Drawing on the concept of the "Four Estates" of Republican France, it has been popular to call the press the "Fourth Estate," a non-governmental entity whose independence made it one of the pillars which supported liberty, and an important check on the power of government. In a free press the people had a way to express their concerns about government and a relatively unbiased advocate for truth independent of the self-serving assertions of political parties and leaders. In America that great tradition of a free press which truly stood out as a Fourth Estate began with the publication of Publick Occurances in 1690 and lasted for over 300 years before dying with a whimper this Wednesday at the hands of ABC News.
On Wednesday the 24th of June ABC will give over most of its programming schedule to custom programming, much of it direct from the White House, dedicated to promoting and publicizing the Obama administration's multi-trillion dollar healthcare plan. This programming will begin first thing in the morning with a Good Morning America interview with the president and continue throughout the day's newscasts, culminating in a primetime special touting the benefits of government run healthcare. The network has been given unprecedented access to the White House, where it has even been encouraged to set up an office in the East Wing. ABC and the White House are collaborating on the content of the special, few opposing voices or alternative plans will be heard, and they are refusing any advertising from groups advocating patients rights or opposing socialized medicine.
Just a few years ago Democrats were crying foul and demanding investigations when the Department of Education sent out a few Video News Releases to promote the No Child Left Behind Program, yet now they are willing to do the same thing on a much larger scale when it is their program which is being promoted. At a time when Democrats are talking about reinstituting the Fairness Doctrine and demanding a balance to right wing talk radio, turning over an entire network to government propaganda seems particularly hypocritical.
The left has long derided the right for complaining about media bias, insisting that the corporate nature of the media automatically biases it to the right, but here we see a corporate media giant deliberately whoring itself to become the propaganda outlet for a left-wing administration, and there is no question where ABC's loyalties lie. ABC News employees overwhelmingly supported Obama in the last election, donating 80 times as much to his campaign as they did to John McCain. In addition, a study by the Media Research Center shows ABC giving a disproportionate amount of coverage to the Obama healthcare plan compared to other health care options by a 3 to 1 margin.
The Obama administration has made state-corporatism a cornerstone of its economic plans, taking over businesses, forcing them into bankruptcy and handing out the spoils to their cronies and allies. But at least in the financial and auto industries there was some effort to resist, and many of those companies are still trying to buy back their freedom. What ABC is doing is many times worse, because they are volunteering willingly for a government takeover, offering themselves up as propagandists without considering the consequences. Perhaps they see a future where the state controls all media and they want to get in on the ground floor and have a favored status, but that just makes them like the slave who turns in the runaways hiding in the barn to the slave-catchers. He may get more scraps from the master's table but he's still a slave and he's also a traitor.
Journalists used to believe that they had a responsibility to keep politicians honest and hold their feet to the fire. Woodward and Bernstein didn't go to Nixon looking for ways they could help him promote his pet projects. When the press becomes nothing more than another arm of government, promoting the party line and dishing out propaganda, the people have lost one more essential safeguard of their liberty. ABC has decided to leave integrity and objectivity behind and become nothing more than shills for an ideology and a style of government which they believe in. Whether you support socialized medicine or not, this trend in the media should scare you. It's the death of the independent press and the beginning of state-run media. I halfway expect to hear the strains of "Moscow Nights" over the credits on ABC as I did on every radio or television newscast when I lived in the Soviet Union formally confirming that the media has gone from watchdog to lapdog.
Join me and many others in boycotting ABC, starting on Thursday and continuing through their summer line-up of very little but tawdry reality shows. You won't be missing much and you might be striking a blow for freedom. Though it's entirely possible that if we manage to dry up their advertising revenue they'll just get bailed out and taken over completely by the government.