By Marji Ross
There is a strange trend in media today. Actually, two trends. Both related, and both teeing up a surprising opportunity for independent authors and publishers.
First is the phenomenon of “activist journalism” – a term I reject out of hand as an oxymoron (emphasis on “moron”). In my view it is impossible to be both a journalist and an activist. At least, a responsible journalist. “Activist journalists” commit the cardinal sin of their profession: they decide what the story is before they research and report it. They have a narrative. They have an agenda. They have a point they want to make. So they go out and find the anecdotes, examples, statistics and studies that support their point – and ignore anything that does not.
This isn’t journalism, it’s propaganda. If you want to be an activist, go for it. But please don’t pretend to be a journalist. And don’t pervert the proper role of an independent fourth estate in a free society.
Meanwhile, America’s publishers have gone limp. Instead of standing firm for traditional values such as freedom of speech and a genuine diversity of viewpoints, today’s book publishers are shockingly cowardly. Instead of challenging the liberal narrative they have caved to the intolerant mob. These houses churn out countless pseudo-intellectual tracts with titles like “How To Be An Anti-Racist” or “The End of Gender.” They give themselves free speech awards and laud themselves as bold and fearless truth tellers. Yet at the slightest provocation they bow to the angry virtue police both inside and outside their companies when they demand the silencing of any author who dares to dissent from the dominant narrative.
Lately this has happened not just to conservatives but to prominent liberals. Just ask Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, whose most recent book was denounced by the staff at her British publisher after she dared to assert that male and female genders are not arbitrary social constructs but biological realities. Or novelist Jeanine Cummins, whose publisher apologized to the world and canceled her book tour because she dared to “appropriate” Mexican culture by writing a story about a young family escaping the horrors of a Mexican drug cartel.
I doubt whether Shakespeare could have written Othello today.
Meanwhile, we must endure endless hypocritical lectures from the left about “diversity” and “tolerance.” Note to college students: It’s not tolerant to listen to ideas you agree with; tolerance demands that you allow a platform for ideas you don’t agree with. Failure to do so will render you incapable of critical thinking, problem solving, and adult life.
Sensible Americans know the value of real diversity – diversity of thought and opinion. They know how essential the free flow of ideas is to a healthy democracy. They smell a rat when supposedly neutral journalistic “fact checkers” only find lies in one candidate’s debate performance. They laugh out loud when reporters insist that protests are “mostly peaceful” even as the buildings and businesses behind them burn to the ground. They reject the idea that all people of a certain race, any race, must think a certain way or be labeled traitors and sellouts.
But here’s the good news: with crisis comes opportunity. The moral and intellectual collapse of the liberal media and publishing establishment opens the door for independent publishers and self-publishing outfits to fill the vacuum, providing conservatives and even traditional liberals with the freedom to express themselves that increasingly no one else will.
I’m not holding my breath for the New York Times or Penguin Random House to change – what they are doing is too easy and rewarding. But even as they congratulate themselves on their power and virtue, independent publishers and startup media companies know that truth has real power as more and more readers reject the emotional blackmail behind cancel culture.
Activist reporters and book publishers alike may not fully appreciate what kind of fire they are playing with. But as conservative philosopher Richard Weaver famously said, ideas have consequences.
About the Author: Marji Ross is a seasoned leader with over 30 years experience in the publishing industry. For nearly two decades, she served as President and Publisher of Regnery Publishing, the nation’s leading publisher of conservative books. In 2020, she founded Marji Ross Consulting, a firm dedicated to helping authors, organizations, and businesses communicate more powerfully, reach larger audiences, and substantially increase their income. Follow her blog at MarjiNotes.