Free Speech or Propaganda? By Marlin Maddoux. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990. 224 pp. Paper, $9.95.
Maddoux begins with his personal reaction to the television coverage of the tragic events at Kent State University in May 1970. That event started him thinking that the American news establishment was conducting what he calls a “really big show in the Barnum and Bailey tradition.” This reviewer was in the Arizona Army National Guard at the time and well remembers the agony felt in the traumatic days following the Kent State disaster. Naturally, my sympathies lay with the repeatedly harassed Ohio National Guardsmen rather than with the much-eulogized student radicals. And I wondered if the American public was getting a true picture of what had occurred there.
The author’s reaction was similar, at least in regard to the latter question. From that date he proceeds to sketch his odyssey from passive acceptance of all that he heard and saw in the media to the place where he realized that this country desperately needed a conservative counter to the increasingly obvious left-leaning network “news” programming. The remainder of the book is both an indictment against the liberal manipulation of the reporting of contemporary events and a history of the development of his own “Point of View” radio broadcast.
As Maddoux sees it, the problem is that what might be called “advocacy journalism” has replaced objective news reporting. American young people with conservative and religious home environments attend journalism schools which teach a persistently liberal bias. Successive crops of incipient journalists are taught to see themselves, not as objective reporters of news as it happens, but as agents of social change with a left-wing agenda to promote. Even those fledgling journalists who manage to maintain a conservative point of view in spite of their liberal education, find that their stories will not be published or aired by the establishment media unless they are written with a decidedly left-leaning slant.
Thus, this nation’s journalistic establishment, which can be shown to have a bias far to the left of the overall U.S. population, perpetuates its leftward momentum. Even if the simple, unvarnished facts do not bear out their prejudices, the media social reformers cling to their opinions, to the point of distorting their reporting to support their preconceived ideology.
On the night of Ronald Reagan’s defeat of Jimmy Carter, this reviewer remembers Walter Cronkite and two of his media elite lamenting the apparent “death of liberalism.” The three media personalities concluded that the American people voted for Mr. Reagan because fifty years of New Deal liberalism had failed!
Yet, even though they admitted liberalism as a philosophy had not worked, they still advocated the continuance of that leftist agenda. In their despair, they actually admitted that they were still committed to liberal political policies even though a half century of implementation had proved them utterly unworkable!
The thesis of Maddoux’s volume is aptly expressed in its title, Free Speech or Propaganda? He more than adequately demonstrates that the answer to the implied question is the latter proposition. Today, although the media elite hide under the cloak of “free speech,” they are actually and deliberately propagandizing the American public.
The author goes on to cite innumerable examples of such premeditated distortions of the truth. Left-wingers are touted as respected national or world leaders, while those with conservative or traditional religious views are either ignored or placed in as bad a light as possible. For instance, compare the typical coverage of radical feminist Gloria Steinem and Eagle Forum’s Phyllis Schlafly. And consider the relative media presentations of the liberal National Organization of Women and the conservative Concerned Women for America. The latter has twice the membership, yet does not get one tenth of the publicity!
In another glaring example of the outright misreprentation of facts, Maddoux cites a February 1989 issue of the Dallas Morning News which carried the headline, “Most In Texas Poll Back Abortion In Most Cases.” Not until the third paragraph did the article state that “only 18% of those polled feel abortion should be permitted under any circumstances.”
Mr. Maddoux ends several chapters with “What Can We Do?” sections. He suggests we can unplug the TV, stop buying the offending newspapers, and write letters to lawmakers, editors, sponsors, and network administrators. Most of all, we can take the time and effort to educate ourselves as to the truth about the news events of the current day and the recent past. The author concludes by saying, “The real key is you! To everyone who asks if one person really can make a difference in this world, I answer a loud, resounding ‘yes!’ Elections have been decided by just one vote. Prayer was taken out of public schools by Madelyn Murray O’Hair, just one woman. Abortion on demand became the law of the land by one woman, Norma McCovey, the ‘Roe’ in Roe vs. Wade. Movements have been started as a result of one person’s vision. Yes, one person can make a difference. And you and I together, and the next person and the next person and the next …”
But why review such a politically oriented book in JOTGES? Although it may sound like a cliche, Free Speech or Propaganda? is must reading for every Christian. In a great number of cases the facts that the media are misrepresenting are about Christians or Christian issues. What we believe and practice as evangelicals is in real danger today because of the left-wing propaganda which is being foisted on the American public as “news.” GES stands for truth, and the distortion of truth’s the concern of every Christian.
John R. Bennie III
Lifeway Educational Resources