Once asked by an aide to respond to a letter to the editor from one of his critics, Vladimir Lenin refused, saying: “Why should we bother to reply to Kautsky? He would reply to us, and we would have to reply to his reply. There’s no end to that. It will be quite enough for us to announce that Kautsky is a traitor to the working class, and everyone will understand everything.”That has been the modus operandi of the left for decades. It doesn’t respond to arguments with arguments but with stigmatizing names designed to end debate. As the communications arm of the left, the media conforms perfectly to Lenin’s method. Instead of rebutting the arguments of conservatives, it has found it easier to brand them as “enemies” of science, women, minorities, the poor, and so on.
Whenever editors say that they refuse to acknowledge “two sides” on such matters as “marriage equality” or Darwinism or climate change, they are paying homage to Lenin’s devious politics by shorthand. They pay homage to it whenever they substitute their opinions of the news for actual reporting of the news. Even the squabbling among journalists recently over whether or not to suspend “conventional reporting” in Trump’s case, or whether front-page stories should declare his misstatements “lies,” is a tacit acknowledgment of that politics. With Lenin, the Christiane Amanpours have no use for the peskiness of precise responses. Just call Trump a “liar,” their attitude goes, and “everyone will understand everything.”
But that demagogic shorthand only works as long as Republican politicians defer to it. For years journalists opined self-servingly under the guise of objectivity and got away it because Republicans were too afraid to shatter that illusion of objectivity. They permitted the media to serve as the arbiter of what qualifies as “mainstream,” “extremist,” “racist,” and so forth, and made sure to stay within the media-determined parameters of any discussion.