Media Studies 101: Tutoring John Hawkins
Over at The Atlantic, I published a post that attempted show John Hawkins why his recent attack on David Frum makes no sense. The short summary is that Mr. Hawkins’ beliefs about the market for political opinions are at odds with reality: he thinks David Frum sold out by criticizing fellow conservatives, despite the fact that it is much more lucrative to keep to the party line.
This is true both generally and in the specific case of Mr. Frum, whose heterodoxy contributed to his lost six figure per year spot at The American Enterprise Institute, not to mention the support of the conservative media complex the next time he publishes a book.
I see now that Mr. Hawkins has a followup:
Guys like David Frum will kick conservatism down the stairs, happily collect a check from a liberal organization for doing it, and then turn around and say, “It’s outrageous that you don’t trust me! I’m on your side, but you’re just too dumb to know it!”
Let me also add that Frum’s last line there is particularly funny — “A lucre-seeking cynic would do much better to conform to conservative groupthink than to challenge it.” Really? Because it’s no surprise that an unaccomplished airhead like Meghan McCain has a column in the Daily Beast. David Brooks? He’s a very fuzzy thinker — so why does he have a gig at the New York Times? How is it that Kathleen Parker of all people is getting a new TV show on CNN? David, why do you think you have a column at CNN? Do you think Newsweek would have given you a cover story if you were going to say nice things about Rush Limbaugh?
If you were going by talent, personality, or ability to hold an audience, none of the people I’ve just mentioned, including David Frum, have the ability to claw their way up the conservative food chain like Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, and Mark Levin have. So, to use David Frum’s word again, they’re willing to prostitute themselves (If Meghan McCain happens to read this, I don’t mean that literally — like a street walker. It means you’re selling out your principles. If you get confused, ask your daddy to hire someone to explain it to you) to the liberals in the mainstream media who want “conservatives” who are willing to tell liberals what they want to hear.
It seems strange that this has to be explained to someone who considers himself to be media savvy, but here goes: the term “mainstream media” is used to refer to networks like CNN and newspapers like The New York Times partly because their editorial products are targeted at a mainstream audience: they’re not produced exclusively for liberals like The Nation, or for conservatives like Fox News. In their ideal world, they’d like to be consumed by every literate member of the American public.
Why might David Frum be a better fit for outlets like that seeking a conservative voice when compared to Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter and Mark Levin? Perhaps its because the trio that Mr. Hawkins wants embraced by CNN and the NY Times are abhorred by large segments of the existing MSM audience, and that the American populace as a whole, exposed to their more extreme rhetoric, would be shocked, offended, and dismayed that a trusted national media brand would host them.
Perhaps folks in the mainstream media didn’t look upon it kindly when Ann Coulter said her only problem with terrorist Tim McVeigh is that he didn’t go to The New York Times. Perhaps CNN considered Mark Levin and decided to go with David Frum and Bill Bennett instead because neither one of them is likely to take a call from a female audience member, as Mr. Levin once did, and suggest to her that she is so unpleasant that her husband should “put a gun to his temple.”
Does Mr. Hawkins really not understand this?