Sunday, October 31, 2021

I've had my share of disagreements with Batya Ungar-Sargon, most notably when she was Opinion Editor of The Forward. But she has been outspoken about the dangers of the current far-Left "woke" movement, and I've had some reasonable private discussions with her, so I bought her brand new book to see what she has to say.

Bad News: How Woke Media is Undermining Democracy is centered around two themes. The primary one is that the media has swallowed the woke narrative, specifically that everything must be viewed through the prism of race. 

Ungar-Sargon traces the history of modern journalism through the lens of the New York media world since the 1820s, noting the divide between the media that catered to the upper classes and the newspapers that were aimed at the working class, derided by the traditional media as "sensationalistic." She contrasts the New York World and the New York Sun with the founding of the New York Times, which was explicitly aimed at the rich. She shows that the NYT continues with that mission today, using even digital media to aim at the most wealthy people and those who aspire to join them. Local news and stories about ordinary working class Americans are given short shrift.

Ungar-Sargon demonstrates that while the news business was a trade, with most reporters not having attended college until five decades ago and in touch with the working people, now the journalists are nearly all from a small number of exclusive universities and are in the top tier of what is now known as privilege. Even though journalism pays very little for entry level jobs, the New York media world is filled with young people who could only afford to live in the city because of their wealthy parents who subsidize them. More recently, these privileged young journalists - who have remarkably little experience with actual, on the ground reporting and instead concentrate on doing their jobs using the Internet - have been pushing out the older, experienced journalists by canceling or threatening to cancel them. The result is a remarkably homogeneous, ultra liberal, mostly white class of know-nothings. 

Batya brings much evidence that the current fashion of claiming that everything is centered on race is nonsense. Americans are less racist than at any time in our history yet the number of articles about race have skyrocketed. Intersectionality theory is equally shown to be nonsense - African women immigrants, who should according to that theory be on the very bottom of the heap, have no economic disadvantage when seeking employment in the US. She does a great job at taking apart the hypocrisy behind the NYT's treatment of the Tom Cotton op-ed and the aftermath. 

Her argument falters when it intersects with her second theme, a more implicit one that pervades the book. This theme is that while the racial problems in the US are exaggerated, there is a serious class problem that is not being addressed, especially not by the media.

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who divide up everyone into two types of people and everyone else. Looking at the world as though everything is a class problem is just as simplistic as looking at everything through the lens of race. There are certainly class issues, but they don't explain everything, and Batya's class arguments are not convincing. While she demonstrates very well that journalists are overwhelmingly in the super liberal upper class, she does not show that the upper class itself buys into the woke narrative. In fact, she doesn't define what she means by upper class - her most consistent definition seems to be "college educated." What about Wall Street professionals - it seems unlikely that they buy into the woke/intersectional narrative even though they are clearly upper class (and college graduates.)  The American middle class is treated as being effectively part of the upper class if they are "aspirational." But how many college-educated middle class Americans really want to be part of the rarified world of the New York Times Style section? And the huge middle class who live between the two coasts don't fit into her upper vs. working class worldview in this book at all. 

As with race, this is not to say that there isn't a problem with the divide between the professional class and the working class, or with the working class not being represented by the media. The author shows that it is this very feeling of being disenfranchised that caused so many working class Americans of all races to vote for Donald Trump, who instinctively spoke to their concerns about keeping their jobs- and he even gained non-white voters in the 2020 election. (Ungar-Sargon somehow manages to say that the Republicans don't care about the working class after showing that Trump's policies were geared exactly to them.)   

Because of her conviction that class is the defining feature of American life, one of Ungar-Sargon's core  arguments does not hold up well. She claims that the young writers at the major newspapers support the idea of wokeness because they feel guilty about their white, upper class privilege, so they choose to focus on race because it is immutable - if the problem is one of race, then they don't have to examine their own privileged lives because they cannot solve the problem. There might be some truth to that, but it seems to me more likely that they learned this ideology in their universities and never questioned it as they moved from the college bubble to the media bubble. 

If there was any consistent formula that Ungar-Sargon's data indicates, it is not the importance of class, but of money, power and influence. The reason that the New York Sun succeeded wasn't because of a principled coverage of the working class but because the larger market was lucrative. The reason Bernie Sanders flipped his stances on topics like immigration between 2016 and 2020 was because his desire to be elected was more important than his interest in consistency with his principles and agreeing with Trump was not a good look for a Democrat in 2020. The reason that the liberal media is obsessed over race stories is because they get ratings. 

Bad News is an excellent book for members of  the Left. If they have any intellectual honesty, it could convince them that their philosophy is not only wrong but a danger to democracy and the nation. For people who already know that critical race theory is ahistorical and wrong, this book gives more ammunition. There is plenty of interesting history and statistics (such as data that indicates that people on the Left are more racist than those on the Right)  that make it a worthwhile read for anyone. 


EoZTV Podcast

Podcast URL

Subscribe in podnovaSubscribe with FeedlyAdd to netvibes
addtomyyahoo4Subscribe with SubToMe

search eoz





For $18 donation

Sample Text

EoZ's Most Popular Posts in recent years


Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 14 years and 30,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


Donate to fight for Israel!

Monthly subscription:
Payment options

One time donation:

subscribe via email

Follow EoZ on Twitter!

Interesting Blogs


#PayForSlay Abbas liar Academic fraud administrivia al-Qaeda algeria Alice Walker American Jews AmericanZionism Amnesty analysis anti-semitism anti-Zionism antisemitism apartheid Arab antisemitism arab refugees Arafat archaeology Ari Fuld art Ashrawi ASHREI B'tselem bahrain Balfour bbc BDS BDSFail Bedouin Beitunia beoz Bernie Sanders Biden history Birthright book review Brant Rosen breaking the silence Campus antisemitism Cardozo cartoon of the day Chakindas Chanukah Christians circumcision CJ Werleman Clark Kent coexistence Comix Community Standards conspiracy theories COVID-19 Cyprus Daled Amos Daphne Anson David Applebaum Davis report DCI-P Divest This double standards Egypt Elder gets results ElderToons Electronic Intifada Ellen Horowitz Embassy EoZ Trump symposium eoz-symposium EoZNews eoztv Erekat Erekat lung transplant EU Euro-Mid Observer European antisemitism Facebook Facebook jail Fake Civilians 2014 Fake Civilians 2019 Farrakhan Fatah featured Features Fervent Embrace fisking flood libel flotilla Forest Rain Forward free gaza freedom of press palestinian style future martyr Gary Spedding gaza Gaza Platform George Galloway George Soros German Jewry Ghassan Daghlas gideon levy gilad shalit gisha Goldstone Report Good news Grapel Guardian guest post gunness Haaretz Hadassah hamas Hamas war crimes Hananya Naftali hasbara Hasby 2014 Hasby 2016 Hasby 2018 hate speech Hebron helen thomas hezbollah history Hizballah Holocaust Holocaust denial honor killing HRW Human Rights Humanitarian crisis humor Hypocrisy ICRC IDF IfNotNow IJ Benjamin Ilan Pappe Ilhan Omar impossible peace incitement indigenous Indonesia infographic international law interview intransigence iran Iraq Islamic Judeophobia Islamism Israel Loves America Israeli culture Israeli high-tech J Street jabalya James Zogby jeremy bowen Jerusalem jewish fiction Jewish Voice for Peace jihad jimmy carter Joe Biden John Kerry jokes jonathan cook Jordan Joseph Massad Juan Cole Judaism Judea-Samaria Judean Rose Judith Butler Kairos Karl Vick Keith Ellison ken roth khalid amayreh Khaybar Know How to Answer Lebanon leftists Linda Sarsour Linkdump lumish mahmoud zahar Mairav Zonszein Malaysia Marc Lamont Hill Marjorie Taylor Greene max blumenthal Mazen Adi McGraw-Hill media bias Methodist Michael Lynk Michael Ross Miftah Missionaries moderate Islam Mohammed Assaf Mondoweiss moonbats Morocco Mudar Zahran music Muslim Brotherhood Naftali Bennett Nakba Nan Greer Nasser al-Lahham Nation of Islam Natural gas Nazi Netanyahu News nftp NGO Nick Cannon NIF Noah Phillips norpac NSU Matrix NYT Occupation offbeat olive oil Omar Barghouti Omri Boehm Only in Israel Opinion oxfam PA corruption PalArab lies Palestine Papers pallywood pchr PCUSA Peace Now Peter Beinart Petra MB philosophy poetry Poland poll Poster Preoccupied Prisoners propaganda Proud to be Zionist Puar Purim purimshpiel Putin Qaradawi Qassam calendar Quora Rafah Ray Hanania real liberals RealJerusalemStreets reference Reuters Richard Falk Richard Landes Richard Silverstein Right of return Rivkah Lambert Adler Robert Werdine rogel alpher roger cohen roger waters Rutgers Saeb Erekat Sarah Schulman Saudi Arabia saudi vice self-death self-death palestinians Seth Rogen settlements sex crimes SFSU shechita sheikh tamimi Shelly Yachimovich Shujaiyeh Simchat Torah Simona Sharoni SodaStream South Africa Sovereignty Speech stamps Superman Syria Tarabin Temple Mount Terrorism This is Zionism Thomas Friedman Tlaib TOI Tomer Ilan Trump Trump Lame Duck Test Tunisia Turkey UAE Accord UCI UK UN UNDP unesco unhrc UNICEF United Arab Emirates Unity unrwa UNRWA hate unrwa reports UNRWA-USA unwra vaccination Varda Vic Rosenthal Washington wikileaks Winstanley work accident X-washing Y. Ben-David Yemen YMikarov zahran Ziesel zionist attack zoo Zionophobia Ziophobia Zvi

Best posts of the past 6 months


A new, better definition of antisemitism

Blog Archive