I have a way for National Public Radio to get their reputation back: they can give me a job.
Of course, I would defer if there was only one position available and they decided to give it to Juan Williams instead of me. He was the one who was just dumped by NPR for the crime of stating uncomfortable facts about Islam and violence, so he should get the first invitation to come back. But failing that, they should give me a job.
The Williams fiasco has highlighted the true hopelessness of being a conservative, or even an honest journalist, in a media world still largely controlled by liberals. If they could so easily dismiss Williams, who had been with NPR for ten years, then they wouldn’t even bother answering the door when someone with the faintest whiff of conservatism appeared. It’s been going on for years and years, and there’s no telling how many stories they missed and how many gifted people never got jobs because they were considered too right-wing. The left has a media farm system. They hire their own.
As a result, their journalism suffers. This is a point I have emphasized before, but it deserves reiteration in the wake of the Juan Williams implosion. Liberals are right: diversity can make companies, especially media companies, stronger. If you have a lot of different people with different voices and life experiences on your staff, you get a broader palette of stories. Let me offer an example: a few days ago, I went to a book signing for the great Catholic author George Weigel at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. There was no local media there; when I picked up a copy of the Washington Post that day, the major story in the Style section was about…Jimmy Carter and his new book.
I have no problem with a story about Jimmy Carter in the Washington Post. He’s a former president and has a new book out. But so does George Weigel, who lives and works in Washington and whose new book, “The End and the Beginning,” has new information about the communist war against John Paul II. Why can’t the Washington Post have stories about both Carter and Weigel? (Conversely, why can’t National Review or The Weekly Standard run a review of a jazz singer or a great new rock band? To be sure, the liberal left that runs most of the media are, unlike the right, tyrannical in their refusal to allow something different into their coverage or call out their own allies. The conservative Weekly Standard just ran a brutal piece defenestrating Dinesh D’Souza’s new book about President Obama. When there was a scandal at the conservative Hillsdale College a few years ago, National Review covered the story. But the right can do a better job covering, rather than sniffing at, popular culture.)
A few weeks ago I had an interesting experience. I had a signing for my new book, “A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.” It was held at the Catholic Information Center, which is literally one block from the offices of the Washington Post. I am quite aware that authors have an inflated sense of self-importance, and take the absence of coverage of their work as a personal insult, and that in the wide world one writer just isn’t that important. But as I was walking to my car after the signing (sold 30 books!), I couldn’t help but think that the Post had missed an interesting story. I was born and raised in D.C. My grandfather was a baseball player for the Washington Senators. My father worked at National Geographic. My brother won the Helen Hayes award, given to the best actor in Washington. I had written several books, and had almost not finished the latest one because in 2008 I was diagnosed with cancer. In fact, at one point the book was killed — that is, before my editor at Doubleday discovered that I was ill and would be able to work after my treatment.
Call me self-absorbed, dismiss me as a narcissist, but then ask yourselves if objectively this is an interesting story. But before answering, try a thought experiment. Imagine that I am not a conservative, but a liberal. Imagine that my book is not a defense of Catholic sexual ethics, but an attack on them — and one using rock and roll as a backdrop. Imagine that in 2005 I had published a book called “God and Man at Georgetown Prep” that exposed the corruption of a prestigious local Catholic school — but did so from the left, not the right. Add to the mix some multiculturalism — that right before I was diagnosed I met and became dear friends with a woman from India, whose intelligence and spiritual wisdom helped me survive.
You think the Washington Post may have taken some interest?
The point is, political correctness makes for bad journalism. It kills curiosity. It encourages clichés and snuffs out adventurousness. Conservatives like to get splenetic about the corrupt liberal media, but these days when the Post hits my door in the morning and I open it up, what I mostly feel is…boredom. And sadness. What wonderful, beautiful stories and people are in my city that weren’t covered? What brilliant conservative writer am I not reading because he was never allowed through the door? Why am I wasting my time waiting for Dana Milbank to have an original thought? What, exactly, is the point of Post-owned Slate?
Like a lot of people, I was liberal when I was younger. And for a time, I thought I may wind up writing for the Washington Post. But as I recount here, I was mugged by reality and soon the lunch invitations from editors dried up. Sometimes I have regrets; if I had only drunk the Kool-Aid, I could be making good money right now trashing the Tea Party in the pages of a once-great newspaper. But then I remind myself that I am a free man. I think abortion is wrong, I believe rock and roll is a great form of modernist art, and my brush with cancer made me see holiness in all things. And NPR could do a lot worse on the way to trying to save themselves than by giving this lunatic a job.
Mark Gauvreau Judge is the author of several books, including Damn Senators and God and Man at Georgetown Prep. His articles and essays have appeared in various publications.