News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Monday, February 28, 2011

Living in paranoia under liberal oppression

Conservative America says it lives under the oppression of liberal media and academic institutions, which indoctrinate the gullible and  unsuspecting into the perversions of liberalism..  Liberalism is not regarded by the right wing as a different, legitimate viewpoint, but as a devious, insidious plot to undermine all that is right and proper.  This is the single message  Rush Limbaugh and Fox News broadcast during their hours of devotion,  Liberals are to conservative America what Jews are to Nazis.  They are  inferior, perverted souls who are the cause and the agents of all that is wrong.

 Liberals inflict their insidious power because they dominate the news media and the academic institutions,  according to the gospels of Limbaugh and Fox.

During my years as a full-time working journalist, my colleagues did not gravitate for the most part to one political end of the spectrum or the other.  They were generally fiscal conservatives.  And they tended toward social liberalism.  They embraced a complex combination of ideologies.

Journalist shaped their politics around the realities that they confronted every day in their work.  Publishers of newspapers and producers of broadcasts might indulge in the notions of political ideology from the  vantage point of their executive chairs, but the people who were in contact with the people who make the news and who did the actual, frontline reporting based their political opinions on the facts and real people they encountered every day.  They knew in detail how organizations and society work.

A reporter of any intellectual acumen would see the need for fiscal responsibility.  The apprehension of that need would take what might seem to be contradictory viewpoints:  the advocacy of conservative and cautious handling of money, but a belief in the need for regulation in the financial industries and in corporate life.  Recent history with Enron, Tyco, Global Crossing. Worldcom, and all the financial corporations that created the Great Recession of 2007-2009 illustrate what reporters find in their work everyday.   While the Supreme Court has bestowed the status of persons on corporations, the fact is that it is not in the corporations' bottom-line interests to be good citizens.  They experience the impulses of greed, avarice, and larceny  and elevate those motives to corporate virtues.  Just as the decaying precincts in our urban and suburban areas require the aggressive presence of law enforcement, the corporate world requires the most intense vigilance and intervention to keep it from descending into predation and larceny.  Just as mafia bosses have found bribery and intimidation the most effective means of protecting their criminal turf, corporations have, likewise, adopted the ways of the godfathers to defend their turf and flout their power before that majority of dupes, who think that honesty and fair play are the operative standards that businesses and  citizens should practice.  Conservative America thinks those standards apply only to the dupes, not the ruling  class.  And so, they excoriate the media and the academic institutions who might raise honesty and integrity and beneficent purpose as essential to realizing freedom, equality, and justice. The tenets of fascism upon which contemporary conservatism is based regard corporations as the royalty to which the working class, the serfs, must defer.  Journalists tend to address the basic perquisites of democracy and are, therefore, seen by conservatives as having a liberal bias.  To the conservatives, anytime their feudal principles are not advocated, there is a liberal bias.

The conservatives also contend that colleges and universities are dominated by liberal professors.  The Washington Post addresses five false myths on that subject.   In my own experience, the politics of my professor colleagues seldom was exerted.

Some professors, as is the case in the general public, make known their political preferences.  However, many do not choose to display their politics before their colleagues.  Despite what conservatives claim about the liberal professors using their  classes for indoctrination,   I never came across instances where professors in the institutions where I worked indoctrinated or belittled students.  I have read of a few alleged occasions,  I had a few students, two that I recall out of 30 years of teaching, who complained about my liberalism, but the huge majority of my students would be hard put to point out any indications I gave of my politics.  The business of teaching is to cover the subject matter, in my case the craft of writing and the reading of literature.  While it is possible to present political interpretations of literature, it is also incumbent upon professors to point out what the text says and what the possible interpretations are when more than one interpretation legitimately exists.  When leading students to apply the scholarship they are being presented, one might use examples of political interpretations, but it is generally the practice to cite opposing examples.

Of the professors I have worked with, I only knew one who enraged students with his political viewpoints.  He was a political science professor who was a Marxist.  And that in itself is what enraged some of his students.  He did not, however, try to impose Marxism on his students.  He might explain how Marxism would analyze a political circumstance for illustration purposes, but he would also present how other political theories would approach that circumstance.  Most students admired him for his command of political theories and how he would help them see the distinctions among them.  In their assessments of his teaching, they often commended him for his thorough knowledge of political philosophies.  Those who hated him hated him for what he was, not what he actually did in the classroom.

College campuses were at one cohesive in their pursuit of knowledge.  Faculty and students expected them to be places where the range of ideas about facts could be vigorously and openly explored.  As long as critical discussion and debate took place, no one cared much about the personal politics of the faculty.  When the conservatives began to complain about a liberal bias, their complaint was not based upon some liberal ideology being propagandized in the classes.  It was based upon the fact that a conservative ideology was not being presented as the only way students should be thinking.  The prime example is in the biological and  paleontological sciences.  The complaint was that the courses had a liberal  bias because creationism was not being presented as the dominant theory.  The liberal bias was that the sciences stuck to the empirical facts, not the mythological conjectures.

In today's definition of conservative, journalists and professors will be accused of a liberal bias as long as they stick to the facts of their subjects.  And for real journalists and scholars, the big issue of the day is where they can go to practice their professions.  The community of nations as we know them are destined for some very disruptive changes as knowledge looks for home.   

I do remember a time when the differences between conservatives and liberal were fairly slight matters.  People of those view points could be close and amiable friends.  Today, as conservatives have defined liberals, either total submission or a deadly enmity is required.  Edmundo O'Gorman 
remarked that America had to be invented before it was discovered.  Those people looking for  place to possess and discuss knowledge will have to reinvent a new land so that it may be discovered. 

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States