The Washington Post, the Paper That Nixon Built, has gotten a new lease on life with its acquisition by Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos. Prominently featured in Amazon’s Kindle products, the paper has suddenly found itself with a national audience for its peculiar brand of inside-the-Beltway journalism. The paper has been traditionally consumed by the federal bureaucracy and the denizens of the District of Columbia, both groups of which harbor a decidedly liberal bent. Now, like earthworms exposed to the sunlight when the rock they were under is lifted away, the paper’s leftist journalists are finding their hereto unquestioned orthodoxy subject to the attitudes of a broader demographic. The resulting discussions have found the paper wanting, and in no more so than its viewpoint on gun control.
The Post was owned over most of modern existence by the Graham family, who gained control of the paper after family patriarch and former Chairman of the Federal Reserve’s board of governors, Eugene Meyer, bought it out of bankruptcy. The Grahams showed a ruthless flair for the newspaper business, merging with the only other DC morning competition, the Washington Times-Herald, and then forcing out of business the last evening paper, The Washington Star. Once the Grahams finally crushed the last remaining limitation to its authority, its labor unions, it had free reign to publish whatever it wanted, however it wanted. So for over thirty years, other than a money-losing conservative newspaper published by a Korean religious organization, the Post has had no apposing editorial voice to its content.
This monopolistic state of affairs has given rise to a number of journalistic oddities. At some point during the depths of the early Internet malaise that settled over the newspaper industry, the Post stopped publishing a business section and sharply curtailed its sports coverage. This left the political coverage and lifestyle as the only real content in the paper for several years. The paper eventually brought back the business and sports sections in a limited form, but even now politics and lifestyle are the main focus. The comics are about politics. The local news is about politics. The lifestyle and entertainment discussion revolves around politics. Even the business and sports articles have a political bent.
The Post also has journalists whose only job is to write its editorial content. Hard to believe, but true. The popular image of editorials being vetted (or even written) by hard-nosed chief editors like the Daily Planet’s Perry White or cigar chomping publishers like the Daily Bugle’s J. Jonah Jameson are no more, if they ever were true. So the Post churns out leftist editorial content like other papers crank out crime stories.
One of these editors is Stephen Stromberg. Here is a sampling of his editorial titles: Republican Candidate’s Foreign Policy: Find Magic Button, Press It; Republican’s New, Twisted Climate Logic; Bobby Jindal’s Demagoguery Has Finally Failed; Scott Walker Wasn’t Unlucky. He Was Clueless; No, Obama Isn’t a Climate Hypocrite. There is a smattering of articles criticizing ultra-leftist Bernie Sanders mixed in, but you get the general idea.
I now have a new favorite Stromberg editorial title: The Obama Executive Action That Will Do The Most Good–And Drive The Gun Nuts Mad. As you might surmise, the editorial praises President Obama’s most recent efforts to regulate and make safer gun ownership though executive orders (rather than legislative action). What is interesting about Stromberg’s predictable polemic was his choice of derogatory term for the strident 2nd Amendment advocates who opposed Obama’s executive orders as slippery-slope regulation. “Gun nut” has strong connotations, like describing people who think it is OK for deranged gun-toting loners to murder a couple dozen kids at Sandy Hook or bunches of innocents in a Colorado movie theater.
The main logic for gun control advocates and those that interpret the “well regulated militia” clause of the 2nd amendment to mean a well provisioned police force and not private gun ownership, is that there is a) no need for gun ownership in modern society with professional law enforcement, b) no modern need for citizens to own guns in order to keep the people who run the government honest. The problem with this logic is that it flies in the face of the strident Snowdenesque paranoia about the surveillance state and the upset about the overaggressive tactics and militarization of modern policing.
In fact the Post regularly runs editorials and political stories on surveillance issues and police shootings. The journalistic irony that this extra attention spent on surveillance and law enforcement practice runs roughshod over the logic underpinning their 2nd Amendment put-downs of gun rights advocates seems lost on the Post, and most gun control advocates for that matter.
Well, logic was never a strong suit at the Post editorial staff. This worked in their favor when Woodward and Bernstein took on a powerful and dangerous opponent like President Nixon during the Watergate break-in affair. You had to be a little crazy to pull that off. And the citizenry is better off for it. But lately the Post’s editorial decision-making strikes me as a little questionable. Maybe they should stick to writing articles about peeling paint in the barracks of the Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital. Sure, the base is now closed, but you never know–they still might get another Pulitzer for it.