When the media know little and aren’t embarassed about it . . .

by Mr. Sheehy

The real problem is the arrogance that goes with the ignorance. . . A few weeks ago, David Brat beat House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a stunning upset. The media didn’t handle it well. You might say they freaked out. Among other things, reporters sounded the alarm about a phrase Brat used in his writings that, they said, suggested he was a dangerous extremist: “The government holds a monopoly on violence. Any law that we vote for is ultimately backed by the full force of our government and military.” As National Review‘s Charles C.W. Cooke noted:

“Unusual” and “eye-opening” was the New York Daily News’s petty verdict. In the Wall Street Journal, Reid Epstein insinuated darkly that the claim cast Brat as a modern-day fascist. And, for his part, Politico’s Ben White suggested that the candidate’s remarks “on Neitzsche and the government monopoly on violence don’t make a whole lot of sense.”

Unusual, eye-opening, and non-sensical, perhaps, to people who had never studied what government is. But that group shouldn’t include political reporters, who could reasonably be expected to have passing familiarity with German sociologist Max Weber’s claim that “the modern state is a compulsory association which organizes domination. It has been successful in seeking to monopolize the legitimate use of physical force as a means of domination within a territory.”

Mollie Hemingway’s article at The Federalist is sobering for those of us who think the media has an important role to play in our culture and are aware of its influence upon others. It’s also a great apologetic for a disciplined education. It strikes me as I read it that reporters with this kind of selective expertise are the natural products of an educational system that worships at the alter of student choice and values rhetorical style above ideas (as timed writing tests inevitably show us).