Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Fox News and Ideological Bias

There are at least three distinct movements within what is called the "conservative" movement, Progressive, libertarian and Straussian. The first, Progressive, is probably the majority of the professional Republicans and has dominated the presidential races since 1904, with a few exceptions. Where presidential rhetoric has deviated from Progressivism, as in the case of President Ronald Reagan, the substance has not. Progressivism is the idea that the state needs to guide the economy and that big government is necessary to provide economic "services", expand the money supply and counteract the evils of big business. The management of government is to be placed in the hands of experts, or an elite, who, as John Dewey argued, can paint artistic images for mass consumption. The second conservative view, that of libertarian conservatism, is opposed to Progressivism. Republican Progressives tend to be in favor of existing business whereas libertarian conservatives believe that neutrality toward existing business is most beneficial because future entrepreneurs are often at odds with large, existing firms. Progressives do not see the possibility of entrepreneurship competing with existing large firms and so aim to subsidize them. The Progressives include the followers of Leo Strauss, who for practical purposes advocated policies that fit the Whig tradition.

The Republican Whig/Progressive/Straussian position is distinguishable from the views of the Democratic Party in some ways. For example, the Democratic Party says it aims to benefit the poor and working class, but actually benefits the rich. The Republican Progressives simply say that they aim to benefit the rich, with benefits to the poor "trickling down". Both Progressive Republicans who dominate the Republican Party and the Democrats favor big government and the Federal Reserve Bank, and both parties have overseen declining real hourly wages among the average American, which is due to inflationary Fed policies and support to incompetently run large businesses that would not survive on their own, without monetary support. The recent bailout is but one more piece of evidence in this decades-long tragic bamboozling of the American public.

Cliff Kincaid writes a fine article in canadafreepress.com entitled "The Rise and Fall of Fox News". Kincaid points out that:

"The coverage of the financial crisis has been helpful in demonstrating that many of the “conservatives” in the media are not so conservative after all. When the going gets tough, they are quick to abandon their principles. Several commentators on the Fox News Channel joined Senators Barack Obama and John McCain and most congressional Democrats in supporting the socialist-style bailout scheme...Exhibit number one is Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard, who declared on “Special Report with Brit Hume” on Fox News on October 2 that conservatives in the House of Representatives opposing the plan were crazy, nuts, and idiots."

Fred Barnes and the Weekly Standard are economic illiterates whose opinions on bailouts, the Fed and the economy are of little intellectual importance because they literally reflect sophistry. The Sophists, you will recall, were paid teachers in Athens. Athenians discounted their opinions because they were not philosophers, thinkers who thought for love of wisdom rather than money. Barnes and the Weekly Standard are linked economically to the interests of the American Enterprise Institute and the beneficiaries of the bailout, and therefore should not be taken seriously.

This is not to say that Barnes is not a conservative. He is a conservative in the Whig tradition of Alexander Hamilton, Henry Clay, Abraham Lincoln and the early twentieth century Progressives and socialists like Republican and then Progressive Party candidate Theodore Roosevelt. This view is inconsistent with Jacksonian liberalism, which has an increasingly ramshackle home in the Republican Party.

With Progressives like Barnes and John McCain dominating the Republican Party, and the big government legacy of George W. Bush and, for that matter, his dad and Ronald Reagan as well, it is increasingly questionable whether the Republicans offer a viable home to Jacksonian liberals.

This will be troubling to the Republicans. As Kincaid points out:

"A new Rasmussen poll finds that 'The fact that most Americans still agree with Reagan helps explain the ongoing public resistance to the bailout bill currently working its way through Congress and the fear of many voters that the federal government will do too much rather than too little to deal with the current economic situation.'

Reagan, though, used the rhetoric of small government with the practice of big. The Republicans, believing that substance rather than rhetoric motivates the public, dispensed with the Reagan ideology. Instead, they would have been wiser to cause the substance to follow Reagan's rhetoric, but that would have conflicted with their corruption, the subsidies to their donors and the thinly veiled stupidity of opportunists like Barnes.

Unfortunately, the Democrats have seen fit to nominate an SDS-type radical, Barack Obama, making it difficult for me to do anything other than choose the lesser of two evils. However, I am not counting out the possibility of voting for Bob Barr. And I stopped watching Fox and their Straussian Progressive commentators long ago.

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