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The new mainstream media tactic: Keep ‘em ignorant

The new mainstream media tactic: Keep ‘em ignorant

At one time, liberal mainstream media outlets often printed letters disagreeing with their editorials and opinion columns. Increasingly, though, they are blocking even the most well-informed rebuttals.

The trend is disturbing because it keeps readers ignorant. They remain imprisoned in a leftist ideological bubble, unaware that there is any world outside.

For example, the Atlantic magazine recently ran a long article attacking, and grossly distorting, the judicial doctrine of originalism. (Originalism is the view that courts should interpret the Constitution as they interpret most other legal documents—according to how its makers understood it.) A leading originalist scholar requested the right to reply. No one was better qualified to do so: A graduate from Harvard Law School, former clerk for Justice Scalia, editor of a book on Scalia, former official in the U.S. Department of Justice, and now a prolific author on originalism and other legal topics.

Any rational publication would be proud to print a letter from him. But the Atlantic turned him down.

In an earlier entry in on this blog, I related a similar experience with the New Yorker magazine. A CNN legal analyst had contributed a column attacking originalism in terms that can only be called idiotic. The New Yorker denied the right to reply.

The New York Times has just done the same. One of its columnists penned a largely uninformed assault on the Electoral College. I sent a short letter to the editor correcting some of his mistakes. The Times rejected it without explanation or response.

For the curious, here is the letter the Times refused to print:


Jamelle Bouie’s Nov. 13 column greatly understates the range of values served by America’s three-tier presidential election system.

The American Founders recognized that institutions and rules that seem “anti-democratic” in the short run can safeguard self-government in the medium-to-long run. That’s one reason we have a Bill of Rights.

The records of the constitutional convention show that when crafting the presidential election system, the framers balanced numerous factors. Among them were (1) assuring that the president, even if not the most popular person in the country, had strong popular support, (2) assuring that this support was wide as well as deep—was not merely regional or based on a few interests, (3) allowing the states a role in presidential selection while (4) assuring that the president was reasonably independent of both Congress and the states; (5) protecting against foreign election interference, (6) making it probable that the winning candidate could do the job, and (7) guarding against precipitate action. (The convention proceedings show that slavery was not a significant factor.)

In countries that elect powerful chief executives by popular pluralities, parties multiply and candidates very frequently win the presidency with pluralities well below 40%. Direct popular vote of the chief executive in some U.S. states and in other countries—even those with runoffs—also promotes extreme regionalism of the kind that would be disastrous for our country. A principal reason Joe Biden received an Electoral College majority while Hillary Clinton did not is that Biden’s support was more national, less regional, than Clinton’s.

The current system has protected us against highly fractured results and purely regional candidates in almost every election since 1824. The popular vote winner rarely fails to win an Electoral College majority, and even when it does happen the popular vote margin is slim.

One need only examine the history of presidential elections in other countries to see how well our system compares.

Robert G. Natelson

Rob Natelson