THE CLINTON SCANDAL AND THE PRACTICALLY PERFECT PRESS | 1999-01-23
Every person who engages in power politics lives in a glass cage.
With one complete, total, and absolute exception.
From congressmen to lobbyists to big businessmen or anybody else, every aspect of the lives of people with public influence is an open book. Every journalist has the right to know everything about them.
But what does anybody know about the media bureaucracy itself?
What are you allowed to ASK about the personal lives of these people? It is our national myth that politicians are mere humans, but the press is practically perfect. The press alone has no biases, the press alone is incorruptible. The press lives only to inform the public and expose all evil with perfect impartiality.
Because of the incorruptibility of the press, the first amendment protects us all. But no one is allowed to check to see whether those who now own that amendment, the national media bureaucracy, has anything wrong with it.
Not surprisingly, this is just the way the press wants things to stay.
If anyone started looking into the personal lives or the personal political opinions of members of the press, it would be called Pure Intimidation. It would be called McCarthyism.
All the respectable conservatives would agree.
Freedom of the Press in America means 1) the right of the media to know everything about everybody else and, 2) the protection of the press from anybody knowing anything about them.
The press, in case any living person hasn't noticed it, is no longer what it was in 1787. It is one huge bureaucracy, where no member of the press ever reveals anything about another member of the press.
What if Big Oil were taking over every single local service station the way national newspaper syndicates are taking over all the local newspapers?
What if conglomerates the size of Time-Life were in the midst of a national takeover of any other local industries the way the Big Press is gaining control over all local news outlets? Does anyone think the press would assume that every aspect of this titanic nationwide takeover was entirely legitimate and honest and OK? Wouldn't there be at least some suspicion that maybe something somewhere was not being done perfectly?
Wouldn't there be some breath, some small hint, of undue pressure somewhere? There would be a lot more than that. The press would be raising bloody hell. We are having just such a titanic takeover in the national media. Will there be any suspicion about this entire, coast-to-coast, multibillion-dollar process? No way, Jose.
Has anybody heard the slightest hint that the Big Press could possibly be doing anything that wasn't highly ethical?
No way, Jose.
Who is going to question it? Liberals who control the press?
Respectable conservatives who are given that "respectable" title BY the liberal press?
No. No major liberal institution is worried about the tame little cowards known as respectable conservatives.
The national media bureaucracy has nothing to fear from their kept opposition.
But the national media are scared to death right now.
From little Geraldo Rivera, who is on tiny MSNBC trying to become a real journalist, up to Sam Donaldson at the peak, revelations about the personal life of Clinton are causing genuine terror.
There is more to it than just liberal bias.
The sheer desperation of Rivera to protect Clinton is too intense, too personal. There has got to be more to it.
I think the fear is that, if we lose respect for the president's privacy, we may soon lose respect for the media's special right to privacy.
Under Kennedy, it was understood that the President could commit adultery with a Communist if he wanted to, and his privacy was absolute. At least as long as the president was a liberal.
That absolute cloak of secrecy is being lifted.
The question that immediately occurs to anyone in the media is going to be
"Just how high is this curtain going to go?"
In other words, "Will I be next?"
After all, there is nothing that is actually sacrosanct about the private actions of the public figure who happens to be President of the United States. Congressmen who got caught doing sleazy things have always routinely lost the next election. The exemption of the President was merely a matter of a custom that was once unquestioned.
But the absolute protection of the press from any publicity is also merely the result of a custom that is presently unquestioned!
One thing no Great Defender of the First Amendment ever mentions is that, when the first amendment was adopted, newspapers were often viciously opposed to each other. The editor of one paper would not hesitate to tell EVERYTHING about the personnel of the other paper. Back then, the public was kept informed on the press, just as it was kept informed on other things. Today's media bureaucracy is totally different from the press that the first amendment talked about. And no one EVER mentions that today.
Members of the press are public figures. Many, many of them have more power and make a hell of a lot more money than anybody in politics. But unlike anybody in politics or anybody in any other business, they do not have to answer to anybody but their bureaucratic superiors.
The press itself faces absolutely no threat of publicity.
So it is only a completely irrational rule that requires that public opinion about the press NOT be INFORMED public opinion about the press. Discussion of the political opinions of any member of the press bureaucracy is cut short. Their private lives are absolutely private. They protect each other from being questioned the way police officers protect each other from traffic tickets.
The blanket of secrecy that was supposed to protect Clinton is the same one the press hides behind. The media wants things back the way they were. But the modern threat to that security blanket really became obvious with the Clinton scandal.
Matt Drudge came up with the blue dress and would not let the whole thing die. Again and again, the media tried to kill the story. Again and again, the Internet revived the story. With people like that out there, the press could not do its usual job of spiking any exposure about a liberal president. The press is horribly upset about this, and every time media bureaucrats get together on CNN, they bemoan the fact that these people on the Internet will not obey their rules.
It is only a matter of time before even the blanket of protection our practically perfect press hides behind is torn apart by the new information sources.
God bless the Internet!