Thursday, January 13, 2005
Diversity may be the single most commonly cited goal of American institutions these days. Nearly every organization - public or private, secular or religious, non-profit or buccaneer capitalist - seems to list internal diversity among its leading goals. And yet as John Hinderaker plausibly argues on powerlineblog.com in a postmortem on CBS News' Rathergate, "If there is a single overriding explanation for how a fake story, intended to influence a presidential election through the use of forged documents, could have been promulgated by 60 Minutes, it is the lack of diversity at CBS News."John's post that RMN was quoting continued with words that should sound all too familiar to conservatives and libertarians teaching at American universities.
If there had been anyone in the organization who did not share Mary Mapes's politics, who was not desperate to counteract the Swift Boat Vets and deliver the election to the Democrats, then certain obvious questions would have been asked: Where, exactly, did these documents come from? What reason is there to think that they really originated in the "personal files" of a long-dead National Guard officer, if his family has no knowledge of them? How did such modern-looking memos come to be produced in the early 1970s? ... Isn't it a funny coincidence that these "newly discovered" memos are attributed to the one person in this story who is conveniently dead?
And so on, ad nearly infinitum. But, because virtually everyone in the CBS News organization shared Mary Mapes's politics and objective (i.e., the election of John Kerry), skeptical questions were not asked. If there is a single overriding explanation for how a fake story, intended to influence a Presidential election through the use of forged documents, could have been promulgated by 60 Minutes, it is the lack of diversity at CBS News.
For some years now, the party line of the mainstream media has been: of course we're pretty much all Democrats, but that doesn't influence our news coverage. If nothing else, Rathergate should put that defense to rest once and for all.
Imagine: If there was a committee of academics that had true intellectual diversity that heard curriculum proposals at a university, what might happen to proposals to forms Departments of Whatever Group Studies? "What are the central tenets of this field?" "What will majors look like who graduate from these programs?" "Where will they find jobs?" These questions do not get asked now, because nobody thinks to ask them, because all the people on the committees share an ideology, and the goals of these departments and courses include enlisting allies from the student body.
John says he's going to the Kennedy school for a debate that "about how bloggers can become more credible by adopting the standards of mainstream journalists." He argues that it's the blogosphere's system of checks and balances that may lead it to outperform the MSM. The same thing may happen in academia in the future only if good faculty stand up and ask those questions.