Before this story recedes into the distant past of more than a couple weeks, let’s take one more look at that encounter on CBS between Fox’s Sean Hannity and Ted Koppel.
And oh yes, my own version of the liberal mania coming at me, as William F. Buckley described it, with “lance cocked.”
The liberal mania is always amazing to see on display - even when you know its coming. What is the liberal mania? The description originates with Mr. Buckley in his 1959 book Up From Liberalism. He wrote this, bold print supplied for emphasis:
“I think it is fair to generalize that American liberals are reluctant to co-exist with anyone on their Right. Ours, the liberal credo tells us, is an “open society,” the rules of which call for a continuing (never terminal) hearing for all ideas. But close observation of the liberal-in-debate gives the impression that he has given conservatism a terminal audience. When a conservative speaks up demandingly, he runs the gravest risk of triggering the liberal mania; and then before you know it, the ideologist of openmindedness and toleration is hurtling toward you, lance cocked.
The tools of controversy are tough, as necessarily they must be. But I wonder when else, in the history of controversy, there has been such consistent intemperance, insularity and irascibility as the custodians of the liberal orthodoxy’s premises? The liberals’ implicit premise is that intercredal dialogues are what one has with Communists, not conservatives, in relationship with whom normal laws of civilized discourse are suspended.”
Sean Hannity knew what was coming when he sat down with Ted Koppel for a segment on CBS. Any conservative would know, not least Hannity who is decidedly not just any conservative. Mr. Koppel, you see, has decided that Sean is bad for America. And the exchange - the very epitome of the liberal mania at work - went like this:
Hannity: “You’re cynical.”
Koppel: “I am cynical.”
Hannity: “Do you think we’re bad for America? You think I’m bad for America?”
Koppel: “Yeah. In the long haul I think you and all these opinion shows —”
Hannity: “Really? That’s sad, Ted. That’s sad.”
Koppel: “No, you know why? Because you’re very good at what you do, and because you have attracted a significantly more influential —”
Hannity: “You are selling the American people short.”
Koppel: “No, let me finish the sentence before you do that.”
Hannity: “I’m listening. With all due respect. Take the floor.”
Koppel: “You have attracted people who are determined that ideology is more important than facts.”
Note well that last sentence. Clearly in Koppel’s mind he - a representative of the liberal media writ large - has lost the ability to decide what the “facts” in any given situation are. Not to mention that he is oblivious that liberals in the media and elsewhere have for far too long decided their liberal ideology was more important than facts.
Case in point other than Hannity? Take the little dustup I have encountered since I compared Donald Trump's tactics on Obamacare to Martin Luther King's tactics on CNN's New Day. It didn't matter what the facts were, or how I revered King. To them, King is an icon, and Trump isn't worthy of anything but scorn.
The hard fact of life in dealing with the liberal media (and liberals out of the media as well) is that they are well possessed -- exactly as Bill Buckley illustrated a full 58 years ago -- of the liberal mania. History -- facts -- do not matter, if those facts contradict the liberal worldview.
What’s particularly notable these days is the foaming nuttiness of Trump Derangement Syndrome. The fact that Hannity is not only supportive of the President but has been so open about his contact with and support for him has ratcheted up the intensity of the liberal mania without doubt. It’s hard to imagine that if the name of the GOP president were, say, Rubio or Christie or Walker or other that Ted Koppel would be seeking a sit down with Hannity.
After the 2016 election, Brittany Hughes of MRCTV compiled a sample of reactions to the Trump victory that were nothing if not an illustration of just how intense the combination of the liberal media mania plus Trump Derangement Syndrome had become.
The headline: “Trump Won, and the Liberal Media LOST THEIR MINDS.” Hughes began:
The front page of the left-leaning Huffington Post didn’t shy away from what its publishers thought about Tuesday’s election. Stark, bold letters emblazoned on HuffPo's homepage screamed, “Mourning in America: NIGHTMARE: Prez Trump... America Elected A Man Who Said ‘Grab Them By The Pu**y’ Over The First Female President... …”
…An incredulous Slate immediately blamed rampant white racism for Trump’s win, front-lining a story that entitled, “White Won: Trump promised an insurgent white supremacy, and white voters embraced it.”
Salon’s meltdown featured a front-page article called “A Nation Gone Wrong,” claiming that Trump’s victory comes as “a global wave of rage hits America,” and grappling with deep questions like “how the hell this happened.”
...Jezebel complained in its own editorial that "The United States has elected Donald Trump, a 70-year-old tangerine Superfund site and a menace to the peace, stability, and dignity of the country and the future of the free world, as its Commander in Chief."
I confess that simply reading this stuff is enough to induce howls of laughter. And being old enough to remember 1980 I can verify that there was a similar reaction at the election of Ronald Reagan.
But the clear difference between the Trump victory and the Reagan victory is that what we call “conservative media” simply didn’t exist in 1980. Reagan fared well enough - but he nonetheless had to cope with three liberal television networks (four if one adds PBS) plus the media nerve centers that were the New York Times and the Washington Post, both of which served as feeders for the electronic media. Thus the liberal mania was the main filter for anything and everything Reagan did as president.
And the role of that filter was to do precisely as Koppel accuses Hannity. Stories about Reagan and his policies were presented through the lens of liberal or far-left ideology.
By way of example, Reagan’s inaugural address contained these lines:
“In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we've been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?”
What did this mean to the media of the day in terms of the liberal mania and liberal ideology? It meant endless stories about the mean president taking away some deserved government goodie from this, that or the other vulnerable American out there. No better example of how the liberal media played the game was Reagan’s budget proposal that cut back appropriations for the Federal School Lunch and Child Nutrition Programs.
The Reagan Department of Agriculture was tasked with implementing money-saving ways and the USDA bureaucracy came up with a proposal that gave local school official flexibility to ‘credit a condiment such as pickle relish as a vegetable.’ This made its way in an early version of what today is being called the “Deep State” from some outraged bureaucrat to the media. In a blink there were headlines and TV news stories that Reagan had authorized a rule that said “ketchup was a vegetable.” Here is New York Times reporter Benjamin Weingraub on the liberal media-induced reaction:
“….the opposition had a Dickensian field day of outrage and mockery that contrasted school children’s shrinking meal subsidies with the Pentagon generals’ groaning board of budget increases.”
Worse, Mrs. Reagan was upgrading the White House china. No matter that she was doing it with private contributions. Quickly the story - made public at the same time as the “ketchup is a vegetable” story - became the contrast between starving kids and a White House buying $209,508 in new china and place settings. And oh yes, the presidential seal on the china was etched in gold.
Complaints that the firestorm generated over these two stories were nothing more than the liberal ideology of reporters shaping public perception? Zero of any serious note. Was Ted Koppel around during all of this? Yes, he was the host of Nightline on ABC. Any Koppel stories about how his then very-prominent show attracted “people who are determined that ideology is more important than facts.” Of course not. Because in the mind of a liberal, his liberalism isn’t an ideology - its just the way things are.
This time around in the Trump-era the very fact of the Hannity-Koppel sitdown -- not to mention Koppel’s plaintive tone -- is a testament to the hard fact that the liberal media monopoly has been broken, and broken for good. Were that “ketchup as a vegetable” story to emerge today (and don’t worry, there will be an equivalency as the Trump budget gets a hearing) there would be none other than Sean Hannity on both radio and TV to debunk the debunkers and challenge the liberal mania. And, of course, in today’s world Hannity will not be alone, either. All of talk radio not to mention conservative Internet sites would be out there equalizing things as well.
President Harry Truman once remarked: “If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
Sean Hannity, like so many others in the conservative media, is staying in the media kitchen. The liberal media mania be damned.
And that, in so many words, is exactly why Ted Koppel is upset.