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Jeff Bezos buys out the Washington Post. This is Nixon’s revenge on the mainstream media

August 7, 2013

By Tim Stanley

Nixon was hounded by liberal outlets like the Washington Post

Nixon was hounded by liberal outlets like the Washington Post

Somewhere down there, Richard Nixon must be rubbing his hands with glee. The Graham family have been forced to sell The Washington Post– the liberal newspaper that helped bring down Tricky Dick with its coverage of the Watergate burglary. Nixon hated the Post for the not unreasonable reason that it hated him. It wasn’t just the pursuit of Watergate that irritated, but the climate that the daily helped create of liberal disdain for his presidency – its insistence that anyone with a fully functioning heart and brain voted Democrat. That attitude wouldn’t have mattered if print didn’t enjoy such a monopoly over the popular imagination in the 1970s, a monopoly that allowed it to dictate the terms of political debate. The Nixon administration’s biggest complaint was that they gave a hearing to opinions that were outside the Middle American mainstream partly because radicals made good copy but also because the powerful Graham family that owned the Post happened to agree with them.

The legacy of that resentment has been a fruitful one. It encouraged conservatives in the late 1970s and early 1980s to build their own media empires – direct mail campaigning or talk show outrage. Former Nixon staffers have subsequently redefined political media. Pat Buchanan co-founded Crossfire. John McLaughlin created The McLaughlin Group. Most importantly, Roger Ailes was picked by Rupert Murdoch to run Fox News. Nowadays, these men are seen as figureheads of a Right-wing establishment media – they see themselves as outsiders offering an alternative voice to institutions like the Post. If they sometimes come off as loud and aggressive, it’s because that’s the lesson they took from the liberal media: be entertaining, be noisy, and treat your opponents like the devil.

So the Post’s sale really does represent the victory of Nixon’s ghost. Think of it like this: an old, established, East Coast, liberal family has been forced to sell to an innovative capitalist from the West who self-describes as libertarian and has given money to both the Republicans and the Democrats. Jeff Bezos says the Post will retain editorial independence and I’m sure it will. But the takeover represents a generational, institutional shift away from the kind of people who brought down Nixon to the kind of people who Nixon championed. After all, Tricky was nothing if not a Right-wing class warrior. Read more in The Telegraph.

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