The Real Media Bias is Writing for Each Other (But, Like, They're All Liberals, So... )
I’ll be giving the keynote address at the National Test Prep Association’s annual national conference in Dallas this Sunday. I hope to have video to share soon.
Let’s consider this New Yorker piece on a failed “anti-woke” nonprofit. I’ll start by saying that I’ve appeared on Bari Weiss’s podcast, have written for her site the Free Press, and would do so again if they wanted me to. But then, I’ll write for everyone, and have written everywhere, and I believe I’ve made more than 80 podcast appearances in my life at this point, so neither tells you much. I think Weiss attracts a type and level of ire from her peers in journalism that’s fundamentally personal in nature, not political or professional, in a way that exemplifies the transparent sense in which media culture is simply a redo of high school where some of the sad and lonely kids have tried to invert the popularity pyramid and become the new bullies. But I also disagree with Weiss on more things than I agree about and would never try to protect her from fair scrutiny. I have never worked in any capacity for The Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism, never communicated with anyone from the group for any reason, and in fact before reading the New Yorker piece I don’t think I had ever heard of them.
And that’s exactly the problem, here: why are the troubles of a minor political nonprofit that’s so obscure I haven’t heard of it newsworthy? Why has the most prestigious magazine in the country chosen to tell this particular story? The piece itself concedes that the nonprofit is small and has little influence. Its internal politics are a little salacious, but the stakes are very low. Weiss is a prominent figure in the industry, but unknown to average people, as almost all of us who work in media for a living are. There’s no real reason for this piece to exist - except that it flatters a very particular point of view, one that does indeed reflect a particular political sensibility but which is much more an emblem of the social and professional culture of media. And I think this powers a lot of the perceived liberal bent in the media. It’s not so much that insiders want to push a liberal narrative, but that playing to the other insiders requires adopting a worldview that happens to be liberal.