Just when I had repented, on hands and knees, for wasting hours listening to political ads, speeches, and talk show wisdom, and promised God I’d follow only holiday sales commercials in the weeks to come, I got sucked in again. I was victimized by the editor of Breitbart, the “news” outlet of Donald Trump’s office gopher, Steve Bannon.
It was really a harmless article in response to Kellogg’s boycott of Breitbart. "Kellogg's decision to blacklist one of the largest conservative media outlets in America is economic censorship of mainstream conservative political discourse. That is as un-American as it gets.” The site said it has a community of 45 million loyal readers “who are also a powerful consumer group that reflects the values of mainstreet (sic) America.” (David Ng, L A Times)
I’ve recently struggled to define my own values. Now I see the suggestion that American values can be reflected by a media outlet. So I wondered what those values were, and whether I embraced them.
Hunter Lewis suggests that value systems are often based on emotion. “In particular, they all share three features, corresponding to three basic emotional needs. First, they all focus on a particular group of people, a “chosen” people to use the biblical metaphor. Membership in this group automatically provides emotional security. Second, they all propound a particular way of life or a particular way of organizing society, belief in which provides an emotional identity. For example most of us identify ourselves not just as Americans (members of a group) but also as defenders of an American “way” of democracy and free enterprise. Third, they all require an emotional stimulus, usually expressed as an enemy, a devil, … often another group of people.” (Lewis, H. A Question of Values, p. 87)
To say than one consumer group shares the same emotional values, let alone reflects those of main street America, is a stretch. It is more likely that the person or organization propounding the values is the one being defined. As Bertrand Russell pointed out, a proposal of values is the art of telling others what they have to do to get along with us.
So what values do the folks at Breitbart embrace? Social Darwinism comes closest: the religion of selfishness, winning, and power. “Life is about survival; survival is accomplished through power and dominance; the purpose of life is therefore to gain control of others through whatever means are available, however brutal or coercive, because might is always right” (Lewis, H. p. 208). Or as Ng noted on a visit to Breitbart headquarters, “The door to the main conference room is emblazoned with the hashtag #War — a mantra Breitbart instilled in his team.”
My values are different. George Nye, a colleague and mentor, probably expressed them best in a recent Facebook post:
“While reflecting on how to hold a steady course & make my way thru a "brave new world" of fake news, hatred, violence & betrayal, a reminder came to me: To know what is right is important; but to have the interior power to do what is right is even more important. That power comes from my acceptance of the truth that the 1st Commandment really is 1st. That command is my ultimate authority; all others are lesser authorities which must fall in line under that one. Then, come what consequences may come from my current surroundings, I shall do that which is loving, honest, just & compassionate to the best of my ability, regardless of what others choose to do, in order that I may stay the safe course thru the dark waters. For you & I are citizens who, for good or ill, help shape who we will be as a community, as a people, as a nation.“ (George Nye, Facebook 12/04/16)
I deeply suspect that Breitbart values differ from American values. I’m certain Christian values differ from main street America’s ethics as well. We’ve walked into the prophecy of Jefferson Airplane:
When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead
And the white knight is talking backwards
And the red queen's off with her head (Jefferson Airplane, “White Rabbit”)
No war for me, thanks. I’ll stick with George.