The newspaper that boasts it prints “all the news that’s fit to print” had no choice but to put Mark Levin’s damning book on their bestseller list.
Soon after its May 21 release, Levin’s Unfreedom of the Press reached the top of the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list. In 258 pages, Levin, a right-wing radio personality, argues against an infection he’s diagnosed in the heart of mainstream media: the abandonment by journalists of their responsibility to report impartially.
It was only a century ago, Levin writes, that the American press began to see its role as objective truth-teller. Earlier, when newspapers tended to promote one party or another, they were fairly evenly divided — whereas, “today’s news outlets are overwhelmingly supportive of the Democratic party and hostile to the Republican party — particularly conservatives — and, these days, virulently antagonistic to President Donald Trump, his supporters and his policies.”
Indeed, Levin makes a clear case that journalists and news outlets, even as they fiercely defend freedom of speech, instead “serve as filters attempting to enforce uniformity of thought … centered on the progressive ideology and agenda. Issues, events, groups and individuals that do not fit the narrative are dismissed or diminished.”
It’s a breakdown in journalist integrity that was foreseen long ago, he reports. During World War II, Time and Life magazines publisher Henry Luce convened a Commission on Freedom of the Press (aka the Hutchins Commission). Its conclusions remain a cautionary tale more than 70 years later.
The modern press, the report said, “can play up or down the news and its significance, foster and feed emotions, create complacent fictions and blind spots, misuse great words and uphold empty slogans. Their scope and power are increasing each day as new instruments become available to them. These instruments can spread lies faster and farther than our forefathers dreamed when they enshrined the freedom of the press in our Constitution.”
It seems that this fearful scenario has come to pass. “The media’s progressive ideology and Democratic Party bias are in full bloom as evidenced by their frenzied obsession with ‘getting’ President Trump,” Levin writes. “And, conversely, their disinterest and laxity respecting the roles of the Clinton campaign and the DNC, as well as the part played by the Obama FBI, Department of Justice and intelligent agencies, to thwart the Trump campaign and presidency.”
Indeed, Levin brings to the fore questionable moves by previous presidents that were overlooked by the press. Their kid-glove handling of Kennedy and Johnson in particular, he maintains, was due to the fact that the two “defeated Republican candidates who were much hated by the media” — namely, Nixon and Goldwater.
Yet despite the persistently negative press coverage (an estimated 98 percent of news written about Trump is critical), the president “does not pose a threat to freedom of press,” writes Levin. There have been no executive orders, FCC shutdowns of critical news outlets, or criminal charges against unfriendly journalists.
Often typified by what Levin describes as “wildly absurd and hysterical assertions,” the media has compared the president to Hitler and Stalin, and regularly describes him as a neo-Nazi white supremacist, mentally unhinged racist, and sometimes even a psychopath.
Levin argues that journalists asking mental health professionals to diagnose whether or not the president is mentally ill is particularly insidious and destructive. It’s “perhaps the most inflammatory, scurrilous and pernicious allegation that can be made against a mentally healthy individual, but especially a president of the United States, as the purpose is to destroy his reputation with the public and foreign leaders and make governing as difficult as possible,” he writes.
One example: The accusation that the president colluded with Russia — a charge Levin traces to the Clinton campaign, which was then snapped up by the media. Soon, Democrats demanded a special counsel be appointed to investigate, cheered on by the press.
“In the end the collusion story and news scam turned out to be biggest pseudo-event perpetuated against the American people by the Democratic Party-press in modern times,” he concludes. Investigators found no evidence that the president colluded with Russia.
The damage goes well beyond prejudicial reporting, says Levin, who’s concerned that “when the media function as a propaganda tool for a single political party and ideology, they not only destroy their own purpose but threaten the existence of a free republic … Whatever happened to ‘professional journalism’ and the promise or at least suggestion that the press ought to pursue the objective truth in the gathering and reporting of news?”
Instead, the membrane separating the media from the left has never been as permeable as it is right now, he adds. “What of the incestuous relations between journalists and the last Democratic administration?” he asks, citing an Atlantic report that at least 24 journalists were hired for jobs in the Obama administration.
One question that arises: Is the American public buying the party line the media is selling? One recent study (Gallup, October 2018) indicates that such one-sided coverage is further polarizing the country. The media credibility gap between Republicans and Democrats, now at an unprecedented 58 percent, has never been wider, with Republicans generally agreeing with the president that the press unfairly covers his administration and Democrats seeing the media as using its influence as “primarily checking the president’s power.”
And the reader is left with a second question as well, one that no one — not Levin, and certainly not the editor of The New York Times — can answer: Can the “ideologically driven press” waken from its slumber and return to its job of seeing and reporting both sides of an issue free of their own bias?
Levin is not optimistic. You can almost smell the air of resignation hanging over these words of his: “If newsrooms and journalists do not act forthwith and with urgency to ‘fundamentally transform’ their approach to journalism which sadly is highly unlikely, their credibility will continue to erode and may well reach a point soon where it is irreparably damaged with a large portion of the citizenry — and rightly so,” he writes on the final page. “The media will not only marginalize themselves, but they will continue to be the greatest threat to freedom of the press today — not President Trump or his administration, but the current practitioners of what used to be called journalism.”