to the very future of this country if we allow this stuff to go on. We have crossed a whole new and frightening slide on the slippery slope this last two weeks, and it needs to be talked about.”
Caddell turned out not to be alone: David Gelernter, a famous Unabomber victim and Yale computer science professor, said that Caddell’s talk should spur people to action—but what kind of action, and by what means?
“Conservatives of all ages say that we have already responded to press bias by creating new media—fine as far as it goes, but every citizen (this is Caddell’s point) must be able to count on an honest mainstream press that harasses politicians of all types in search of truth.”
Gelernter continues, “Nowhere is it written that the fanciest newspapers should get their reporters from the fanciest J-schools or straight out of Harvard, Yale or Princeton. Nowhere is it written that teachers need ed-school degrees, that businessmen need MBAs or that lawyers are in charge of bossing the country.”
Thus we are governed by an intellectual class, and “intellectuals, in or out of power, have never hidden their dislike for America … Contempt for the middle-class family, hatred of Judeo-Christian religion … (and) now they are in command of American culture.”
The answer, he says, lies in taking control of education again and teaching our children the real story of America, not the pastiche of hate and disdain they are now being taught in a system controlled by those same intellectuals.
That’s not the same thing, however, as “taking back the schools,” but in working around them: “The Internet is right there in front of you, offering a way forward. What are we waiting for? Why (why, why?) don’t we stop fretting and start doing something?”
And if we don’t? Some think it is, if not quite too late to act, nevertheless very late indeed. One such person is Roger L. Simon, a commentator on pjmedia.com, who wrote on Oct. 1 that “We are the victims of a media coup d’etat and are currently living under it.”
And, he says, “Barack Obama is a product of this coup d’etat,” but he is not its chief expression, as politicians are subordinate to it.
By that, Simon means, “Politicians come and go; journalists, pundits, commentators—in print, on television and now on the Internet—last forever. They are the ones that tell our story to us. They are our mirrors and they are indeed a new class, as resistant to change as any entrenched group of the rich and the powerful.”
And this class, “more than any, determined that Barack Obama should be president and they consequently will work more assiduously than any to assure his reelection, because a failure in that would be a serious, perhaps fatal, attack on their hegemony.
“The coup would be in danger of a counter-coup. That can’t be allowed to happen. No facts, no events (Benghazi, Fast and Furious, endless unemployment, a health care fiasco) will get in the way.”
And he concludes, while this “slow-motion,” decades-long coup took place, “the rest of us sat outside, tweeting, blogging, hoping Charles Krauthammer would say something smart on Fox News or Rush would get his revenge. But the narrative is set. The coup has taken hold. It’s too late now—or is it? We live in a Media State.”
Well. As with any disorder, one can agree with the diagnosis while disagreeing with the prognosis.
And yet, unless we do take our fates back from those who are spending our children’s and our grandchildren’s wealth (as well as our own) for their own present priorities, it seems pretty clear that we will live in a country where, to paraphrase George Orwell, we can imagine the future to be a New York Times-endorsed politician’s well-shod foot stamping on the Constitution.
M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a free-lance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at:firstname.lastname@example.org.