Time to retool and reload

Letter date: 
Monday, November 19, 2012
Letter author: 
Tom Tancredo
Letter body: 

The cynicism promoted by our arrogant and shameless media establishment is creating an atmosphere of desperation among a growing number of citizens. When people feel totally disenfranchised, they may not stop at letter writing. Some will resort to violence. If there is blood in the streets as a result of the accelerating assault on our Constitution, the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of our media establishment.

The Romney defeat was not caused by some defect in “messaging.” Folks, it’s not the message, it’s the messenger – and the messenger is the mainstream media, not talk radio. Like it or not, the average American and the average voter – by which I mean the 90 percent who do not follow politics or issues closely –still follows politics and elections through the mass media.

We saw something new in the 2012 presidential campaign. Yes, media bias has been a problem for decades, but it has crossed a threshold. The mainstream media are not only increasingly partisan and increasingly shameless in their partisanship. They have consciously taken on the mission of blocking and distorting the conservative message to marginalize, obstruct and defeat any dissent from the leftist agenda.

The really bad news is that there is no easy solution.

We need to recognize that our alternative media are not an adequate counterweight on the political battlefield. The conservative radio talk shows, the blogs and social media networks, our newsletters and magazines – all play a crucial role for conservatives and for patriotic activists. Yet, when it comes to reaching and educating and motivating the typical soccer mom or blue-collar worker, they do not match the impact of the mass media.

Suppose that every time you typed the word liberty on your computer keyboard, the spellcheck program in your software automatically changed that word to something totally different. That’s similar to what is happening when the conservative message is broadcast through the mainstream media. It gets translated, transformed and distorted. What the public hears is “racism,” a “war on women” and “shredding the safety net.”

A photo-ID requirement for voting? That’s a “return to Jim Crow.” Border security? That’s “anti-immigrant.” Stop double taxation of wealth? You’re a greedy capitalist. By using and legitimizing such leftist terminology, the media set and enforce the acceptable parameters of political debate. When we grant the media that power, we surrender the essence of popular sovereignty, for the people cannot govern where the truth is silenced.

We’ve all seen this partisan bias in operation, and we criticize it, but we have not recognized the true cost of this deterioration in our public discourse. The cost is not one election or one tax increase or one more amnesty bill. What is being lost is our ability to function as a representative democracy. And I mean that literally.

Media subversion of the public discourse is one of the main causes of the growing cynicism and distrust of our political institutions and public officials. Distrust and cynicism lead to despair, and despair often leads to dropping out of civil society. If it’s no longer a level playing field because the referees have been bought off, why play the game at all?

Dropping out is an appealing escape route, and many good men and women have already taken that path. But true patriots will resist and overcome that temptation.

Our awareness of the full extent and full cost of media bias can be “empowering” if it leads to a more entrepreneurial and more strategic counteroffensive, with systemic media bias being understood as one part of a broader culture war. Dropping out is not an alternative: first because it is cowardly, and second because the new totalitarianism will not leave you alone. You can run, but you can’t hide.

Time to rethink, retool, and reload.

Tom Tancredo is the founder of the Rocky Mountain Foundation and founder and co-chairman of Team America PAC. He is also a former five-term congressman and presidential candidate. Tancredo is the author of "In Mortal Danger: The Battle for America's Border and Security." When he served in Congress, he organized and chaired the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus.