Donald Trump was right about at least one thing, says the author of a mystery/thriller series that explores journalism, politics and murder in the era of a president who constantly tweeted “FAKE NEWS”.
“Of course the media has a liberal bias,” says Gary Engler “Especially when you define believing in verifiable truth as ‘liberal’.”
Trump built a coalition of “Bible literalists, climate change deniers who trust oil billionaire-funded propaganda over science, grumpy old white men who listen to too much talk radio and white nationalists who want to make America great again and for them that means the 1860 Confederate South,” says Engler. “None of these people are or were much interested in verifiable facts that challenge their personal ‘truth’.”
Of course journalists trained to care about accuracy, fairness, and objective truth will be dismissed as lying, liberal, left-wing liars by such people, says the 68-year old author of American Fascism, American Spin, War on Drugs and Misogyny, who spent 20 years working for the largest newspaper in western Canada and was Vice-President and Secretary-Treasurer of the B.C. Media Union.
On the other hand, says Engler, equating “liberal” and “left-wing” is a peculiar Americanism that the rest of the world does not share and is like saying red is the same as green because both are colours.
“To be defined as “left-wing” in most of the world one must in some way oppose capitalism,” says Engler. “Both historically and currently liberals believe in capitalism. In fact, liberals are the keenest capitalists — they are willing to do anything, even throw a few crumbs to workers, to save their preferred economic system.”
Calling liberals left-wing is a way of delegitimizing the actual anti-capitalist left and enables the illusion that American voters are given a significant range of choice come election time, Engler says.
“In Canada, and in most countries around the world, we have a, historically at least, socialist party that has been elected in numerous provinces giving us universal healthcare as well as other important social programs, but the successful delegitimizing of any anti-capitalist political party in the USA has meant your country is stuck at the back of the industrialized world pack when it comes to social programs and pretty much every “benefit” for workers. Your pensions, vacations, maternity/paternity leave, statutory holidays etc. almost always are worse than Canada, western Europe, Australia or New Zealand. Why? Because you haven’t elected enough socialists.”
While current conservatives claim the news media in North America are their enemies, the reality is mainstream newspapers, TV networks, news websites and radio stations are almost exclusively owned by large corporations or rich individual capitalists. “And the editorial policy of these media outlets is almost exclusively conservative — maybe not pro-Trump conservative — and certainly pro-capitalist,” says Engler.
But he does admit, based on decades of experience working for a big city newspaper owned by a series of four consecutive very conservative media corporations, and his union work, that many journalists do consider themselves “left-wing.”
“I certainly never made a secret of being a socialist,” he said. “And I always did well in union elections.”
But there was always a limit to any expression of a reporter’s left-wing politics. “Overtly left-wing reporters did not get news columns or get promoted into management.”
Left-wing journalists learn to be extremely careful with their reporting, he said. “Sloppy right-wing reporting and opinion writing is everywhere, but anything challenging the system better be backed up with solid research and sources.”
Left-wingers often find niches in which they can gain a toehold in the newsroom, Engler said. “There can be a lot of freedom in non-news areas. I started in sports, developed a reputation as a good writer with sports features. One of the best things I ever wrote was when I was still a temporary employee. It was a feature about a Trinidadian cricket player that talked about the different effects of British and American imperialism. It was fun, entertaining, informative but didn’t jeopardize my job.”