GOP hates the media because they are liars: The damning, evil history of the right’s war on a free press

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tags: election 2016, GOP



Heather Cox Richardson is the author of "To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party," amongst several other books, and a professor of history at Boston College.

According to the Republican contenders for the presidency who “debated” on CNBC Wednesday night, America’s problems today are caused by “the mainstream media,” which is “the ultimate super PAC” for the Democrats.

This charge is nothing new. Since the 1950s, Movement Conservatives have fought the fair examination of their ideas. They embrace a worldview in which a few wealthy men control the economy and dominate society. This idea repels most Americans. When voters can see it clearly, they oppose it. Movement Conservatives have gained power only by obfuscating reality. They make war on the media because it sheds daylight on their machinations. Transparency threatens their power.

In 1951, a young William F. Buckley, Jr. began the war on the American media. He joined big businessmen in hating the New Deal consensus that called for government regulation and social welfare measures to protect workers. Surely, government bureaucrats should not tell society’s leaders how to run their businesses. Such such an intrusion undermined God’s organization of a proper society, one with a few select leaders on top. In “God and Man at Yale,” Buckley railed that secular New Dealers were destroying America. The principles of religion and a free market economy were non-negotiable, he insisted. Unfortunately, when given fair access to facts, Americans chose secular ideas and business regulation. The only way to return Christianity and individualism to dominance in American society was to inculcate those values in followers. He showed how to do this in the book itself: he misrepresented his opponents, he cherry-picked quotations to make them sound damning, he posed as a persecuted victim.

When voters elected Republican Dwight Eisenhower president in the following year on a platform he called the “Middle Way,” big-business Republicans were horrified that the heresies of government regulation had infected their own party. They insisted government regulation was communism, and it was destroying the country. Trying to undercut the president, they attacked media that supported Eisenhower, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, and Life, as communist rags.

In 1954, Buckley and his brother-in-law L. Brent Bozell attacked the American media itself. In “McCarthy and His Enemies,” they divided the nation into two factions. There were a few, true Americans—people like them—who stood for American values. They called this tiny faction “Conservatives.” These Conservatives stood against the “Liberals”—the vast majority of Americans who accepted the idea of government regulation–who were forcing communism and secularism on America. These Liberals, they claimed, were winning politically because they had taken over college campuses, the government and the national media. To combat the “liberal media” Buckley launched the National Review in 1955, promising to return America to its true principles. ...




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