Press Freedom: President of Columbia University Full of Caca

The president of Columbia University, a Dr Bollinger, has a big piece in the WSJ of 7/14/10 entitled: “Journalism Needs Government Help.” It was just like this; I am not making this up.

I read it attentively, looking for a sign that the piece was tongue-in-cheek. It wasn’t. The man is dead serious. He does not seem very smart. For one thing, he does not know English well. He does not understand what the verb “to decimate” means. His article begins with the words, “ We have entered a momentous period….” No shit, as if there were others!

The president makes all the familiar liberal arguments to the effect that when something does not work, the government should take it over and support it so it can continue not working. In this case, though the president is not talking about a single company, such as GM, but about hundreds of companies. His band of reference is a slew of newspaper companies that have proven, are proving over and over again, that the paying public desires less and less what they peddle. After all, a daily newspaper is until now one of the cheapest deals around. It’s still cheaper than a cup of mediocre coffee, in most places. Of course, retail prices would be higher if the newspapers were not also supported by advertisers. Dr Bollinger: People don’t want to spend 75 cents, or a dollar for what newspaper organizations put out. Advertisers have no confidence either.

Why would I pay with my tax dollars for an option for my neighbors that my neighbors don’t want?

In a half-page article, Dr Bollinger, the university president, fails to do what all scholars are trained to do: Look for exceptions to his broad generalizations. Yes, the printed press is generally in trouble all over America, but not all of it. It turns out, that the Wall Street Journal does not have the chronic financial problems of its main rival, the New York Times. No one at the WSJ is asking for a government hand-out. It turns out, for an other example, that the libertarian-conservative Weekly Standard is flourishing while another weekly, Newsweek, is bankrupt. Are those facts irrelevant, Dr Bollinger or is it possible you are not even aware of them?

Dr Bollinger has the common decency to address the idea that federal government financial support of the press raises severe First Amendment issues. Can the freedom of the press the First Amendment guarantees survive a situation where journalists get their paycheck from President Obama, or from President Palin, for that matter? To my huge surprise, Dr Bollinger answers in the affirmative.

No problem, he says, look at previous examples such as the undeniably useful Voice of America (a small government networks broadcasting overseas that liberals have done their best to eviscerate). Here, the President of Columbia University commits a big error that this former teacher would have roundly condemned if it had come from a college sophomore. Yet, it’s a mistake that’s not surprising emanating from an adult liberal because these people have not thought anything new for years. They operate from dogma alone.

Here is the mistake: Dr Bollinger confuses the need of ordinary Americans to be informed, with the American government’s need to inform some categories of people, including foreigners. The president does not understand the difference between free information, which has to be varied and, of necessity chaotic, and orderly government propaganda (again, of the kind I approve in the examples he choses ). Dr Bollinger is a dunce, a dangerous one because of the position he occupies! Pass it on.

I am wondering whether the Wall Street journal did not publish Dr Bollinger’s demonstration of gross ignorance out of sheer viciousness, to expose this kind of non-thinking to the cruel lights of a good periodical.

Dr Bollinger: Much of the printed press is dying because it deserves to die. It had failed to adapt to new circumstances such as the Internet – which have not been really new for more than ten years, by the way. It’s a dinosaur. It’s not even an honest dinosaur. It dishes out boring propaganda at intervals that are not even regular. Occasionally, the best of its numbers engages in outright and persistent fraud. (If this sounds extremist, look up “New York Times – Jason Blair.”) I don’t want to pay for my neighbors’ fantasy life, if I have such neighbors. I probably don’t have such neighbors. Most people are like me: They get their news from sources they trust including some they are happy to pay for. (I spend about ½ of 1% of my moderate net income on information providers of all kinds. I could easily do with less but it’s money well spent.)

Many journalists will become unemployed, it’s true. So are many other Americans unemployed. Some of the unemployed will start their own media ventures. They will be more honest than the current tottering giants. Others will no doubt join the ranks of government employees since the federal government is the only creator of jobs right now. At least, as direct government bureaucrats they will be rendered comparatively impotent, unable to do as much harm as they would as government-supported so-called “journalists.” You can hire a few of the remainder to teach Journalism at Columbia University’s vaunted school of journalism. As a former colleague, I advise you that the school could create a few new courses, such as: “Dead Journalism,” and “The Print Press: The Passing of an Empire.” Also, read this blog it’s more informative than many still-existing newspapers. I am not bragging; the standards are really low.


About Jacques Delacroix

I am a sociologist, a short-story writer, and a blogger (Facts Matter and Notes On Liberty) in Santa Cruz, California.
This entry was posted in Current Events, Stories and poems in French and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Press Freedom: President of Columbia University Full of Caca

  1. gary says:

    Jacques you once said that my re:s to your blog were over the edge – I think you said it like this: “because my soup is too rich”.
    I would say that at every turn you will likely find those that are not interested in going a little deeper to gain the understanding of the power of political correctness. Feelings, emotional responses and sound bite wisdom is turning this country upside down all around us and no one has the depth to know or see the moral elephant.
    Every part of our once free country is starting to cow tow to the new government god$. Fact is most of us do not even know the degree to which even diet is a distracting agent that consumes attention spans and dumb us down.
    What I find is that the more one learns about just how deceptively covert people are, and then if they bow out and refuse the addictive poisons they really do awaken.
    My suggestion is to get away 100% from movies and TV and quit eating sugar and meat for two years and a person will likely slow down and get in my lane to at least some degree.
    So. The government with its fiat moola – and other tricks are enlisting itself into the media openly now?
    How can such a thing happen? Shake off a couple addictions and find out. Gary

  2. David says:

    In response to Dr. Bollinger’s lack of knowledge/complete ignorance of the WSJ and Weekly Standard’s success, I would suspect his blindness on this issue is caused by one or more of the following:

    1) He assumes that they are unimportant; therefore, he has no reason to examine them, or others like them.

    2) He doesn’t know that they actually exist.

    3) He thinks (if you could call it that) that they are overtly/covertly in the grip of News Corp; therefore, any success (read “profit”) is ill-gained and falsely supplied by the “dying” and “biased” (as if all other news outlets were objective) parent company.

    4) He has lost his capacity to critically think.

    5) He has lost his capacity to think. At all.

    6) He hasn’t left campus since he arrived.

    7) He was abducted by aliens and they removed his brain; therefore, they are using his body as if it’s a video game.

    8) He has too much IQ to consider the facts.

    9) He has too little IQ to consider the facts.

    10) The kool-aid has altered his brain chemistry; rendering him unable to process information in a proper fashion.

    There may be more reasons but this is the best I could come up with. Help me out here and let me know what you think!

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      All good reasons but we have to chose. I think he has not left campus is the answer and he never talks with people who are not like himself. (I spent thirty years in academia,; I learned a lot there!)

  3. Eddie says:

    Great piece….but also look at the flip side (on Dr. Bollinger where he WAS on point)

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      He was not on point anywhere in the WSJ piece. It was just the usual pseudo-rational, semi-literate and, at bottom, whiny proposals liberal academics are always giving us.

  4. Thomas H. says:

    Without having read the WSJ article, and because sometimes such editorials are a kind of fabrication to stir intellecual debate, would like here to mention papers like the Wall Street Journal and Weekly Standard are excellent papers and are deserving of an ever – growing readership. Why this is subjects the first phrase here to opinionated interpretation: Some people just mention that reading the local paper is enough, but there is a larger world out there with issues that affect every region and every hamlet, so read a national paper if you are able.

    Secondly and not lastly, the illiteracy of Dr. Bollinger’s speech, as characterised by our columnist at Facts Matter, must be taken to have signaled a warning the printed press is in trouble, yes, but it is now entirely dependent upon foreign capital to produce and disseminate its message. At least this is true insofar as the Wall Street Journal (as owned by the foreign NewsCorp from U.K.) is run by a benevolent and considerate executive team of Rupert Murdoch’s (an Englishman’s) choosing. This is the ‘cover of the book’ that Dr. Bollinger speaks to people like me about, as the doomsday of the printed paper edition seems ever more near, the scarcer and more expensive papers become and the cheaper other media become as well.

    Thirdly, the outlook for the printed paper is not that bad insofar as one considers the economics of the newspaper purchase itself (already discussed above) and the overwhelming amount of information in the printed edition itself, portability, ease of use and so forth.

  5. kimboslice says:

    Journalism does not need government help. It is thriving. But, it is not thriving at the propaganda/baloney machines like the NYTimes and Newsweek. What they need is to stop trying to influence our thinking and start being journalists. The consumer rejects buying papers or magazines that do not share his beliefs, values or needs. The NYTimes is presently more suspect, since it is now on financial life support provided by a robber-baron Mexican multi-billionaire, Carlos Slim.

  6. Alan says:

    I hope you sent your posting as a letter to the editor in the WSJ. Don’t know if they print such things. If they do, I’m sure it would be cut down. But better yet, you should send this directly to the esteemed president himself, or to Columbia’s campus newspaper, or to the Columbia conservative (or similar) group for them to try to give it some more traction.
    The fact that WSJ and AS are making money says a lot, because it takes a *lot* to get even those persons that *like* their content to get past the buying point. There is so much competition for the dollar/time. For example, even though I like it, I don’t take the WSJ anymore simply because it has more than I can digest; I just don’t have enough time in the day to read it, and I threw away a year’s worth of subscription having read only about 10-15% of it. (I barely had enough time to read the articles you photocopied for our class!) But I can spend that money on lovely dining with the wife, and she enjoys that more. (She’s not much of a periodical reader, printed or electronic.)


    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      HI, Alan. No need to send a letter to the WSJ. I am almost sure it published the Columbia President whining deliberately, to expose a certain kind of thinking in all its self-assured silliness. I know what you mean about not being able to digest the WSJ. I think it was never meant to be read cover to cover by anyone. For me, the questions is this: Do I get enough out of what I do read to justify the expense? The answer – again, for me – is a clear “yes.” I might feel differently if I lived in a town with many good restaurants. I don’t. In fact, my idea of taking my wife out to diner is to instruct her to cook something I like and then, to take it out on a tray to eat with her in the backyard!

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