Radley Balko is one of the very best critics of the American police state of anyone who is relatively mainstream. Here he discusses what he considers to be the baffling situation of liberal media support for the drug war and opposition to marijuana legalization. His answer is that the media must not be that liberal after all.
It’s telling that the loudest voices opposing pot legalization are coming from the mainstream media, politicians, and law enforcement. The three have a lot in common. Indeed, the Prop. 19 split illustrates how conservative critics of the mainstream media have it all wrong. The media—or at least the editorial boards at the country’s major newspapers—don’t suffer from liberal bias; they suffer from statism. While conservatives emphasize order and property, liberals emphasize equality, and libertarians emphasize individual rights, newspaper editorial boards are biased toward power and authority, automatically turning to politicians for solutions to every perceived problem.
Because the left traditionally has looked to government to enforce its preferences more than the right, and certainly more than libertarians, it’s easy to see how someone might get the impression that the news media lean left. But you see the editorial pages’ lust for authority on issues like campaign finance reform, where unlike left-leaning groups such as the ACLU and the Sierra Club they almost uniformly support restrictions on political speech, despite the fact that their profession is inextricably tied to the First Amendment. This deference to authority was also on display in the Kelo v. New London case, where the Washington Post and New York Times editorial boards jettisoned traditionally liberal principles such as equality and fair play in favor of a broad government power to forcibly transfer property from people of modest means to wealthy developers. That position separated those papers from traditionally progressive groups like the NAACP and the AARP, which argued that eminent domain too often enriches developers at the expense of powerless groups.
But newspaper editors’ elevation of government power above other liberal concerns is clearest on criminal justice issues, where editorial boards’ deference to police powers aligns them with conservatives about as often as with liberals. To the extent that the criminal justice system treats minorities differently than it treats the white majority (which is a legitimate problem), you’ll find newspapers registering concern along with the left. But while liberals traditionally have sought to address this sort of problem by protecting individual rights, editorial boards tend to stop at expressing concern, generally opposing any reform that would put significant limits on government power.
Balko gets it half right. Yes, the media “suffers from statism.” But that makes perfect sense when one recognizes that the therapeutic state is a core component of the Totalitarian Humanist paradigm. As Dr. Szasz said, “In the nineteenth century, a liberal was a person who championed individual liberty in a context of laissez-faire economics, who defined liberty as the absence of coercion, and who regarded the state as an ever-present threat to personal freedom and responsibility. Today, a liberal is a person who champions social justice in a context of socialist economics, who defines liberty as access to the means for a good life, and who regards the state as a benevolent provider whose duty is to protect people from poverty, racism, sexism, illness, and drugs.”
The liberal media supports the drug war for the same reason they typically support gay marriage, affirmative action, expanding the welfare state, and nanny state laws ranging from mandatory use of seatbelts to smoking bans. All of these are perfectly consistent position from the totalitarian humanist ideological perspective.
This is encouraging:
For the last few months, my colleague Matt Welch has been tracking the positions of California’s newspapers on Proposition 19, the ballot measure that would legalize marijuana for recreational use. At last count, 26 of the state’s 30 largest dailies (plus USA Today) had run editorials on the issue, and all 26 (plus USA Today) were opposed. This puts the state’s papers at odds with nearly all of California’s left-leaning interest groups, including the Green Party, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Service Employees International Union, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
It is precisely these “dissident left” sectors-genuine eco-radicals, authentic black radicals, rank and file workers, sincere civil libertarians-that comprise the factions of the Left that we eventually need to bring into the Alternative-Anarchist/Pan-Secessionist paradigm. A breech between them and the Totalitarian Humanists works in our favor.