Identity Politics is Easy...
That's one reason why it's so pervasive in today's media landscape
Thank you again to the American Thinker for running this piece. You can visit the website at https://www.americanthinker.com/
While a number of political and media critiques of late have focused on the close-minded, thin skinned, woke ideology driven current nature of the cultural landscape and those who inhabit it, there may be another factor at play: identity politics is really easy to do.
Life becomes much simpler when one only has to deal with groups of people (or thoughts or attitudes or what have you) rather than individual and discrete concepts. There is a very reassuring clarity to the world when one can comfortably, smugly, knowingly ignore more than half of it.
One can simply look at someone or something or some idea and dismiss it because it came from the wrong group or person. And it becomes particularly unnecessary to see nuance or consider different interpretations when one is part of an ascendant group oneself.
In the world of politics, this process goes back to the beginning of time. Categorizing and organizing, favoring or tormenting, placating or ignoring this group or that is practically hard wired into the pursuit of public power.
But recently this type of thinking has invaded the one part of society where it is most dangerous – the media.
Despite appearances, the process has not occurred overnight. The image of the grizzled, first in the family to have a job “out of the coal mine,” often drunk, iconoclast striving for justice reporter was always overplayed, but it had a certain core of truth. It talked to power, but did not become entangled with power (that was the publisher’s job); it tended to disdain fancy jargon and putting on airs, while still remaining rather jealous of those with the wherewithal to make their will manifest in the world.
And then, perhaps in part because of this underlying envy, reporters transmogrified themselves into journalists. One was no longer a craftsman at the paragraph factory, but a degreed professional just like the people they covered. A chumminess with power began to appear, even to the point that journalists began marrying government workers and other people they covered and vice-versa, a practice that had previously been quite rightly shunned. The craft of reporting became more specialized and was consumed by the professional establishment, leading to a kind of industry capture (for example, the Department of Labor is run by and for the unions, the Department of Education is run by and for the teachers, etc.), leaving the general public it once served out in the cold.
This putative professionalism has led not only to a widening gap between reporter and reader and an ever-tightening bond between journalists and the people they cover but also to their adopting the worldview – one of group identity over individual action and the strict enforcement of societal otherness for those outside the group - of the rest of the professional class.
Combining this with an increased (cross-platform and nationwide) similarity of tone, style, and focus, the gutting of local news organizations, and a business model that is increasingly focused on coddling the pre-conceived notions of the individual paying customer rather than serving the diversity of the general public and the result that is today’s media (and political) landscape is practically inevitable.
Being a reporter is difficult; being a journalist can be made very easy on oneself by embracing this sad reality.
Starting the day by going to a car accident, then the courthouse to check in on a murder arraignment, and then off to interview the nice little old local lady who has managed to collect 387 porcelain frogs over the course of her life, and finishing the day by attending a three-hour zoning board meeting is hard. Scanning through Twitter for the latest outrage to write about while sitting at your desk eating $18 avocado toast is easy.
Not listening to people who are part of a group you and your friends have deemed unwashed is easy. Trying to understand and then translate for the general public different views is hard.
Knowing deep down that you are always right because everyone around you agrees with you is not only easy but incredibly self-gratifying. Searching out differences, slogging through pages of documents trying to figure out if someone you personally despise is actually telling the truth this time, is hard.
Claiming that a worldview different from your own actually can put you in physical danger is oddly empowering for those with the standard issue social media narcissism. But being mean tweeted at is a far cry from “good old-fashioned” reporter threatening. (For example, after a story I wrote concerning a local businessman appeared, he left a message on my voicemail in which he, after disparaging my mother’s character and questioning her choice of personal associations, threatened to kill me. And he unquestionably had the temperament and means to do so. But I digress.)
If, instead of going to that zoning meeting or talking to the newly-widowed loved one of that traffic accident victim, one can simply get paid to sit there and write things that you already agree with it almost makes sense. And identifying each and every thought, event, or person first foremostly by group – and regularly receiving reassuring confirmation of this method by your own group – makes the process even easier.
Trying to change that culture will be difficult. It is very hard to convince people that dropping their comfortably self-assured, well-defined wordview is a good idea, especially when doing so would expose them to ridicule and social ostracization and mean they would actually have to work for a living.
There was an editor I once had who would closely track where his reporters were throughout the day and would become irked if he saw them at their desks too often. “The typing is done in here,” he would say. “The news is done out there.”