YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

October 26, 2013

Krauthammer, Fox News Channel, and the search for Unity

Charles2I looked forward to Bret Baier’s documentary (Charles Krauthammer: A Life That Matters, 10-25-13) in honor of Charles Krauthammer’s just published book of collected essays, partly because I look up to Krauthammer as the wise man of FNC, but partly because I knew little of his family background, other than that he had suffered a terrible disabling accident when still a young man, yet had gone on to become a psychiatrist and a political pundit who famously switched from liberal to neoconservative (i.e., the very liberal anticommunist became a moderate man leaning toward the Right).

CK’s Wikipedia page has nothing about his family background (or his intellectual influences such as favorite reading), but we learned from the Baier doc that his father and mother were Jewish immigrants from Europe, that his father spoke 9 languages, and that his older brother (who died at 59 of cancer) was worshipped by his sibling, and that big brother had shown him the ropes, initiating him into manhood as something of an athlete. One could conclude that CK’s private life would remain very private. No mention of  the accomplishments or character of CK’s mother; only a brief appreciation of his artist wife; and an allusion to a baby son.  His private life remains private, and was perhaps the condition of his being interviewed. Given his career aspirations and chosen universities, I guessed that his family was haute bourgeois in Europe (it was briefly mentioned that father was a real estate developer).

Upon being questioned about  his education, I was surprised to learn that CK started out in “political theory” but finding it “too abstract” he switched to medicine (following his brother?), which he said was more reality oriented and more philosophically challenging. CK further insisted that he remained “in denial” regarding both his accident and his “interior life,” which seemed to amuse him and Baier alike, though I found it bizarre for a self-described “psychiatrist.”

Political science, like its materialist fellow-disciplines (sociology, history, economics, anthropology) is anything but boring to one who seeks to understand contemporary political affairs. It occurred to me that CK might be highly invested in personal power and influence, even if it costs him something in self-understanding. The rest of this blog is about what I gathered from the CK show.

Fox News Channel, like the Wall Street Journal, is owned by Rupert Murdoch, a businessman who profits from maximum eyeballs and circulation, not unlike the rest of mass media. Hence the “moderate” direction of both enterprises. The search for truth takes back seat to the “fair and balanced” mantra. To CK (at least in the Baier show), the Tea Party is not like other social movements, an object of contemplation and analysis as to social base, tactics, objectives, organizational structure, numbers, etc., but rather fanatical and extreme (I am using my words, not quoting CK’s). And yet a few days ago, while promoting this show, the same CK assessed the GOP-Tea Party split as over, celebrating its “fusion.” (CK did the same on Greta’s show 10-31-13.)

This is what I mean by the search for unity at all costs; besides denying the family dynamics that may create lifelong ambivalence and other distortions, the search for unity implies an underlying belief in the neutral state and in the organic nation. Bret Baier’s panels of experts, like Chris Wallace’s, sometimes break out in vociferous disagreement, but we are reassured that beneath the high dudgeon, they and we are all friends.  (The same goes for the hit show The Five.)

Bret Baier panel_640

And yet, the Democratic Party loathes the GOP, ignoring the progressive origins of both modern capitalist parties. It was no big deal for the wise elder statesman of Fox News Channel to switch. (For material on the populist origins of the moderate men/progressives see https://clarespark.com/2009/09/19/populism-progressivism-and-corporatist-liberalism-in-the-nation-1919/. For some thoughts on how fast switches between topics can cause the loss of focus in the viewer, see https://clarespark.com/2013/05/10/losing-focus-and-mass-media/. Not just tabloids, but all news media suffer from this structural problem. For two recent blogs that address the illusion of national or group unity see https://clarespark.com/2013/01/21/citizen-obama-political-pluralism-and-the-elusive-search-for-unity/, and https://clarespark.com/2013/09/17/the-illusion-of-national-unity/.)

[Added 10-27-13: It seems that CK deferred to three men in his life: his father (to whom he gave his Pulitzer medal on his death bed) , the older brother Marcel, and the nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi, who predicted that any civilization advanced enough to figure out [atomic fission] would end up destroying itself. This strain of cultural pessimism is disturbing to me, and perhaps owes more than a little to CK’s life-transforming disastrous accident while still a very young man. In any case, having renounced “psychiatry” and the inner world of feelings,  he should not trot out his credentials as a psychiatrist while making political judgments. For more on his attachment to his older brother Marcel see http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/26/AR2006012601471.html.]

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