Jonah Goldberg

And that's the irony: The left only believes in sticking it to the man when it isn't the man. Teachers unions and tenured professors, now that they control their guilds, are darn near reactionary in their white-knuckled grip on the status quo. Liberal legal scholars are a cargo cult to stare decisis, for the simple reason that the precedents are still on their side.

The essence of the culture war today is a battle over whose "gatekeepers" are legitimate and whose are not.

Nowhere is this more true than in the temples of journalism, where the high priests are barricading the doors with pews and candelabras to fend off the barbarians.

Among the liberal Brahmins of the legacy media, probity, standards and restraint are the order of the day for inconvenient news. Feeding frenzies are reserved for the fun news, i.e., the news that reinforces liberal assumptions.

So, when the Climategate e-mails were released, the New York Times' chief environmental correspondent refrained from posting private e-mails, a standard he would never have taken with internal e-mails from, say, BP. The leak of Valerie Plame's identity: a shocking scandal that tore at the heart of the Bush administration. The leaking of vital state secrets: great journalism.

The house Cronkite built did many fine and noble things. It also locked out competing points of view, buried inconvenient bodies, spun the news with centrifugal force and racked up a formidable list of Shirley Sherrods all its own. The New York Times whitewashed Stalin's genocide. Cronkite misreported the significance of the Tet Offensive to say the Vietnam War was unwinnable. Dan Rather, Cronkite's replacement, began his career falsely reporting that Dallas schoolchildren cheered JFK's murder and ended it falsely reporting on forged National Guard memos. The Rodney King video was misleadingly edited, the Tailwind story was not true. And that's only a snippet of the list.

The media environment today is dizzying not because of one revolution but two complimentary ones. First there's the churn of the Internet, from Wikileaks to wilding bloggers. But there's also a second revolution that amounts to consumer backlash against the House of Cronkite. It has fueled the rise of Fox News and the new alternative media.

This pincer movement can be scary. But it's progress.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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