Sunday, January 31, 2010

More on Stephen Hunter's I, SNIPER...

We focused mostly on the gun stuff in our reviews of Steve's I, SNIPER, but one thing I don't want to overlook is his brilliant analysis of the Mainstream Media, of which he (and I) were card-carrying members for so many years. Over at the Self-Evident Truths blog they do a good job of picking up on how he so precisely pins the MSM to the board:
The book was a good read but I'm not here to review the book. Instead, I want to point out something Hunter writes in this book which brilliantly illustrates exactly what is wrong with the mainstream media. On page 183, Hunter writes about "the narrative" - the foundational story that drives ideologies. First off, Hunter defines the idea of narrative - the foundational beliefs that the media holds:
The narrative is the set of assumptions the press believes in, possibly without even knowing that it believes in them. It's not like they get together every morning and decide 'These are the lies we tell today.' No, that would be too crude and honest. Rather, it's a set of casual, nonrigorous assumptions about a reality they've never really experienced that's arranged in such a way as to reinforce their best and most ideal presumptions about themselves and their importance to the system and the way they've chosen to live their lives. It's a way of arranging things a certain way that they all believe in without ever really addressing carefully. It permeates their whole culture.
This paragraph caught my attention, not only because it rips on the mainstream media, but also because, in a more general form, it is precisely the idea about narrative that I try to get across to my students in my political ideologies class. These foundational stories are what drive ideologies even to blind people far beyond making reasonable assumptions about reality.
I remember a conversation I had with execs at one of the top newspapers in America. The editors said if I was going to talk about "media bias," no one was interested. short, the bias is so deeply rooted as to be invisible to the people who suffer from the bias. In the end I came to believe it was sort of like the Robert McNamara Defense Department — take a bunch of guys who went to the same prep schools, the same colleges, took the same classes, joined the same fraternities, married women from the same colleges and the same sororities, went to work for the same government agencies...etc...then take those men, put them in a room and ask them if we should bomb the crap out of some Third World rat hole...not a big surprise when they all agree. Journalism is a similar self-selecting system...a newsroom is a more relentlessly homogenous place that a nunnery, with staggering peer pressure to conform. Only the rarest individuals — Stephen Hunter among them — survived that meat grinder with their integrity intact. Hell, I bailed and went freelance as soon as I could.

Self-Evident Truths goes on to quote I, SNIPER:
They know, for example that Bush is a moron and Obama a saint. They know communism was a phony threat cooked up by right-wing cranks as a way to leverage power to the executive. They know Saddam didn't have weapons of mass destruction, the response to Katrina was [messed] up, [and] torture never works. Cheney's a devil, Biden's a genius. Soft power good, hard power bad. Forgiveness excellent, punishment counterproductive, capital punishment a sin. See Nick's [an FBI agent character in the book] fighting the narrative. He's going against the story, and the story was somewhat suspiciously concocted exactly to their prejudices, just as Jayson Blair's made-up stories and Dan Rather's Air National Guard documents were. And the narrative is the bedrock of their culture, the keystone of their faith, the altar of their church. They don't even know they are true believers, because in theory they despise the true believer in anything. But they will absolutely de-frackin'-stroy anybody who makes them question all that.
Here, in this story by Stephen Hunter, is truth.

The narrative that the media holds, based on years of faulty assumptions stemming from the liberalism and disaffection with government in the 1960s, faulty assumptions about the validity of Marxist doctrine, and ideals antithetical to religion, simply gets in the way of seeing any other point of view but its own.
This is a dead-bang analysis of what we face when we deal with the MSM. They gave Obama a free ride into the White House, and we're all bleeding from it. They believe in their DNA that guns are evil and, by extension, so are people who choose to exercise their rights.

You need to read read I, SNIPER!


gunman42782 said...

Sounds just like comments made by Bernie Goldberg in his two books on media bias. Good read.

Unknown said...

Sounds like the lit review in my graduate thesis...

Speaking of which, if you're still ameneable, Michael, I may take you up on your offer to talk about your experiences dealing with media bias on firearms.

King Cavalier II said...

Great post, WolfBane. Forgot to tell you that I really enjoyed the TRAIL SAFE book that I won! Thanks for signing it, too.

King Cavalier II
AKA Brother King

Anonymous said...

The same thing happens in the intelligence community (Ivy League), military (academy grads) and in the business community with MBA’s from the “right” school.
If you are not part of the clique you are treated as the red headed step child.

Unlike the media, failure tends to bring correction be it ever so slowly to those other groups.


Bones said...

I, Sniper is a great book on many levels. I have since read four more of Hunter's earlier novels. Thanks for bringing this author to my attention Michael.

Tom Stone said...

Hunter writes well,but how do you categorize people like me that don't like the assumption of Tyrannical powers by Bush,who while not a moron,isn't real bright,and who Despises the continuation of those same policies by Obama,who is an incompetent,gutless and corrupt hack?I can count the number of senators I have ANY respect for using my fingers and have some left.

Will said...

there is VERY good explanation of this mentality and its roots on yesterdays "the Smallest Minority" blog. It's very long, but clearly explains the basis for their, to us, unlogical thinking. I'm still working my way through it.

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