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By Michael S. Malone
October 24, 2008
The traditional media is playing a very, very dangerous game. With its readers, with the Constitution, and with its own fate.
The sheer bias in the print and television coverage of this election campaign is not just bewildering, but appalling. And over the last few months Iíve found myself slowly moving from shaking my head at the obvious one-sided reporting, to actually shouting at the screen of my television and my laptop computer.
But worst of all, for the last couple weeks, Iíve begun ó for the first time in my adult life ó to be embarrassed to admit what I do for a living. A few days ago, when asked by a new acquaintance what I did for a living, I replied that I was ďa writerĒ, because I couldnít bring myself to admit to a stranger that Iím a journalist.
You need to understand how painful this is for me. I am one of those people who truly bleeds ink when Iím cut. I am a fourth generation newspaperman. As family history tells it, my great-grandfather was a newspaper editor in Abilene, Kansas during the last of the cowboy days, then moved to Oregon to help start the Oregon Journal (now the Oregonian). My hard-living - and when I knew her, scary - grandmother was one of the first women reporters for the Los Angeles Times. And my father, though profoundly dyslexic, followed a long career in intelligence to finish his life (thanks to word processors and spellcheckers) as a very successful freelance writer. Iíve spent thirty years in every part of journalism, from beat reporter to magazine editor. And my oldest son, following in the family business, so to speak, earned his first national by-line before he earned his drivers license.
So, when I say Iím deeply ashamed right now to be called a ďjournalistĒ, you can imagine just how deep that cuts into my soul.
Now, of course, thereís always been bias in the media. Human beings are biased, so the work they do, including reporting, is inevitably colored. Hell, I can show you ten different ways to color variations of the word ďsaidĒ - muttered, shouted, announced, reluctantly replied, responded, etc. - to influence the way a reader will apprehend exactly the same quote. We all learn that in Reporting 101, or at least in the first few weeks working in a newsroom. But what we are also supposed to learn during that same apprenticeship is to recognize the dangerous power of that technique, and many others, and develop built-in alarms against their unconscious.
But even more important, we are also supposed to be taught that even though there is no such thing as pure, Platonic objectivity in reporting, we are to spend our careers struggling to approach that ideal as closely as possible. That means constantly challenging our own prejudices, systematically presenting opposing views, and never, ever burying stories that contradict our own world views or challenge people or institutions we admire. If we canít achieve Olympian detachment, than at least we can recognize human frailty - especially in ourselves.
For many years, spotting bias in reporting was a little parlor game of mine, watching TV news or reading a newspaper article and spotting how the reporter had inserted, often unconsciously, his or her own preconceptions. But I always wrote it off as bad judgment, and lack of professionalism, rather than bad faith and conscious advocacy. Sure, being a child of the Ď60s I saw a lot of subjective ďNewĒ Journalism, and did a fair amount of it myself, but that kind of writing, like columns and editorials, was supposed to be segregated from Ďrealí reporting, and at least in mainstream media, usually was. The same was true for the emerging blogosphere, which by its very nature was opinionated and biased.
But my complacent faith in my peers first began to be shaken when some of the most admired journalists in the country were exposed as plagiarists, or worse, accused of making up stories from whole cloth. Iíd spent my entire professional career scrupulously pounding out endless dreary footnotes and double-checking sources to make sure that I never got accused of lying or stealing someone elseís work - not out any native honesty, but out of fear: Iíd always been told to fake or steal a story was a firing offense . . .indeed, it meant being blackballed out of the profession.
And yet, few of those worthies ever seemed to get fired for their crimes - and if they did they were soon rehired into an even more prestigious jobs. It seemed as if there were two sets of rules: one for us workaday journalists toiling out in the sticks, and another for folks whoíd managed, through talent or deceit, to make it to the national level.
Meanwhile, I watched with disbelief as the nationís leading newspapers, many of whom Iíd written for in the past, slowly let opinion pieces creep into the news section, and from there onto the front page. Personal opinions and comments that, had they appeared in my stories in 1979, would have gotten my butt kicked by the nearest copy editor, were now standard operating procedure at the New York Times, the Washington Post, and soon after in almost every small town paper in the U.S.
But what really shattered my faith - and I know the day and place where it happened - was the War in Lebanon three summers ago. The hotel I was staying at in Windhoek, Namibia only carried CNN, a network Iíd already learned to approach with skepticism. But this was CNN International, which is even worse. I sat there, first with my jaw hanging down, then actually shouting at the TV, as one field reporter after another reported the carnage of the Israeli attacks on Beirut, with almost no corresponding coverage of the Hezbollah missiles raining down on northern Israel. The reporting was so utterly and shamelessly biased that I sat there for hours watching, assuming that eventually CNNi would get around to telling the rest of the story . . .but it never happened.
But nothing, nothing Iíve seen has matched the media bias on display in the current Presidential campaign. Republicans are justifiably foaming at the mouth over the sheer one-sidedness of the press coverage of the two candidates and their running mates. But in the last few days, even Democrats, who have been gloating over the pass - no, make that shameless support - theyíve gotten from the press, are starting to get uncomfortable as they realize that no one wins in the long run when we donít have a free and fair press. I was one of the first people in the traditional media to call for the firing of Dan Rather - not because of his phony story, but because he refused to admit his mistake - but, bless him, even Gunga Dan thinks the media is one-sided in this election.
Now, donít get me wrong. Iím not one of those people who think the media has been too hard on, say, Gov. Palin, by rushing reportorial SWAT teams to Alaska to rifle through her garbage. This is the Big Leagues, and if she wants to suit up and take the field, then Gov. Palin better be ready to play. The few instances where I think the press has gone too far - such as the Times reporter talking to Cindy McCainís daughterís MySpace friends - can easily be solved with a few newsroom smackdowns and temporary repostings to the Omaha Bureau.
No, what I object to (and I think most other Americans do as well) is the lack of equivalent hardball coverage of the other side - or worse, actively serving as attack dogs for Senators Obama and Biden. If the current polls are correct, we are about to elect as President of the United States a man who is essentially a cipher, who has left almost no paper trail, seems to have few friends (that at least will talk) and has entire years missing out of his biography. That isnít Sen. Obamaís fault: his job is to put his best face forward. No, it is the traditional mediaís fault, for it alone (unlike the alternative media) has had the resources to cover this story properly, and has systematically refused to do so.
Why, for example to quote McCainís lawyer, havenít we seen an interview with Sen. Obamaís grad school drug dealer - when we know all about Mrs. McCainís addiction? Are Bill Ayers and Tony Rezko that hard to interview? All those phony voter registrations that hard to scrutinize? And why are Senator Bidenís endless gaffes almost always covered up, or rationalized, by the traditional media?
The absolute nadir (though I hate to commit to that, as we still have two weeks before the election) came with Joe the Plumber. Middle America, even when they didnít agree with Joe, looked on in horror as the press took apart the private life of an average person who had the temerity to ask a tough question of a Presidential candidate. So much for the Standing Up for the Little Man, so much for Speaking Truth to Power, so much for Comforting the Afflicted and Afflicting the Comfortable, and all of those other catchphrases we journalists used to believe we lived by.
I learned a long time ago that when people or institutions begin to behave in a manner that seems to be entirely against their own interests, itís because we donít understand what their motives really are. It would seem that by so exposing their biases and betting everything on one candidate over another, the traditional media is trying to commit suicide - especially when, given our currently volatile world and economy, the chances of a successful Obama presidency, indeed any presidency, is probably less than 50:50.
Furthermore, I also happen to believe that most reporters, whatever their political bias, are human torpedoes . . .and, had they been unleashed, would have raced in and roughed up the Obama campaign as much as they did McCainís. Thatís what reporters do, I was proud to have been one, and Iím still drawn to a good story, any good story, like a shark to blood in the water.
So why werenít those legions of hungry reporters set loose on the Obama campaign? Who are the real villains in this story of mainstream media betrayal?
The editors. The men and women you donít see; the people who not only decide what goes in the paper, but what doesnít; the managers who give the reporters their assignments and lay-out the editorial pages. They are the real culprits.
Why? I think I know, because had my life taken a different path, I could have been one: Picture yourself in your 50s in a job where youíve spent 30 years working your way to the top, to the cockpit of power . . . only to discover that youíre presiding over a dying industry. The Internet and alternative media are stealing your readers, your advertisers and your top young talent. Many of your peers shrewdly took golden parachutes and disappeared. Your job doesnít have anywhere near the power and influence it did when your started your climb. The Newspaper Guild is too weak to protect you any more, and there is a very good chance youíll lose your job before you cross that finish line, ten years hence, of retirement and a pension.
In other words, you are facing career catastrophe -and desperate times call for desperate measures. Even if you have to risk everything on a single Hail Mary play. Even if you have to compromise the principles that got you here. After all, newspapers and network news are doomed anyway - all that counts is keeping them on life support until you can retire.
And then the opportunity presents itself: an attractive young candidate whose politics likely matches yours, but more important, he offers the prospect of a transformed Washington with the power to fix everything that has gone wrong in your career. With luck, this monolithic, single-party government will crush the alternative media via a revived Fairness Doctrine, re-invigorate unions by getting rid of secret votes, and just maybe, be beholden to people like you in the traditional media for getting it there.
And besides, you tell yourself, itís all for the good of the country . . .
By Victor Volsky
October 5, 2008
I have just about had it with the conservative punditry and their plaintive wailings about the unfairness of the self-proclaimed "mainstream media" (I think the designation "Big Media" would be more appropriate as applied to the information service of the leftist elites, which is anything but mainstream).
"Where is the outrage?" "Why does the mainstream media concentrate exclusively on the failings of the right while completely ignoring the failings of the left?" "Why does the mainstream media worship at the temple of Barack Obama while brutally savaging Sarah Palin?" pitifully lament conservatives.
Will they ever learn? What makes them think that the Big Media would or, for that matter, should behave otherwise? Would any of the conservative journalists perplexed by the "unfair" attitude of the Big Media wax indignant about the German Propaganda Ministry of the 1930's spreading outrageous lies about the opponents of the Nazi regime and extolling the virtues of their beloved Fuehrer. Of course, not. They know that Dr. Goebbels' outfit was part and parcel of Hitler's government and its mission consisted in meeting the propaganda needs of the regime. Naturally, it couldn't behave in any other way; that's what it did.
Why then are they so dumbfounded by the position of the US Big Media? Don't they realize that it is every bit as partisan as the Nazi Propaganda Ministry was in its heyday? Dr. Johnson described a second marriage as the triumph of hope over experience. So too conservatives, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, desperately cling to a belief that deep in the bosom of the Big Media there lives an honest broker yearning to break free, and if it hasn't happened so far, the conservatives have no one else to blame but themselves because they have failed to convince the media to repent.
Hope springs eternal in the conservative breast that we are on the verge of an imminent breakthrough: just one more fact laid out, just one more liberal smear blown out of the water and the scales will fall off the liberal journalists' eyes. They will see the light and embark upon the path of righteousness and objectivity. This hope is as baseless as it is stupid -- akin to blowing one's lunch money on lottery tickets in the fervent belief that this time, finally, one will hit the jackpot.
One might argue that such misplaced faith in the Big Media's good intentions is innocuous and makes no real difference in the larger scheme of things. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Wishful thinking and willful blindness disarm, disorient and debilitate the fighter who needs to marshal all his resources for the coming battle. If he is to climb into the ring in peak form, clear-eyed appraisal of the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent is paramount. Instead, he lulls himself to sleep with false hope.
Rather than mobilizing for the task at hand, he wastes precious time and energy on mealy-mouthed attempts to open the enemy's eyes to the sinfulness of his ways. So long as conservatives accept the rules of engagement dictated by the opposition, they will have to fight with one hand tied behind their back.
Conservatives have to realize one simple truth: the Big Media is not the enemy's ally who can be won over; it is the enemy itself. The U.S. Big Media is every bit the propaganda arm of the Democratic Party's left wing as Dr. Goebbels' organization was the propaganda arm of the Nazi regime.
Attempts to shame the Big Media into objectivity will go nowhere, it will not be moved by gentle rebukes and reminders of the precepts supposedly taught at journalism schools. The Big Media's vitriolic campaign to vilify and destroy Sarah Palin, unprecedented in its sheer viciousness, is not primarily driven by the elite's perception of her as an alien life form (although there is that, too), but by the plain fact that she endangers the prospects of their idol, Obama, and hence has to be removed by any means necessary. It's that simple, but until conservatives realize what's going on and resolve to fight the enemy every step of the way, they have no hope of effectively countering its stratagems.
Incidentally, it is only conservatives who insist on treating their opponents fairly, and speak of "our liberal friends", "our friends on the left." Such conservatives never forget to carefully spread the blame on both sides of the political divide, trying mightily to be objective and avoid accusations of bias. (The few exceptions, such as the redoubtable Ann Coulter, only sharpen the distinction). Other than the unctuous Lanny Davis, I have never heard any liberal return the favor. Instead, they miss no opportunity to castigate, sometime quite boorishly, their conservative or Republican opposite numbers. A minor, but telling detail.
Pessimists would say that the fight is hopeless anyway. I don't buy it. There is every reason to believe that once conservatives start pushing back, they can count on at least some measure of success. Remember the budget battles of the mid-nineties? The Big Media was driving Congressional Republicans to distraction by gleefully depicting a planned reduction in the rate of increase of entitlement spending from nine percent to seven as a "cut in benefits." Finally, Speaker Newt Gingrich decided that it was time to fight back. He declared that any journalist engaging in this distortion would have his or her access to the Republican lawmakers totally cut off. It worked like a charm; the media, unaccustomed to resistance, caved immediately and dropped the insidious lie like a hot potato.
I am particularly incensed by the latest example of the limp-wristed attitude of conservatives who are only too willing to accept the rules of the game imposed on them by the enemy: the ready acceptance by some conservative pundits of the d term of opprobrium, "swiftboating", meaning an outright smear without any basis in fact. Don't they remember its provenance? After all, it's of very recent vintage, going back merely four years.
Let's recall: In 2004, over 250 Vietnam veterans of the Swiftboat Division, including nearly the entire chain of command, attacked Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry as unfit for the highest office in the land, offering overwhelming evidence that his "heroic" military biography was actually a tissue of lies and exaggerations. Some media outlets and Kerry sycophants desperately tried to refute the accusations but failed miserably -- not least because the most damning piece of anti-Kerry material was a video recording of the Democratic candidate's testimony before the Senate where he solemnly recited a propaganda tract, and likened our soldiers to Genghis (as pronounced by him, "Jenjis") Khan. How can you refute documentary evidence?
The big guns of the liberal press kept silent for a few weeks. Then the Big Bertha, The New York Times, sallied forth with a tentative formula: "the largely discredited Swiftboaters' accusations". Some time later, the qualifying "largely" was quietly dropped, and the final talking point emerged to be picked up by the rest of the Big Media: the Swiftboaters' accusations are outright lies. From there it was only a short step to developing a new pejorative: "swiftboating". That the left appropriated the opposition's term and adapted it to its needs is hardly surprising. But for conservatives to meekly acquiesce in the opposition's blatant propaganda ploy by bleating about "attempts to swiftboat Sarah Palin" is nothing short of shameful.
It is a truism that to fight on a battlefield not of your choosing is to concede an enormous advantage to the opposition. The sooner the conservatives abandon their delusional belief in the innate goodness of the liberal heart and realize that the Big Media is their bitter enemy that has to be fought tooth and nail, the better their chances will be. Enough is enough. It's time for the conservatives to wake up and smell the coffee.
By Karyn Gaidos
October 10, 2008
I am not trying to sound trite, but honestly I don't know whether to laugh or to cry.
What happened to our jaded media who looked for the fire when they even had a glimpse of smoke? What happened to the media who wanted every single detail of a blue dress and a naughty cigar?
As much as I thought all of the insidious coverage of that Presidential misstep was a bit much, I would take that any day over this overly-apathetic, take-any-answer-at-face-value media we are dealing with now.
Come on media. A sitting president enjoying a peaceful and prosperous eight years has a little fun with an intern, and you went after every last, salacious detail of each and every phone call and encounter.
Now in a time of war and financial meltdown, we have a relatively unknown candidate for the highest office in the land, who keeps fluffing off reports of radical associations as if he is swatting a mosquito away, and you just accept his nonsensical answers at face value.
Never would I have thought that the American media would let an unknown politician running for President get away with having "Community Organizer" as a main feature of his short resume and the seemingly endless radical connections that keep emerging.
Let's recap some of what Barrack Obama seems to have skated passed the American media -- and by default -- much of the American public.
First comes the twenty-year association with a very racist, radical and politically-incorrect Reverend Wright, who is on tape ranting and raving about the American government, white people, Hillary Clinton and many American ideals. His extreme, radical bias against the American government, the American Dream and white people are clearly depicted.
Even though Obama clearly spent 20 years sitting in the pews of Reverend Wright's church and has mentioned him as his spiritual guide on several occasions, the media allowed him to escape relatively unscathed with the announcement that he is leaving his church. This appeased the media and seemed to appease the masses.
Who cares about what it says about his judgment and philosophy to have sat in his pews for 20 years and have used him as his spiritual guide? They said, "Let's get back to the issues."
And so they did.
Then the alternative media started wondering, "What exactly is a Community Organizer, and how does that prepare someone for presidency"? That is a great question, but the mainstream media ignored that question entirely and made it sound like he was some do-gooder who was providing community service.
Anyone at all who bothered to look into what exactly Barrack Obama did as a Community Organizer would have found that he was involved with radical organizations, such as ACORN. Once it came out that ACORN is in frequent trouble for voter fraud and has been caught shaking down mortgage executives to offer bad loans to risky home buyers, his campaign manager says that he didn't work for ACORN. He worked for Project Vote.
The media just left it at that. They didn't bother to report that Project Vote has always been an ACORN affiliate project, and that Barrack Obama did, in fact, serve as ACORN's attorney at least in one Motor Voter Law case. They would also have discovered that he acted as a trainer, who trained young people to be radicals.
Instead, the media ignored that he addressed ACORN's Convention recently and all of the other facts mentioned above, and let the story end with the bogus explanation about Project Vote having been his employer, not ACORN.
Early in his bid for President, it came out that Barrack Obama bought property next door to his good pal, Tony Rezko, who got it for him at $300,000 under market value. Did I mention Rezko is a felon who is most likely on his way to prison for shaking down vendors who wanted to do business with the State of Illinois? I wonder where he learned that tactic? I am sure it wasn't Harvard Business School. I would bet he learned that in some Marxist textbook.
So after that connection gets swept under the rug and dismissed as John McCain's attempt to avoid the real issues, yet another radical association emerges - Bill Ayers.
This guy started a radical, anti-American, terrorist group called the Weather Underground and bombed the Capitol, the Pentagon, the New York City Police Headquarters, and the home of a Judge presiding over a trial of another radical group, the Black Panthers.
It comes out that Barrack Obama launched his political career in this despicable terrorist's living room, sat on some boards with him, collaborated on education projects with him and who knows what else. I wish the media would find out what else. Since when would they let a story like this go?
I'll tell you when -- since they decided they were in the bag for Barrack Obama.
Even though Obama and his advisors keep changing their stories about his connection with Ayers, which would indicate to anyone that there is a lie hidden within the spin, the media has not challenged one single statement that has come from Obama's camp.
There is a chance that a man with a history of radical, Anti-American connections will be our next President, and we are going to treat these reports of his connections as a McCain campaign ploy to distract the public from the real issues.
I cannot think of an issue more pressing than the political agenda and theoretical basis of our next President and Commander-in-Chief. Can you? Radicalism and Socialism have defined him and might soon define our country if the media doesn't wake up and report the facts so that the American people can see things as they really are - not as they are packaged.
Barrack Obama has packaged himself as a Patriotic American looking to serve the people and help the "middle class." Frighteningly, what he might really be is an Anti-American, Socialist, who is looking to "own" the "middle class."
You think I am exaggerating? Thanks to the mainstream media, you might not know that Barrack Obama sought after and won the New Party's endorsement in 1996.
The New Party is a Socialist, Left-Wing faction of the Democratic Party who disdained Clinton's middle-of-the-road policies. Barrack Obama is now running as a Centrist, despite all of the evidence, including his voting record, that shows that he is as Left-Wing as they come.
Like I said, let's unwrap the packaging and get to the heart of this man before he takes the helm of a country in middle of two wars and a devastating economic crisis.
By Paul Kengor
October 10, 2008
There's a lot of frustration among conservatives over how Barack Obama's radical past seems to be making no impact whatsoever among the American public. His connection to communists in particular, from communist-terrorists like Bill Ayers to the communist agitator-journalist Frank Marshall Davis to fellow travelers like Saul Alinsky, has simply failed to resonate beyond the political right. Quite the contrary, the more information that becomes available on Obama's radical associations, the more he seems to widen his lead over John McCain, a man who was tortured by communists in Vietnam.
I understand these frustrations completely. I'm also not surprised.
I have seen for quite some time that although we won the Cold War -- and defeated the Soviet communist empire -- America is vulnerable to varying degrees of collectivism, wealth redistribution, "creeping socialism" (Ronald Reagan's phrase), class-warfare rhetoric, and generally milder, more palatable (but still dangerous) forms of disguised Marxism. Why? How? The answer is simple: The history and truth about communism is not taught by our educators.
That total failure to remind and understand means that Americans are painfully vulnerable to repeat mistakes that should have been forever tossed onto the ash-heap of history.
Communism and the Cold War has been my area of research for years. I've written books on the subject. I lecture on the subject at Grove City College and around the country. The book I'm currently researching with Peter Schweizer is a Cold War book, which, ironically, inevitably brought us into contact with Marxist characters who allied with and even mentored Barack Obama.
Of all the lectures that I do around the country, none seem to rivet the audience as much as my discourse on the horrors of communism. In these lectures, which are usually connected to my books on Ronald Reagan, I do a 10-15 minute backgrounder on the crimes of communists-from their militant attacks on private property, on members of all religious faiths, and on basic civil liberties, to their total death toll of over 100 million bloodied, emaciated corpses in the 20th century.
As I do these presentations, the young people, especially on college campuses, are locked in, amazed at what they are hearing. I think they are especially struck that I always ground every fact and figure in reliable research and authorities -- books published by Harvard University Press and Yale University Press, quotes from the likes of Mikhail Gorbachev and Vaclav Havel and Alexander Yakovlev, anti-Soviet appraisals from certain Cold War Democrats like Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy and even early liberals like Woodrow Wilson. I rarely use right-wing sources because I don't want the professors of these students to be able to later shoot a single hole in my presentation -- a potential tactic to undermine the overall thesis.
And speaking of those professors, that gets to my point here: As the young people in my audience are fully engaged, hands in the air with question after question -- obviously hearing all of these things for the first time in their lives, from K-12 to college, as they are eager to inform me after my talk -- the professors often stare at me with contempt. In one case, a British professor, who could not stop sighing, squirming, and rolling her eyes as I quoted the most heinous assessments of religion by Marx and Lenin, got up and stormed out of the room.
These professors glare at me as if the ghost of Joe McCarthy has flown into the room and leapt inside of my body. In fact, that's the essence of their criticism: It is not so much that these professors approve of communism as much as they disapprove of -- actually, utterly despise -- anti-communism. They are anti-anti-communist more so than pro-communist. Conservatives need to understand this, so as to avoid broad-brushing and losing credibility. Sure, a lot of professors are Marxists, and many more share the utopian goals of Marxism, but the vast majority are simply leftists.
Being on the left entails many strange contradictions and political pathologies, one of which is this bizarre revulsion toward anti-communists. These leftists -- to their credit -- despise fascism, and will preach anti-fascism until they're blue in the face. They are as appalled by fascism as conservatives are by communism. But while conservatives detest both communism and fascism, liberals only detest one of the two.
For instance, I recently saw that Human Events created a list of the top 10 worst books ever written, which included, as the top two, Marx's Communist Manifesto (#1), followed by Hitler's Mein Kampf (#2). That ranking is easily defended solely on numbers: Hitler killed at least 10 million; communism killed at least 100 million. Either way, kudos to Human Events, a conservative newspaper, for putting both communism and fascism in its top two. Yet, conversely, any liberal version of such a list would not even place the Communist Manifesto in the top 10. I guarantee that liberals who read the Human Events list will snicker at its alleged Neanderthal anti-communism.
The leftist intelligentsia that dominates higher education, and which writes the civics texts used in high schools -- I've read and studied these texts -- and which trains the teachers who teach in high schools, is not in the slightest bit notably anti-communist. These liberals do not teach the lessons of communism.
What's more, aside from failing to instruct their students in the crass facts about communism's unprecedented destruction -- its purges, mass famines, show trials, killing fields, concentration camps -- these educators are negligent in failing to teach the essential, non-emotional, but crucial Econ 101 basics that contrast capitalism and communism and, thus, that get at the heart of how and why command economies simply do not work. Each semester in my Comparative Politics course at Grove City College, it takes no more than 50 minutes to matter-of-factly lay out the rudimentary differences. Whereas capitalist systems are based on the market forces of supply and demand, which dictate prices and production levels and targets, communist systems are based on central planning, by which a government bureau attempts to manage such things. Capitalism is based on private ownership; communism on public ownership. Capitalism thrives on small government and taxes; communism on large government and taxes, typically progressive income-tax rates and estate taxes -- both advocated explicitly by Marx -- and much more.
This stuff isn't rocket science. It is easy to teach, if the professor desires. The problem is that it isn't being taught. Consequently, Americans today do not know why communism is such a devastating ideology, at both the level of plain economic theory and in actual historical practice. It is a remarkably hateful system, based on literal hatred and targeted annihilation of entire classes and groups of people. (Nazism sought genocide based on ethnicity; communism sought genocide based on class.)
Most Americans generally know that the USSR was a bad place and that it was good that the Berlin Wall fell; they lived through that. But they know little beyond that, especially young Americans in college today, born around the time the wall fell -- Obama's biggest supporters. Nowhere in America is Barack Obama worshipped as he is on college campuses, by students and professors alike.
What does it all mean for November 2008? It means that millions of modern Americans, when they hear that Barack Obama has deep roots with communist radicals like Bill Ayers and Frank Marshall Davis, don't care; they don't get it. Moreover, the leftist establishment -- from academia to media to Hollywood -- will not help them get it. To the contrary, the left responds to these accusations by not only downplaying or dismissing them but by ridiculing or even vilifying them, given the left's reflexive anti-anti-communism. The left will create bad guys out of the anti-communists who are legitimately blowing the whistle on the real bad guys.
When the leftists of the '60s took over higher education and the media, they really knew what they were doing. This was brilliant, masterful, a tactical slam-dunk, a tremendous coup for them and their worldview, with ripple effects we can scarcely imagine.
Does this mean that the McCain camp, talk radio and conservatives generally shouldn't bother exposing these things? Not at all. The truth is the truth, and needs to be told. Moderates especially need to be informed that Barack Obama is not your typical liberal: he is the most hard-left Democrat that his party has ever nominated for the presidency. It is absolutely not a coincidence that the man with these far-left associations just so happens to be ranked -- quantifiably, objectively, by non-partisan, respected sources like National Journal -- the most far-left member of the U.S. Senate, which is no small thing given the leftward drift of the modern Democratic Party. In other words, Obama's extremist associations matter; they are fully revealing, illustrative of the political-ideological realities that the pro-Obama media will not expose. His voting record bears this out.
That said, I warn my fellow conservatives: Be prepared to be really, really frustrated when few people seem to care.
The Santayana aphorism is correct: those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. For decades now, we haven't taught the next generation what it needs to know from its immediate past. And now, to borrow from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, America's chickens have come home to roost.
Paul Kengor is author of The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (HarperPerennial, 2007) and professor of political science at Grove City College. His latest book is The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007).