WASHINGTON – Throughout our nation's history, we've often heard the term, "Freedom of the Press." But has America turned into a country where there is Unfreedom of the Press?
That's the title of radio personality and author Mark Levin's new book and it comes at a critical time. In today's political landscape, in the age of Trump, catchphrases like, "fake news" and "enemy of the people" have stuck like glue to the mainstream media. So what are we to make of this rhetoric? Is it an exaggeration or could something even more drastic be going on?
"The mass media today is destroying freedom of the press," says Levin. "Not the government, not the president. The mass media!"
Levin: Press No Longer Seeking Objective Truth
Inside his new best-selling book, Unfreedom of the Press, Levin takes a deep dive into how the media became what and who they are today. "They've abandoned seeking objective truth," Levin tells CBN News. "Nobody is perfect in seeking objective truth but you'll be more perfect if you give it a try now and then…we have journalists who are social activists, democrats, progressives who are pushing their agendas. That is destructive. That is not news."
It's well established that today's media leans left, but Levin takes the reader back to our founding. The Patriot Press started before the Revolutionary War, made up of a few dozen newspapers and many pamphlets spreading the message of freedom through the colonies. "They weren't trying to be objective. They were pushing an agenda," Levin says. "But the battle was about government, not fundamentally transferring society."
Then things began to change. Through the first half of the 1800s or so came what is known as "The Party Press" where newspapers actually began aligning with political parties. At least back then allegiances were known. That's where you get papers like the Arkansas-Democrat Gazette or the Arizona Republic.
The Emergence of Partisan Party Press
Around the turn of the 20th Century came a big change known as the Progressive Era. The media looked for new standards of neutrality but Levin says a partisan party press developed with social activism and progressive ideas at play beneath so-called objectivity. The result? A press playing political favorites. "The press protected FDR; the press protected John Kennedy, the press protected Lyndon Johnson," says Levin. "As a matter of fact, they worked with them on their agenda and on their opponents. It's an amazing thing."
Levin has examples. He cites plenty in the book, including the media looking the other way during JFK's affairs or downplaying stories that would be front-page headlines or cable chyrons today. "Lyndon Johnson was so concerned with what his vice president Hubert Humphrey would say about the Vietnam War because Humphrey was a dove, he had Humphrey's phone tapped."
Today, the media has to deal with President Trump and now they believe they're under attack like never before. Recently, Washington Post CEO Jeff Bezos made the concerns clear. "It's really dangerous to demonize the media. It's dangerous to call the media low lives. It's dangerous to say they are the enemy of the people," he said. But Levin wonders if they've read their own history. "One of the things most journalists are not is literate in our history and so they make comments or make statements that are absolutely off the wall."
A quick trip down memory lane shows presidents like John Adams and Woodrow Wilson using the law at the time to arrest journalists, shut down news organizations and more. "Franklin Roosevelt, the so-called 'great' Franklin Roosevelt, used the IRS against Moe Annenberg because he owned the Philadelphia Enquirer which opposed [Roosevelt's] New Deal," Levin says.
Trump a "Unique and Peculiar Victim" of the Press
And yet today's media complains about their treatment by President Trump, calling it "unprecedented." Levin's response? He thinks that's ridiculous. "He hasn't lifted a finger against a single journalist or against a news organization…Trump is a unique and peculiar victim of what the press is doing… I think the press wants to show that they don't get to lose because it's an unfree press. It's an ideologically-driven Democrat-Party press"
When asked whether Donald Trump is the most persecuted president ever, Levin replies, "Certainly in my lifetime. They went after Nixon pretty hard but the truth is Trump hasn't done anything."
Listening to cable news 24/7 you wouldn't get that impression but Levin says the media is looking the other way once again. "When you have the head of the FBI, the Justice Department, the intelligence agencies under Obama and the media trying to take out a candidate using the police powers of the state and now trying to take out a president in what I call a 'silent coup,' that's the news! That's a big deal. But when the news throws in with that activity, that's a big deal too."
New Technology and Creativity Are the Answers
So for those who feel the mass media has lost its way, what can be done? Levin says it won't be easy. "They're not going to be deterred because their mission isn't news. Their mission isn't informing the people. Their mission is driving an agenda."
But Levin sees new technology and ways of communicating as part of the eventual answer. "The great thing about freedom is that it allows people to be creative, it allows people to come up with new ideas. That's what's going to happen."
And when it gets right down to it, Levin is a firm believer in the Founders' mission, which is a nation founded and rooted in the principles of liberty and by a "We The People" mentality.
"We need to understand what we're up against. We need to have this discussion. That's why I wrote this book, that I hope is the new pamphlet for the pamphleteers, millions and millions of Americans, just like the colonists who want to take the country back," he said.
In the meantime, what will happen with the state of today's press corps? Will it change? "We're going to have a free press," Levin says. "It's going to be a vigorous free press but I think the current mass media will die on the vine."
Levin's book is an attempt to prune it one page at a time.