Bill Murchison

With Rupert Murdoch having won his war for control of The Wall Street Journal, we can begin to reflect on the Meaning of It All.

Here's one layer of meaning: Liberals get to help us acknowledge the importance of an editorial page that stands for something -- in The Journal's case, for human freedom. Not many other American newspapers these days make that claim.

For sure there exist plenty of newspapers skeptical or sharply critical of, not freedom in the abstract -- who would do that? -- rather, of attempts to widen freedom's availability. These papers don't especially approve of cutting taxes; they don't trust school voucher programs or businessman as a class; they doubt the efficacy of the profit motive; they repose enormous faith in government's ability to regulate us out of any problem; they aren't turned on by the prospect of entrenching freedom in Iraq and elsewhere.

On moral issues it's another matter. What the majority of newspaper deep-thinkers like is license, or its first cousin. License isn't freedom. The latter carries responsibility for consequences; the former says consequences (abortion, illegitimacy, etc.) are up to the individual.

The great majority of newspapers, in other words, are liberal, or, to use their favored term, "progressive." There once was a goodly number of non-"progressive" newspapers, dispensing non-"progressive" editorial viewpoints. No more. At the national level there's just The Journal. Small wonder the rival The New York Times' media critic the other day took a sharp dig at The Journal's "medieval brand of conservatism."

"Medieval." You know -- kings and nobles running the human show, under a feudal system contrived for defense against enemies. No inherent rights for anyone else; the serf confined forever to his tiny plot and smoky hovel, helpless to move, helpless to rise. We all can see of course how neatly the medieval worldview squares with The Journal's proud and deliberate editorial commitment to "free people and free markets." Free people are reputed to make poor serfs, but maybe nobody at The Times stares out the window all that much.

Full disclosure. I subscribe to, and read thoroughly, both newspapers every day -- The Journal and The Times, a feat that can take a couple of hours. This is how you learn, if I am not mistaken. This is how you come to think -- in spite of the progressive elitists who dominate American journalism.

Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
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