This was originally published on 22 April, 2017, and republished on this site on 4th January, 2022.
Politico — a gossip rag dressed up as an important political news organisation — is generally more miss than hit, but an article of theirs caught my attention this week. It is, of course, related to Donald Trump, but focuses on how his campaign and victory affected American news organisations, particularly those traditionally associated with the Republicans. These organisations, Politico tells us, are ‘conservative’ news outlets.
The outlets most affected? Fox News and The Wall Street Journal.
I will comment on Fox another time, because the idea that the Journal is ‘conservative’ is just too extraordinary to be left to one side. WSJ is owned by Dow Jones, the namesake company of the American financial indices, which is in turn owned by News Corp. It calls itself a bastion of “free markets and free people,” and can be trusted to promote free trade, market deregulation, mass immigration and pro-market, pro-individual policies.
This, apparently, makes them ‘conservative’. How does that make any sense? None of the Journal’s ideological beliefs resemble the main thrust of conservatism, because they actually very closely resemble the ideology of liberalism. They cannot be both conservative and liberal. This is made plain in the article when a former WSJ editor is criticising the Journal for “giv[ing] themselves over to a species of illiberal politics from which I once thought they were immune.” The editor in question has since left to join the New York Times, not exactly the kind of organisation a conservative is likely to find themselves quitting the Journal for. Furthermore, why would someone be criticising a conservative news organisation for abandoning liberalism?
Not that they have abandoned liberalism; the fight that led that editor to leave was over the Journal not being 110% negative about Trump, as most other news organisations were. The problem for the Journal is that, even though it is a liberal news organisation, it has traditionally been associated with the Republican Party, which is supposedly conservative. Hence the language confusion over the ideology of the Journal and other GOP-associated news outlets.
What would a conservative news outlet look like? Well, it wouldn’t reflect the views of different ideologies, so it cannot be zealously pro-market or pro-individual, as that is the reserve of liberalism. Does this necessarily mean it is the opposite of those things? No. At least, not both. Individualism is likely to be criticised in favour of communities (nation, family, church etc.). The market is more likely to be tolerated, though criticised if it at any point threatens the community.
So, which is the Journal: liberal or conservative? Let’s observe their lead stories for US news today, the articles being as follows: about ‘the wall’ being unsupported by Congress; about freedom of speech at universities; about sanctuary city crackdowns; about a delay in Trump’s tax plan; about Russia being a threat; about the increased range of ‘gas guzzlers’; and about the bad jobless numbers in New England. By topic, these stories are in support of mass immigration, the market, personal freedom of speech and foreign intervention. All those topics fit what you would expect of a liberal news outlet, not a conservative one. The approach Politico uses is, therefore, inaccurately describing what is really going on.
This is the reason there needs to be a realignment of political language, some change in the way ideologies are understood. The current system has too many obfuscations, inconsistencies and contradictions to be useful in telling people what they believe, what they’re reading and who they’re voting for.
This is the reason I am writing a book about that very topic.
And ultimately, this is the reason that Donald Trump is the President of the United States.