How Journalism Abandoned the Working Class

How Journalism Abandoned the Working Class. By Batya Ungar-Sargon.

For a long time, the notion that America is an unrepentant white-supremacist state — one that confers power and privilege to white people and systematically denies them to people of color — was the province of far-left activists and academics. But over the past decade, it’s found its way into the mainstream, largely through liberal media outlets like the New York Times, NPR, MSNBC, the Washington Post, Vox, CNN, the New Republic, and the Atlantic.

What changed? Most obviously: white liberals. Their enthusiasm for wokeness created a feedback loop with the media outlets to which they are paying subscribers. And the impact has been monumental: Once distinct publications and news channels are now staggeringly uniform. A moral panic around race is everywhere …

Trump is an insufficient answer. The moral panic mainstreamed by the liberal news media had actually been underway for at least five years before Trump appeared on the scene. It began around 2011, the year the New York Times erected its online paywall. It was then that articles mentioning “racism,” “people of color,” “slavery,” or “oppression” started to appear with exponential frequency at the Times, BuzzFeed, Vox, the Washington Post, and NPR.

This “Great Awokening” has been impossible to miss if you consume mainstream news. …

Why the wealthy left’s obsession with race start in 2011?

The GFC occurred in 2009, after which the deep state handed out vast amounts of newly created money and lowered interest rates to “rescue the economy”. That created about the best ever climate for paper shufflers to make huge financial gains for little effort. Asset markets boomed like almost never before. Perhaps the winners in the financial orgy just feel guilty.

Meanwhile the losers, who were aghast at the self-interested deviations from the usual rules of financial probity around money manufacture, and were dismayed that none of the misbehaving bankers in the GFC went to jail, formed the Tea Party. In 2016, the Tea Party had morphed into the non-establishment Republicans, and Trump was their leader.

In other words, follow the money.

But it was more than just that. Another element is that the woke revolution is also the latest stage of the IQ wars. By 1990 the western meritocratic schooling systems had pulled the brighter people out of the working class, and into white collar jobs such as in the bureaucracy. The left’s leaders then lost interest in the working class, switching to identity politics and demonizing the working class as deplorables.

But there’s more:

It has everything to do with class.

Journalism has become a profession of astonishing privilege over the past century, metamorphosing from a blue-collar trade into one of the occupations with the most highly educated workforces in the United States. …


The recent obsession with identity has allowed these journalists to pretend — indeed to believe — they are still speaking truth to power, still fighting on behalf of the little guy, even after they have themselves ascended to the ranks of the powerful, even when they are speaking down to an audience who, in more cases than not, have less than them on every measurable scale. It has quite simply been a displacement exercise; instead of experiencing economic guilt about rising inequality and their status among America’s elite, members of the news media—along with other highly educated liberals—have come to believe that the only inequality that matters is racial inequality; the only guilt that matters is white guilt, the kind you can do absolutely nothing to fix, given that it’s based on something as immutable as your skin color.

In other words, … their enthusiasm for the language of wokeness has allowed affluent white liberals to perpetuate and even excuse a deeply unequal economic status quo.

If journalists once fought the powerful on behalf of the powerless, in 21st century America, they are the powerful. While the average pay for a journalism job is quite low at around $40,000 a year, that’s because entry-level jobs pay so little; at the higher levels, journalists now make quite a bit more than the average American. More importantly, journalists now have social and cultural power, and they are overwhelming the children of economic elites. After all, to even be able to make it on $30,000 a year while living in the most expensive cities in America (the only ones left with a functioning journalism industry, thanks to the rise of the Internet and the collapse of local newspapers), you have to come from a family with enormous economic privilege who can help you out. Once a blue-collar trade, journalism has become something akin to an impenetrable caste.

And what journalists have done with that power, perhaps inadvertently, is to wage a cultural battle that enhances their own economic interests against a less-educated and struggling American working class.

Once working-class warriors, the little guys taking on America’s powerful elites, journalists today are an American elite, a caste that has abandoned its working class roots as part of its meritocratic climb. And a moral panic around race has allowed them to mask this abandonment under the guise of “social justice.”

Take Kirsten Powers, … the resident liberal at Fox News until CNN poached her in 2016, for a rumored $950,000 yearly salary. But for Powers to traverse the ideological distance from Fox to CNN and take advantage of that nearly million-dollar salary, she had to undergo a woke metamorphosis. In 2015, while still employed by Fox, Powers had written a book called “The Silencing: How the Left Is Killing Free Speech.” But in the intervening years, she repented. “I was too dismissive of real concerns by traumatized people and groups who feel marginalized and ignored,” she wrote in a mea culpa in her USA Today column. …


That [CNN] panel in 2018, typical in every way of our national news media, featured two television hosts with millions of dollars in the bank, who were convinced that white supremacy is alive and well in America.

“When people hear ‘privilege,’ they think that means I’m, like, a Richie Rich, and I’m living a rich life. That’s not what it means,” Powers patiently explained later in the CNN segment, without any apparent irony. “It just means you have a privilege that people of color don’t have.” …

Fake dissent to hide real dissent:

More recently, in his book “Hate, Inc.,” Matt Taibbi explores how the media uses a fake notion of dissent to hide all the issues relevant to real Americans that it refuses to cover. “We manufactured fake dissent, to prevent real dissent,” writes Taibbi in a nod to Noam Chomsky’s famous work “Manufacturing Consent.” And we know that historically, at least since the Russian Revolution, the intelligentsia has gone to great lengths to portray its own economic interests and power hoarding in the guise of a noble cause that works on behalf of the powerless. …

Wokeness assists the woke economically (it’s not about the money, but … yes it is):

There’s another real reason that, however unconscious, is certainly also at play, and it’s this: Wokeness perpetuates the economic interests of affluent white liberals. I believe that many of them truly do wish to live in a more equitable society, but today’s liberal elites are also governed by a competing commitment: their belief in meritocracy, or the fiction that their status was earned by their intelligence and talents.

Today’s meritocratic elites subscribe to the view that not only wealth but also political power should be the province of the highly educated. Still, liberals see themselves as compassionate and progressive. And perhaps unconsciously, they sought a way to reconcile the inequality that their meritocratic status produces with the compassionate emotions they feel toward the less fortunate. They needed a way to be perpetually on what they saw as the right side of history without having to disrupt what was right for them and their children.

A moral panic around race was the perfect solution: It took the guilt that they should have felt around their economic good fortune and political power — which they could have shared with the less fortunate had they cared to — and displaced it onto their whiteness, an immutable characteristic that they could do absolutely nothing to change. 

This is how white liberals arrived at a situation where:

  • Instead of agitating for a more equal society, they agitated for more diverse elites.
  • Instead of asking why our elites have risen so far above the average American, they asked why the elites are so white.
  • Instead of asking why working-class people of all races are so underrepresented in the halls of power, white liberals called the working class racist for voting for Trump.
  • Instead of asking why New York City’s public school system is more segregated than Alabama’s, white liberals demanded diversity, equity, and inclusion training in their children’s exorbitantly priced prep schools.

In other words, wokeness provided the perfect ideology for affluent, liberal whites who didn’t truly want systemic change if it meant their children would have to sacrifice their own status, but who still wanted to feel like the heroes of a story about social justice, who still wanted to feel vastly superior to their conservative and even slightly less radical friends. …

In the process, they demonized America itself, deplatforming the working class (of all races) while protecting their own status.

Yep, all of the above. When the market crashes some of them will lose some of their unearned wealth — which might wake up some of the woke leaders. Otherwise, there don’t seem to be too many changes on the horizon.