David Gelernter is professor of computer science at Yale and the author, most recently, of America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture (and Ushered in the Obamacrats), just published by Encounter Books. He wrote “Why do we live in America-Lite?” for us, briefly summarizing the themes of his new book.
Professor Gelernter returned to expand on the themes of his book in “What keeps this failed president above water?” and in “A modest proposal.” Most recently he offered timely thoughts on the presidential contest that also bear on the themes of his new book. This morning he turns to our corrupt media:
Of course the press is corrupt, but why? And what to do?
Pat Caddell’s recent talk at Accuracy in Media has been making the rounds–the former Democratic political operator accuses the mainstream media of slanting so grossly left that it has betrayed the nation and become an enemy of the people and of democracy itself. We all know it’s true, and has been for decades. Caddell puts the case vividly and well but never reaches the main questions: why? And what to do?
Younger people assume that fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly and the press gotta promote wacko-leftist causes and candidates. But before the Second World War the press was mainly conservative; in New York, the liberal Times balanced the conservative Herald Tribune, and everyone read both. 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.
Caddell tells us that the press went left in the 1980s; why did it happen then? Look to the elite US colleges: the post-WW2 cultural revolution that put them in charge of US culture was complete by the 1970s, and its effects started to blossom like ragweed throughout America in the ’80s. Nowhere is it written that the fanciest newspapers should get their reporters from the fanciest J-schools or straight out of Yale, Harvard or Princeton; newspapering used to be a low-life career, many top reporters had no college degrees, and did fine without them.
Nowhere is it written that teachers need Ed-school degrees, that businessmen need MBAs or that lawyers are in charge of bossing the country. These are developments of the cultural revolution, which hugely increased the power of the Columbias and Harvards via their swarming alumni and their influence on every other college in the country.
Elite colleges were always more liberal than mainstream America, but here too the post-WW2 cultural revolution made a huge difference: the tolerance boom of the late ’40s, ’50s and ’60s opened elite college doors to smart people who were not WASPs, and the result was a takeover by professional smart people, a/k/a the intelligentsia. Intellectuals took over the colleges while the colleges were taking over American culture.
Intellectuals, in or out of power, have never hidden their dislike for America, dislike of art done by artists (correct art must be done by and for intellectuals), contempt for the middle-class family, hatred of Judeo-Christian religion. But before WW2 and the post-war cultural revolution, American intellectuals labored over their book reviews and little journals and obscure tracts and no-one paid any attention; now we are all paying attention, because they are running our top colleges and are therefore in command of American culture.
That’s my answer in the book America-Lite, and if you have a better one let’s hear it, but don’t (please!) ignore the question WHY? Don’t just shrug your shoulders, or you are helping to institutionalize corruption. And once we decide why this awful thing happened to America’s once half-way-serious mainstream press, we know what we have to do. Everyone already knows that the US press is intellectually corrupt, that America has a third-world press that has been bought off not by bribes but by pats on the head by the right people, the smart people–the professional smarts.
What to do? Conservatives need to wade in and change the schools now. 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?