As Salon counts down the 30 biggest hacks in American media (here’s Friedman at number 3), the thing that strikes me most about the current pundit landscape is the complete lack of anyone who seriously criticizes our current system beyond saying “things were better in the ’50s” (which we hear a lot in one form or another from conservative columnists).
While I don’t enjoy the lefty “everything sucks now worse than ever before” screeds in Harper’s, I’d like to read a bi-weekly column written by Noam Chomsky. I’d like to read a columnist whose reaction to TSAGate was “people are going to blow shit up and we can’t turn our society into 1984 trying to avoid it”. I’d like to read a columnist who is an old-style non-interventionist like Daniel Larison. I’m not saying I’d even agree with any of these columnists, but it would be a change of pace.
In fact, I do read things like this all the time, on the internet, on blogs. But never in a major paper.
For all the bullshit about a free-wheeling marketplace of ideas in our media, the range of acceptable opinion is remarkably narrow. Nearly all the major pundits like having a large military/police state to keep us safe, nearly all think “we need to sacrifice”. Almost none are troubled by the fact that we live in a corporatocracy. There are a few ideas you do see that strike me as truly radical — the neocon notion that we should invade willy-nilly to spread peace and freedom, for example — nearly all of them on the right. You do see a lot of contrarian attacks on what are perceived as liberal ideas (these are usually written by columnists who are identified as liberal). But that’s about as edgy as it ever gets.
For the most part, what you see is bland, shallow, pro-establishment tripe. There’s no way that very many people are interested in this stuff. There’s no way this is part of an actual plan to increase readership/viewership.