Neville Chamberlain, media bias, and candles

For the Monitor
Published: 1/3/2021 11:01:03 AM

Former Congressman Lamar S. Smith echoed the sentiments of many when he stated more than a decade ago that “The greatest threat to America is a liberal media bias.”

Likeminded thinkers have written many books, compiled numerous statistics, and created mountains of evidence purporting to document the leftist slant in American news reporting. Google away if you’re interested.

An independent and credible media establishment is vital to successful democracy. Our founders understood this and freedom of speech was enshrined in the very first amendment to our constitution. An independent media publicly holds government accountable to the people. When press freedoms are extinguished then tyrannical governments create their own news realities. Think Joseph Goebbels, Baghdad Bob, or any Pravda editor. Not coincidentally, things ended badly for the aforementioned and their totalitarian regimes.

But democracies are immune to such fates, correct? Emphatically, no. Congressman Smith is on to something. Eternal vigilance is indeed the price of liberty. Some history can illuminate.

Ponder a case study of conservative media bias that proved deadly and tragic.

During the late 1930s, Tory British Prime Ministers Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain presided over a parliament dominated by conservatives. Faced with a growing threat from Germany and the Nazis, this conservative establishment embarked on a policy of appeasement, seeking to placate Adolf Hitler by giving him what he wanted in hoping to avoid war. In retrospect, the Tory policies were disastrous, leading to mankind’s greatest conflagration. But most Brits had little idea of what was unfolding.

Conservatives dominated not only parliament but also the British newspaper world – as well as the British Broadcasting Corporation. Tory whips cracked hard to kill news or commentary that conflicted with conservative policies or the Tory line. Voices of prescient statesmen like Winston Churchill were suppressed. Those who warned of true German intent were ridiculed as warmongers.

Opposition Liberal/Labor newspapers were also cowed, due to political, financial, and other considerations. Subsequently, most Brits remained perilously uninformed.

Famed American journalist Martha Gellhorn traveled throughout Europe during the 1930s and was horrified by the growing Nazi danger. But she was equally horrified during a visit to England to find that due to conservative news suppression most Brits had little idea of the existential threat they faced. (Read Lynne Olson’s Troublesome Young Men.)

Instead of preparing for conflict, Chamberlain and company continued their largely unchallenged and disastrous appeasement policies – aided and abetted by that dominant conservative media bias. Fortunately, after war finally broke out, the emergence of Churchill as prime minister along with the English Channel, German miscalculations, and an eventual Grand Alliance eventually saved Britain and western civilization.

So democracies can certainly be failed by their “free” press. So is Lamar Smith correct in claiming that liberal media bias now threatens our country, as conservative media bias earlier almost ruined Britain?

A 2020 Gallup Poll indicated only 9% of Americans have “a great deal” of trust in our media, while 60% have little or no trust in our press people. That our media establishment overwhelmingly opposed President Trump was quite obvious (Google away). While Trump deserves a measure of blame for his brawling approach and for picking fights with publishers who buy ink by the barrel, what ever happened to objective journalism? Don’t expect good answers from the likes of ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, or from other network news people, most of whom, like Stephanopoulos, are liberals – if not former Democrat operatives.

Did the Trump administration receive due attention re: achieving energy independence? For amazing Middle East peace breakthroughs? For record stock market and employment numbers? For successfully supporting the development of a COVID vaccine that became available months earlier than originally projected?

Similarly, did the Biden campaign receive due scrutiny on a wide range of issues?

Eventually historians will weigh in and their judgments will likely be harsh. Objective journalism has demonstrably given way to institutional partisan advocacy. A similar dynamic exists in academia, but that’s another column.

The Lamar Smiths of the world fear that our overwhelmingly liberal media establishment will veer our country onto a dangerous road leading to statist socialism, less freedom, a loss of our national identity, and disaster.

The Washington Post’s slogan claims that “Democracy dies in Darkness.” I agree. Lights need to be shined. Thankfully, Churchill and his followers figuratively lit enough candles to show the way to victory, despite the disastrous conservative media bias of the 1930s.

The time has come to shine light on the dangers of current liberal media bias in America.

Thank you, Concord Monitor, for allowing this one candle be lit here at this time.

(State Representative Mike Moffett of Loudon is a retired professor and Marine Corps officer.)

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