The Media-Establishment Victimization Complex
It is a fine thing to see Rick Sanchez stripped of his CNN program and otherwise thrown out of the community of “respectable” pundits; it would have been an ever finer thing to have seen this happen as a result of the inane and mediocre manner in which he has gone about doing a job that, done well, could have had some positive impact on the public understanding. The confused array of assertions that Sanchez lately made to radio host is merely a symptom of a more general degree of incompetence that has long been evident to any reasonable person who has seen him in action. But CNN is disinclined to reward competence or punish incompetence. From a business standpoint, this is just as well; the network’s target demographic is largely incapable of distinguishing between the two anyway.
At any rate, every scandal that falls into the realm of the political, or is least pushed there, prompts an immediate rhetorical battle over the respective situations of liberalism and conservatism. Such an argument is not necessarily unreasonable; a scandal and its aftermath may very well bring with it some accurate lesson. But in practice, such debates tend to consist of equal parts anecdotal evidence and ideological adulteration and serve only to reinforce some convenient conclusion, which in these cases almost always involve one’s own faction being unfairly singled out for punishment while opposing factions go unpunished for the same behavior.
A good and amusing example taken from the Sanchez affair comes to us from Hugh Hewitt, who has long been helpful in providing timely examples of foolish phenomena. When the Sanchez story broke, Hewitt weighed in with the following prediction:
Laura Schlesinger quit under enormous pressure for using the n word even in a context in which it was not linked to racist beliefs, but Rick, who is clearly seeing racist conspiracies everywhere, will probably get to stay at CNN after an apology —perhaps tearful— and an explanation. And every Jew in America and abroad will know they can trust him to fairly report the news about Israel.
This is a classic example of our topical phenomenon in action. Laura Schlesinger, a conservative, was harshly punished for an allegedly lesser trespass against American racial etiquette than that perpetrated by Sanchez, who is a liberal and thus will no doubt be punished less, and the lesson is that conservatives are treated unfairly by the media or the establishment or what have you. It follows that to the extent one hears about conservative misdeeds, it is only because they are magnified by the anti-conservative dynamics of the establishment, which itself is liberal; to the extent that one hears of liberal misdeed, meanwhile, it is only because the establishment cannot muffle all of its relatively plentiful wrongdoing. This belief - which is held and routinely expressed by the majority of movement conservative commentators I have followed over the years - is popular because it provides effective cover for the conservative movement as a whole. Of course, there exists the alternative possibility that this belief is possible because it is known by its adherents to be true, and I would take such a possibility seriously if any of those adherents had only begun the adhering in question after having considered some degree of evidence that goes beyond a handful of anecdotes.
In the case of this anecdote, of course, the hypothesis as applied by Hewitt did not produce a successful prediction, as a hypothesis must if it is to graduate to a theory from the lesser state of something that is believed in out of convenience by a large number of intellectually dishonest degenerates. Sanchez did not escape punishment by virtue of being something of a liberal, and in fact was as punished to the fullest extent that his medium could punish him. Laura Schlesinger, meanwhile, was not punished by her medium at all as far as is known, but rather stepped down herself a few days after the incident in order to “regain [her] First Amendment rights,” which of course had never been abridged in the first place. One could argue that the two cases constitute a useful comparison insomuch as that the two engaged in different sorts of scandalous behavior, but one would have to take that up with Hewitt, who was the one to make the comparison to begin with.
Hewitt, then, decided in advance that the anti-conservative phenomenon in which he believes very strongly would cause Sanchez to go without real punishment. When it turned out that Sanchez was in fact going to be punished in as harsh a manner as possible, Hewitt, being intellectually dishonest, did not revisit his earlier prediction to consider the possibility that the premise on which it had been made was itself flawed, as events had shown it to be; rather, he added an update to his post in which he attacks CNN for not having yet aired any further information on the firing other than that which was provided in the press release.
It will hardly be news to those observant people who’ve had occasion to observe Hewitt that the fellow has made himself look foolish, or that the longtime law professor has accidentally damaged his own case in the rush to make it to others. But the particular meme that he and many others have successfully been pushing needs to be discredited. In the farce surrounding Christine O’Donnell, coverage of the candidate’s numerous and often bizarre misdeeds has been hailed as evidence that she is a potentially tremendous conservative statesman of whom the liberal media is terribly afraid, rather than indicating a clear pattern of dishonesty and incompetence. For the most part, the people who are taken in by this failed hypothesis will vote for terrible candidates no matter what and need not concern those of us who would prefer competent representation from both parties; but there is almost certainly some degree of overlap, which is to say that there are many Americans who are being tricked into supporting horrid politicians over less horrid ones because they honestly believe that things which might otherwise disincline them from voting for the former are somehow the concoctions of a media that actively supports the latter. Little can be done about those who believe nonsense because it makes them feel better; there is much work that can and should be done to change the minds of those who believe nonsense because they honestly think it to be the case.