When the Framers met in Philadelphia to craft the Constitution, they wrestled long and hard over the First Amendment, which contains mostly personal rights such as speech, freedom to worship, petition the government, and the less understood right of assembly.
But oddly jammed in the First Amendment was also the freedom of the press. Understand, the Framers and Founders mostly despised the newspapers and pamphleteers of the era. Awful (and untrue) things were said about George Washington, James Madison, and others.
But the Framers also saw the press as a valuable ally of the people against their government, as they’d seen during the Revolution, when essential thinkers and writers such as Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson fired up the imagination of the American revolutionaries against British rule.
Critical writings such as the Leedstown Resolutions and the Essex County Resolutions also were hugely important in giving voice and courage to the burgeoning revolution. These Virginia resolutions were widely read and they too gave intellectual underpinnings to the revolt against King George III.
The intentions of the Framers worked for over two hundred years as the newspapers criticized their government. Some presidents were so incensed, they retaliated, as John Adams imprisoned newspaper editors who critiqued the Sedition Act, Abraham Lincoln imprisoned editors in Baltimore who condemned the Civil War, and Woodrow Wilson clamped down on press critics of his policies, as did FDR. President Kennedy canceled his White House subscription to the New York Herald Tribune because he disagreed with its Republican-leaning editorial policies.
Lyndon Johnson’s abhorrence for the national press corps is well documented and the national press drove Richard Nixon from office. The Washington Post has always taken too much credit for Watergate as The New York Times, CBS News, and Newsweek magazine were as much in the hunt.
The battle between the Fourth Estate and the chief executives continued unabated through Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan (who took an especially hard and unfair beating from the Post which he and Mrs. Reagan especially despised), George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. All presidents were savaged at one time or another by the ink stained wretches of the national press as the role of the newspapers was working, just as the Framers had planned.
This all changed with the election of Barack Hussein Obama and for the first time in our nation’s history, the national media sided with the national government, against the American people. They also became more fully allied with the dominant liberal culture of the academy and the entertainment communities. America’s media once opposed all concentrations of power; now they mostly are aligned with liberal concentrations of power.
As was once said, “When the elephants are fighting, the mice are at risk, but when the elephants are making love, the mice aren’t much safer.” Big liberal media and Big liberal culture are making love, to the detriment of the American people.
Enter Mark Levin and his new, important book, "Unfreedom of the Press." Levin is a warrior of the right of longstanding. His earlier bestsellers have been must-reads.
Simply calling Levin a radio talk show host or a Fox TV host is like calling Nolan Ryan just another pitcher. Some hosts are, well, hosts, who pretend to know the law and politics and government. Levin is a constitutional attorney. Levin does not pretend.
He’s been at the political ramparts since the 1976 Reagan campaign, when as a young man in Philadelphia, he was an early foot soldier in the Reagan Revolution. In 1981, he helped smash a government agency, ACTION, which President Reagan saw as deeply corrupt and flawed. He later moved to the Justice Department and became a confidential and trusted aide to conservative icon, Attorney General Ed Meese.
From the very first pages, Levin identifies the problem with the current state of the Fourth Estate: “Unlike the early patriot press, today’s newsrooms and journalists are mostly hostile to America’s founding principles, traditions, and institutions. Issues, events, groups, and individuals that do not fit the narrative are dismissed or diminished; those that do fit the narrative are elevated and celebrated.”
Further, Levin cites chapter and verse how the dominant liberal media “squelches” speech rather than celebrating the diversity of thought. Diversity, for the “Knights of the Keyboard” (as Ted Williams so brilliantly put them down) should not be taken literally. Certainly not for any kind of thought outside the dominant left.
As one example, the Book Review section of The Washington Post is censorious and anti-intellectual. (Poorly written too.) They only review books (both fiction and non-fiction) by liberals but they especially like to review books by liberals debasing conservatism. To be expected, the socialistic Book Review Section of the Post will in all likelihood not review Levin’s new works, as they’ve never reviewed any of his other New York Times bestsellers. The answer is easy; they don’t understand it and thus are afraid of it. (Levin uses polysyllabic words too, intimidating to some.)
Levin identifies NBC and CNN as deeply biased, anti-conservative, and cites study after study, backing up his claims. No wonder Americans are fleeing watching those two shrinking systems. He delves acutely into the media coverage of Donald Trump and it is fair (and obvious) to say Trump has received the worst coverage of any president since — the last Republican president. The percentages of unfavorable coverage of Trump by the liberal news culture are off the scale. Curiously, Levin reports that Fox’s coverage is split, 50-50, fulfilling Fox’s slogan, “Fair and Balanced.” The national media writes off the juggernaut Fox News as being hopelessly pro-Trump but point of fact is, Fox is not so much pro-Trump as most of the rest of the media is so virulently anti-Trump.
It all comes down to perspective, doesn’t it?
Levin also devotes much time to so-called “media mistakes” but these canards always tilt toward Republicans and conservatives. They never tilt towards the left. Nefarious? It would seem so.
How does Trump stay afloat, stay one step ahead? First, the American people long ago tuned out much of the liberal media. Their continued downward spiraling ratings are tangible proof of this. Second, a “New Media” took hold in the counter culture firmament some time ago and it continues to grow, as the leftwing media continues to shrink. Flaccid. Limp. Yes. Fox, but also talk radio across the country, has flourished after almost thirty years, as have conservative websites and blogs, conservative newspapers and other TV networks including questsin, One America News, and Sinclair.
Imagine the liberal establishment is General Custer, locked into a fundamental misunderstanding of the native tribes, and the conservative media is the freestyle Indians, encircling the ever shrinking establishment who are incapable of seeing things any other way than the straitjacketed ways of liberal conformity.
Levin’s book is not a polemic, but rather written in the rational, but also folksy style of a smart prosecutor. Think Spencer Tracy in "Inherit the Wind."
Throwing Levin’s book before liberals would be akin to casting pearls before swine. But no worries. They’ve never read the Bible anyway.
For the rest of America, the clear thinking Americans, Levin’s book comes along in the right place, at the right time.
Craig Shirley is a Ronald Reagan biographer and presidential historian. His books include, “Reagan’s Revolution, The Untold Story of the Campaign That Started it All,” “Rendezvous with Destiny, Ronald Reagan and the Campaign that Changed America,” "Reagan Rising: The Decisive Years," and “ Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan." He is also the author of the New York Times bestseller, “December, 1941” and his new 2019 book, “Mary Ball Washington,” a definitive biography of George Washington’s mother. Shirley lectures frequently at the Reagan Library and the Reagan Ranch. He has been named the First Reagan Scholar at Eureka College, Ronald Reagan’s alma mater and will teach a class this fall at the University of Virginia on Reagan. He appears regularly on questsin TV, Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.