A personal incident has given me a particular perspective on recent news about the media. Last Tuesday, I received word that the French release of my thriller novel Empire of Lies had been canceled by publisher Seuil Policiers. The editor who originally bought the book had left the French company, and the new editor, my agent says, feels that “she can not publish . . . because of the political and religious aspects of the story.” This, even though it’s in breach of a contract for which I’ve been paid in full. Empire of Lies features a politically conservative Christian protagonist, Jason Harrow, who believes he has uncovered an Islamist terrorist plot being obscured by the leftist mainstream media. “Lies, lies, lies,” the emotionally troubled Harrow murmurs at his television set. “It’s all about what they don’t say.” It will come as no surprise that my friend Andrew Breitbart praised the book as the only thriller he’d ever read in which the mainstream media were the villains.
The book’s French cancellation is, I realize, a rather small cultural event. Yet it gives specific color to the recent revelations on the Daily Caller website that left-wing journalists conspired to suppress scandals that might harm Barack Obama and to the brouhaha over Breitbart’s online release of a video that resulted in a government worker’s momentarily losing her job. In both stories, one thing leaps out at me: everywhere, the Left favors fewer voices and less information, and conservatives favor more. Everywhere, the Left seeks to disappear its opposition, whereas the Right is willing to meet them head-on.
Take the e-mails that the Daily Caller obtained from the now-defunct lefty Web service Journolist. Never mind the personal or psychological implications of a radio producer who lovingly imagines Rush Limbaugh’s death or a law professor who doesn’t know that the FCC has no power to deprive Fox News of a license or a reporter who wants to smear Fred Barnes and other right-wing commentators as racist in order to distract the public from the hateful radicalism of Jeremiah Wright, then Obama’s pastor. The point is not these people’s animus or ignorance or wickedness. The point is that what they desired was not victory in open debate but silence—the silence of censorship, intimidation, or the grave.
When has Rush Limbaugh ever wished a liberal’s mouth closed forever? Really, who can deny that Rush would happily argue a point with absolutely anyone anywhere? When has Fox News ever done anything to its rival cable stations but trounce them in a free competition for ratings? When has Fred Barnes ever tried to bully or intimidate someone into shutting up?
And what about Breitbart? Did he, like many a daily journalist before him, momentarily put speed over full context in releasing an NAACP video? Perhaps. But Breitbart is the grassroots nemesis of vast media conglomerates that continually and purposefully ignore, suppress, and distort information unfriendly to their ideology: release and disclosure are his reasons for being. Breitbart routinely breaks important stories that the mainstream media won’t touch. “I don’t even know about it,” chuckled ABC News’s Charlie Gibson well after Breitbart revealed corruption at the left-wing activist organization Acorn. “I just didn’t know about it,” said Bob Schieffer of CBS after Breitbart and others had been hammering at possible wrongdoing at the Justice Department in a botched case against New Black Panther thugs. And I guess the networks just didn’t know when Breitbart decisively disproved allegations that Tea Partiers hurled racist insults at lawmakers—because they continued to spread the discredited smear.
Old-media pooh-bahs like former ABC anchor Ted Koppel lament the “good old days,” when three government-licensed networks served as gatekeepers to what the public could and couldn’t know. Breitbart, meanwhile, exhorts crowds of citizens to shoot videos and gather information, telling them, “You are the media now!” Breitbart only wants more information, while the left-wing media too often operate through obscurantism and suppression. They bury the word “Islam” when describing terrorists who murder in the name of Allah. They depict police as racist while hiding the racial crime statistics that explain police actions. They actively ignore and spike both political and sex scandals involving prominent liberals, liberal causes, or media bias. They attempt to label speech offensive or racist if it undermines their positions.
My beleaguered creation Jason Harrow was right: it is all about what they don’t say. Now, in France, he himself has become part of that silence. Here in America, the Right keeps his voice alive.