The Queen, Cloistered Isolation, and CNN
Truly, I have no words to add to the hundreds of thousands already written about the death of Elizabeth II. I can only offer my prayers. Her shoes are too big for anyone to fill, so I will also pray all of us can give King Charles the grace to walk in his own shoes in his own way, unshackled from the expectations left by our memories of his predecessor, his mother, the Queen. In the shadow of his mother’s crown for so long, he now comes into the light beneath its weight on his head and its burdens on his shoulders as he and his people mourn Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of her other realms and territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith. What a time.
I want to comment on something that weaves into a point on CNN and what is happening there — yes, taking the biggest story of the day and tying it to the most expansive American news network, currently going wall to wall with is coverage of the Queen’s death, that is trying to modify itself in some way. To begin, you need to see these tweets about the death of the Queen.
The lady on the left is a professor. The man on the right is a journalist who is or had been a CNN contributor and is currently employed by CBS News.
What you need to understand about both people is that they are the American elite. Because of the color of their skin, they are presumed by others of the American elite to be able to comment on race, racism, etc., and we are all supposed to listen to them.
It should be noted that with Professor Anya and Mr. Lowery, the affection for Queen Elizabeth transcends race. In fact, Nelson Mandela pushed South Africa back into the Commonwealth. In Nigeria, where Professor Anya’s ancestors are from, the people are mourning the Queen, who is extremely popular there. In fact, Queen Elizabeth is more popular in much of Africa than in Spain.
It is Mr. Lowery’s and Professor Anya’s privileged and cloistered existence in the mostly white progressive elite group of head patters and tut-tutters that gives them both the license and platform to be ridiculous and the expectation that we will take them seriously in their ridiculousness. They do not have to be aware of the multi-racial affection for the Queen because what counts is their feelings about white people, not reality.
In reality, both people have been able to rise among the elite through grievance-mongering, screaming racism, seeing it everywhere, and accusing anyone who disagrees with them of being racist. Neither is very brilliant. They just have learned to surf the waves of elite white progressive guilt. To assuage their own guilt and self-loathing, the white elite of America surround themselves with people like this who, so long as they mostly step on the toes of those the elite progressive whites already hate, get away with the absurd, the outlandish, the ridiculous, and the amateurish gussied up as professional race critiques. Undoubtedly, they also understand their careers are what they are because of white progressive elite head-patters, and it makes them angrier.
That privileged and cloistered existence of the elite is what CNN seems to be trying to distance itself from. It is notable that only progressives are mourning the departures of Jeffrey Toobin and John Harwood. The two are, in multiple platforms off CNN, open and aggressive progressive partisans who drip with disdain for conservatives and the right. But CNN constantly gave them a platform to pretend to be objective or, in Wesley Lowery’s words, engage in “straight news reporting.” They did not. The analyses of both Toobin and Harwood regularly and reliably reflected the views of the white, liberal elite who make up a disproportionately large and growing part of the American news industry. Many of these people feign objectivity during the day and go home at night to share a bed with activist progressive Democrats. At the upper levels, you’d be amazed how many people in how many newsrooms are married to employees or former employees of various Democrat politicians.
In the past, many of those who lean left in the press were both mindful of it and tried to be fair and accurate when representing the other side.
But the left is increasingly cloistered inside a bubble of their own making, with fewer and fewer people outside their bubble able to penetrate it. Multiple studies over the past few years, including from Pew, have shown that conservatives are far more likely to have progressive friends than progressives are to have conservative friends. Likewise, Republican college students are far more willing to have Democrat roommates than Democrats are to have Republican roommates.
The reality is, from here in Georgia, I am far more likely to encounter a Biden supporter than a Biden supporter in New York City is to encounter a Trump supporter. In the newsrooms Mr. Lowery inhabits and the ivory towers of academia Professor Anya inhabits, encountering someone of different skin color is common, but encountering a conservative is rare. It is even rarer to break bread with one as a friend.
It is that insularity that allows Lowery and Anya and so many on the left to drip with disdain for conservatives. The less you know others who see the world differently, the more easily you are able to view them as bad or as an enemy. Right-of-center voters are increasingly becoming insular too. While still far less insular than the left, the insularity is growing. The media focuses on Fox News, but a lot of people on the right are moving on to Rumble videos, OAN, podcasts, etc. that do the same thing as the left — fail to understand their opponents, explain their opponents’ positions in an intellectually dishonest way, then cast their opponents as the enemy.
We see this best with the abortion conversation online and even on networks like CNN. Conservatives understand the pro-abortion arguments far better and articulate them far more accurately than the left does in reverse, where conservative arguments amount to caricatures about control of women’s bodies.
This gets me back to CNN.
The outrage from the left towards Chris Licht’s changes has everything to do with the left’s unwillingness to entertain even reasonable conservative voices and the left’s belief that anyone they deign to be an objective “straight news” voice must be considered that no matter how openly biased they are. Just witness the Podcast Movement, an industry tradeshow for podcasters, apologizing for Ben Shapiro merely showing up to a tradeshow booth at a recent conference. His presence — a mainstream, thoughtful voice on the right who regularly calls out Donald Trump — was considered physically harmful by the Podcast Movement management.
For the past few years, progressives have insisted the media must ditch “both sides” journalism that explicitly seeks to accurately reflect the views of both sides of an argument. Instead, the left has made the editorial choice the right’s arguments are bad and in bad faith and, instead of trying to understand them, resorts to vilification, denouncement, and silencing. Relatedly, consider the anonymous leakers at CNN belly-aching in their speculation about whether CNN will be forced to “both-sides” on whether democracy is good. That’s an absurdist point that gets to the real grievance — whoever this person is doesn’t want to have to treat Trump supporters, Trump himself, or probably much of the GOP fairly. Instead, the person wants to take the editorial line that they’re all bad and don’t need to be explained but condemned. The left is very good at condemning and very bad at explaining the other side’s views fairly.
It should be, for example, possible to note January 6th was bad and Trump should not have kept a pile of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago without turning every interview with a Republican into a lecture on both or demanding answers about both when the Republican is there to talk about something unrelated. Just look, for example, at Jim Acosta having on former Department of Homeland Security Chief Chad Wolf to talk about the border only to spend most of the interview vilifying him for Trump Administration policies that actually prevented the mass flow of illegal immigrants across the border. Acosta seems incapable of doing anything not related to Trump. He has become CNN’s Uju Anya of Trumpism.
At this point, on MSNBC, the only voices allowed to come on the network from Republicans are those who have rejected the GOP and regret their time working for the party. During the Zucker era at CNN, it seemed too many of the GOP voices were headed in that direction as well, with the very notable and wonderful exception of Scott Jennings, who sometimes seems to be a man surrounded on all sides.
When I got to CNN, someone there told me there’d be days when it’d be me against the anchor, the Democrat, and the supposedly objective analyst, all of whom leaned left. It was sometimes true, usually during midday. But very frequently, the anchor and the analyst, despite leaning left, worked hard to accurately reflect my side’s views in good faith. That doesn’t happen at MSNBC and under Zucker, I had been worried it was happening at CNN where Reliable Sources became a congratulatory show of left-leaning reporters hating the right and Jim Acosta does his very predictable schtick. With few exceptions like Van Jones or Scott Jennings, it is rare to have a person of the left or right actually criticize their own side while still being on that side and defending it, which is actually where the most interesting conversations seem to come from.
I hope CNN continues on the path of becoming a news channel where my views or yours are not going to be affirmed but where my views and yours will honestly be reflected so the other side can honestly understand them and vice versa.
As the tribes of this nation become more and more insular and isolated, it is going to be easier and easier to vilify each’s opposition and declare them the enemy. The more news outlets trying, in good faith, to understand and explain both sides to break down that insularity, the better and more healthy our democracy will be. News organizations that worry about our democracy being undermined play a role in undermining our democracy when they cannot, in good faith and without caricature, seek to fairly explain the views of both sides or have notable voices of both sides on for fair minded, non-combative insightful conversation.
At the end of the day, the national media needs to resist and push back against the idea that progressives can set which voices of the right are allowed on television and in newspapers. Each side has an obligation to regulate its own side, but neither the right nor the left should get veto power over each other’s voices, particularly when the voice belongs to someone with indisputable authority on a particular side. The progressives at the New York Times should no more get to blackball a sitting Republican United States Senator from the editorial pages than conservatives should get to blackball a progressive voice on CNN. And all of us should view it as a good thing that a network is moving back to the idea that its objective analysts must, in fact, be objective and not just parroting the beliefs of progressives as if it is gospel truth.
People on the left, right, and center with only the exceptions of the cloistered, isolated loons, loved Elizabeth II, because we all felt like we knew her in some way. She was accessible and, to a degree, relatable. The left and right in the United States are increasingly inaccessible and unrelatable to each other and so it is much easier for each side to hate because of that lack of connection.
The Second Elizabethan Age is at an end. Its end arrives as the world moves from “the truth” to each of our own truths, which too often are not true at all. Perhaps this new age can get us back to truth-tellers who, through the media, try to help each side understand the other and what the whole truth is, not just one side’s version of it. I continue to be intrigued to see where CNN heads.