The media and the Left

See update for February 1, 2021, at end of post.

One of the people I follow on Twitter was talking about “unity,” a reference I initially thought was to that sought by mainstream Democrats who subvert progressive ideals to neoliberal ends,[1] but turns out to be to that sought by a member of the Boogaloo Bois, a right wing militia group. A member and possible leader of the group, who identifies himself as Magnus Panvidya, espouses capitalist libertarian views, emphasizing socially liberal ideas, including legalized sex work and drugs, and diminishing to near-nonexistence the economic ideas that principally mark capitalist libertarianism in an interview by the self-admittedly controversial YouTube star, Jimmy Dore.[2] The Boogaloo Bois have been described as

a loose affiliate of anti-government militias that comes armed to protests. They are known to wear Hawaiian shirts (not as yet seen at the march [the attempted coup on January 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol]) or camouflage (which was very much on display).

The Boogaloo movement, which aspires to start a second Civil War, gained prominence last year when its members showed up to anti-lockdown protests and racial justice marches. At least one man wearing a shirt advocating for a civil war was present at the Capitol, though it’s unclear if he was an adherent of the Boogaloo Bois.[3]

In the interview, Magnus Panvidya claims that the Boogaloo Bois supported and were embraced by Black Lives Matter and that they acted to restrain violence from other right-wing militia groups.[4] I have not researched the Boogaloo Bois and don’t know how representative the interview subject is of the group, so I will refrain from comment on most of what I saw there.

What was pervasive throughout the interview and, indeed, what I’m seeing a fair amount of on Twitter is an extreme distrust of mainstream media journalism that mirrors that found on the right.[5] It’s apparent to me that some on the Left are abstaining entirely from mainstream news or at least treating information from these sources with extreme prejudice, because they see it as corporate propaganda supporting the status quo. Ongoing efforts to persecute and prosecute Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, and others contribute to a sense that authorities are seeking to suppress the truth about war crimes and other crimes committed by the elite, and, in the name of so-called “objectivity,” the mainstream media has often regrettably appeared to fully participate in that suppression.

To be sure, numerous authors have described a neoconservative journalistic bias in support of capitalism, empire, and the U.S. governmental and economic systems, that sometimes results from indoctrination, that sometimes results from economic conflicts of interest (including with the military-industrial complex), that sometimes results from corporate conflation of marketing with news, and that sometimes results from a shortage of resources that impedes investigative journalism and favors reliance on “reliable” (read “establishment”) sources.[6] All this is part of an ecosystem that reproduces an ignorance that is widespread in Amerikkkan society.[7] There is considerable reason for suspicion.

The trouble is that we have seen what a similar suspicion on the right[8] has wrought, an attempted coup in which thousands of Trumpsters overran the U.S. Capitol, hoping to reverse the election results and an ongoing danger from groups[9] that, for instance, the Boogaloo Bois have fairly or unfairly been lumped in with.[10] In addition, we have seen climate crisis denial, a mass reproduction of white supremacism, and even various forms of denial in the COVID-19 pandemic. The only reasons we have for thinking that similar conspiracy theorizing on the Left may be less dangerous is that protesters on the Left are less often armed and more often motivated by compassion rather than by an individualistic notion of “freedom.”[11]

I’m not going to be able to fix mainstream media today, let alone the authoritarian systems of social organization that have predominantly afflicted humanity since the neolithic.[12] Indeed, to repeat myself ad nauseum,

I have said that the status quo is incapable of responding to our crisis.[13] It is hard even to imagine that the elite care enough to want to respond,[14] as they refuse Medicare For All in a pandemic and a Green New Deal in a climate crisis.[15]

What I can do is to urge my fellow Lefties to refrain from cutting off their noses to spite their faces. Instead, they should strive to follow the example of Bettina Aptheker’s father, who was skilled in using mainstream sources to ferret out what was actually happening.[16] They should use their knowledge of media bias as a filter but not succumb to the temptation to discount the news entirely.

Update, February 1, 2021: source on
Archived at 2021-02-01 12:01:00

David Benfell, Ph.D. Profile picture

David Benfell, Ph.D.

Follow @n4rky

Twitter logo

1 Feb, 11 tweets, 3 min read

Bookmark Save as PDF My Authors

1/11 A real problem is the notion that there is something called ‘objectivity.’ This is a myth. There is no theory–not a single one–of truth that withstands scrutiny. We don’t know what truth is and can never know.

2/11 Qualitative scholars, including critical theorists, acknowledge their own social locations relative to the subjects at hand, empowering readers to ferret out not so much bias as the perspective from which authors perceive their topics. It’s a necessary honesty.

3/11 We should note here further that quantitative scholars do not escape bias. They are merely excused from the requirement to talk or even think about that bias.

Numbers *never* tell a whole story. Statistics are about aggregates.

4/11 Indeed #neoliberalism’s failing lies in a presumption that even if a rising tide fails to lift all boats, it lifts *most* of them, and therefore it adopts a prescription on utilitarian grounds.

5/11 But #neoliberalism turns out to sink far too many other boats, in actuality, a majority of boats while mistaking the extreme lifting of a few outlying boats for the lifting of most or all.

Economists are coming to understand this even if politicians choose not to.

6/11 In choosing #neoliberal dogma, politicians choose a narrative that supports their donors. That motivation is a bias that the ideologues, pointing to their quantitative misrepresentations, refuse to acknowledge.

7/11 Media scholars will tell you something similar about journalism and so-called objectivity. Its history lies in appeal to advertisers, that enabled now-mainstream newspapers to offer cheaper subscriptions and outcompete old labor rags, sinking the latter.

8/11 So-called ‘objective’ journalism is, even when newsrooms insist on their independence, constrained by what advertisers will tolerate, as expressed via publishers, the now-usually corporate owners.

9/11 Those constraints create an atmosphere, a situation in which journalists operate. “Objectivity” is nothing more than the view from that particular, significantly constrained perspective.

10/11 The pretense that objectivity, a “God’s eye view,” exists is, in fact, a lie meant to avoid unsettling the status quo, indeed with journalism even to keep consumers “in a buying mood” and thus supporting advertisers.

11/11 The controversy that @benyt writes about is in fact about the preservation of that pretense of objectivity, a pretense that does disservice to a truth we can’t even properly define.

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Voting for complicity,” Not Housebroken, October 1, 2020,; David Benfell, “On ‘Unity Over Division,’” Not Housebroken, October 8, 2020,
  2. [2]Jimmy Dore, “Radicalized Michigan Anarchist Seeks Unity With The Left,” video, 39:38, January 24, 2021,
  3. [3]Laura E. Adkins and Emily Burack, “Neo-Nazis, QAnon and Camp Auschwitz: A guide to the hate symbols and signs on display at the Capitol riots,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, January 7, 2021,
  4. [4]Jimmy Dore, “Radicalized Michigan Anarchist Seeks Unity With The Left,” video, 39:38, January 24, 2021,
  5. [5]See David Benfell, “Doubting the ‘Fox News bubble,’” Not Housebroken, January 9, 2021,
  6. [6]J. Herbert Altschull, Agents of Power, 2nd ed. (White Plains, NY: Longman, 1995); Eric Boehlert, Lapdogs (New York: Free Press, 2006); Noam Chomsky, Necessary Illusions (Boston: South End, 1989); David Croteau and William Hoynes, Media/Society: Industries, Images, and Audiences, 3rd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge, 2003); David Halberstam, The Powers That Be (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois, 2000); Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent (New York: Pantheon, 2002).
  7. [7]Donaldo Macedo, Literacies of Power (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2006).
  8. [8]David Benfell, “Doubting the ‘Fox News bubble,’” Not Housebroken, January 9, 2021,
  9. [9]David Benfell, “The danger that remains,” Not Housebroken, January 22, 2021,
  10. [10]Laura E. Adkins and Emily Burack, “Neo-Nazis, QAnon and Camp Auschwitz: A guide to the hate symbols and signs on display at the Capitol riots,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, January 7, 2021,; Jimmy Dore, “Radicalized Michigan Anarchist Seeks Unity With The Left,” video, 39:38, January 24, 2021,
  11. [11]See David Benfell, “On ‘freedom,’” Not Housebroken, September 13, 2021,
  12. [12]John H. Bodley, Victims of Progress, 5th ed. (Lanham, MD: AltaMira, 2008); William J. Burroughs, Climate Change in Prehistory: The End of the Reign of Chaos (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University, 2008); Gerhard Lenski, Power and Privilege: A Theory of Social Stratification (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966); Max Oelschlaeger, The Idea of Wilderness (New Haven, CT: Yale University, 1991).
  13. [13]David Benfell, “Off with their heads,” Not Housebroken, August 19, 2020,
  14. [14]David Benfell, “The mysterious expectation that elites give a damn,” Not Housebroken, August 1, 2020,
  15. [15]David Benfell, “It is now too late,” Not Housebroken, September 12, 2020,
  16. [16]Bettina F. Aptheker, Intimate Politics (Emeryville, CA: Seal, 2006).