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Partisan Media Is Worthless

With the collapse of the traditional or “mainstream” corporate media has come a new menace vying for the public’s much sought attention: the partisan media outlet. Partisan media has risen to prominence with the death of the (long decomposing) liberal intellectual class and, somehow, makes a worse offering than dishonest postures of “objectivity” and the promise of a bloodless technocratic future.

Partisan media does not exalt the issues or even particular candidates as such; it nakedly defends power, replacing the pretense of objectivity with the obnoxiously explicit call for pragmatism and “party unity,” no matter the cost.

At first glance, partisan media can look like issue advocacy. The cadences and structure is the same, the passion may even be real, but the substance of the work is actually a perversion of advocacy and activism, as it looks to channel anger at injustice and hope for a better world into the cynical operations of party political strategies.

Political parties are, fundamentally, about achieving power and so is the media that supports them. That is the ultimate goal of any communication by partisan media—help the party win. Though outlets like Blue Nation Review are increasingly claiming to be purely journalistic, most partisan media is proud to say it essentially supports the party in all things.

This is particularly tragic in regards to the Democratic Party because it has largely become the party that attracts young people interested in politics. Idealistic young people looking to make a difference are routinely and systematically sucked into the party machinery, often with the help of partisan media. They are wrongly told that by helping a Democratic Party candidate achieve power, they are, somehow, working to promote the issues they care about.

The truth is, of course, far different. Famed abolitionist and former slave Fredrick Douglass once said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” Most people can understand the logic of this sentiment, yet it is exactly the opposite of what partisan media asks of its consumers. Partisan media asks for you to demand nothing and concede everything to the powerful. The consolation for your giving up your demands is the joys of party unity and getting to lecture others on pragmatism as a Very Serious Person (with retweets galore).

Partisan media is worthless. Social movements, not the work of political parties, are the key to forcing the powerful to make concessions. Any study of history in the US or elsewhere supports that view. It was always struggle and activism—never party unity and pragmatism—that drove the expansion of rights to women, workers, people of color, the handicapped, prisoners, the LGBT community and beyond.

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Tracy Chapman (Photo by Pieter Morlion)
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Dan Wright

Dan Wright

Daniel Wright is a longtime blogger and currently writes for Shadowproof. He lives in New Jersey, by choice.