The hosts of public radio’s On the Media think of themselves as smart, honest and brave. In the Age of Trump they are eager to play generals in the crusader armies of woke journalists.*
Needless to say, self-awareness is not the strong suit of either host. Before Donald Trump was even elected, Bob Garfield was convinced that America in 2016 was just like Weimar in 1933. Brooke Gladstone has repeatedly embarrassed herself. There was her hopeless fangirling for Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert:
Then there was that time she managed to cram three lies into nineteen words while defending the Obama administration on the IRS scandal:
Max Peak MSM Blue Bubble
Despite my low expectations based on this track record, Gladstone still manages to surprise me.
We still need better media critics
In a recent podcast interview (here) she exhorted young journalists to remember that it was possible to do ‘great journalism’ even in difficult times. She offered several examples of what she considered ‘some of the best journalism that has ever been done in America’:
To Gladstone, these are among the ‘greats of American journalism.’
The New Masses
Lincoln Steffens was such a great journalist that he returned from Lenin’s famine-stricken Soviet Union and famously announced: “I have seen the future and it works.” Steffens was such a hard-bitten truth-seeker that he spent the last years of his life under the control of Comintern operative Ella Winters (he even married her) and dutifully followed whatever line Stalin wanted to.
The New Masses was an organ of the Communist Party USA. Its founding editor was Mike Gold one of Stalin’s cultural commissars. Gold’s commitment to the Party shines through in this quote from 1922:
Mike Gold a true believer and the magazine he helped found was devoted to the Party line laid down in Moscow. The New Masses did not do investigative journalism; it did agitprop. It worked tirelessly to cover-up, minimize and justify Stalin’s crimes.
The Russian Bolsheviks will leave the world a better place than Jesus left it. They will leave it on the threshold of the final victorythe poor will have bread and peace and culture in another generation, not churches and a swarm of lying parasite minister dogs, the legacy of Jesus.
And yet, Brook Gladstone sees this as a role model for young journalists.
Perhaps On The Media should change its name to Truth. It is altogether more fitting.
*As generals go, they are very much in the mold of the Western Front commanders circa 1916. It’s easy to urge journalists to race to the left when you have nice public radio sinicures subsidized by the tax payers.