This has been a week of massive layoffs at the online magazines of our era, Huffington Post and BuzzFeed. Having evolved from mere opinion journals, many of their news desks are being removed, perhaps 1,000 of their employees have been pink-slipped, and a flood of self-pitying tweets, which include a combination of calls for sympathy, requests for assistance in a job search, and groveling for financial assistance, have made their way around Twitter.
While most people find unemployment a traumatic experience when it hits them and one that naturally inspires sympathy when it happens to others, in place of that sympathy for these mostly young and very liberal journalists there has instead been a lot of schadenfreude—typically including the following not-so-friendly advice: learn to code.
Even President Trump stuck it to the recently unemployed, tweeting:
“Ax falls quickly at BuzzFeed and Huffpost!” Headline, New York Post. Fake News and bad journalism have caused a big downturn. Sadly, many others will follow. The people want the Truth!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 26, 2019
If the news concerned any other group of people, I might consider the president’s remarks impolitic and cruel. After all, like many people, I have long been an avid consumer of news and opinion, both in the pre-internet era and online. I even wrote for my high school newspaper, started a conservative journal in college, and now write as an avocation. And I have known people who have been unemployed, and I realize it’s one of the worst things that can happen to a person.
But I feel about as much sympathy for the snarky recently unemployed e-journalists as I do when mafia hitmen and gulag camp guards are out of work. Both of these affected online operations are malevolent cancers on our public life.
Smug Self-Righteousness as Job Description
Fake news is not just a hyperbolic slogan; it accurately conveys what a great deal of the mainstream media is about. Their M.O. consists of peddling half-truths, ginning up lynch mobs, doxing of private citizens for having politically incorrect opinions, and spreading lies to encourage harassment of conservatives.
A representative case is what transpired with the Covington Catholic boys. BuzzFeed received and released a series of carefully curated images and video that were designed to destroy these young men. The public was already well disposed to buy into the narrative, as it consisted of various archetypes that have been part of the leftist kultursmog of TV, movies, and our public education system for many decades, i.e., the noble Indian “elder,” white bully boys in MAGA hats, stalwart suffering Vietnam veterans, and racist Trump supporters. Their school, the dioceses, and the moribund legacy conservative media all bought into the initial spin and issued condemnations. The facts were irrelevant, as was the youth and immaturity of the “perpetrators,” even assuming this fantasy story had happened the way the mob organizers imagined. No restraint or sympathy was present whatsoever. In fact, BuzzFeed’s Anne Peterson attacked Covington student Nicholas Sandmann for the crime of smiling while white.
Whether it was the recent Covington Catholic High School incident, the release of the completely unverified Steele Dossier of 2016, or the organization of a hate campaign against a Chipotle manager falsely accused of racism—these journals and similar publications have caused incalculable harm and almost no good, as they move quickly to condemn anyone or anything that can be shoehorned into being the villain of a leftist narrative. Even more irritating, they do all of these things with the most extreme lack of self-awareness conceivable.
Normally, I do not favor retaliation of any kind for the expression of personal or political opinions. Free speech as a legal matter has little value and will soon disappear if it is not bolstered by a “live and let live” culture of free speech. Moreover, anonymity is important in these times of thin skins and sharp knives, and doxing should not be routine, nor ever used in cases outside of real crimes and threat of violence. But the Huffington Post and BuzzFeed journals do not favor such a culture; in fact, they believe the world is a better place when the Right is harassed, doxed, dehumanized, and “deplatformed.” They are, in effect, the streetfighters, promoting the same multicultural, politically correct ideology as CNN and the New York Times in a more vulgar and reckless way.
Disruption Across the Board
The economy is always changing. Journalism, particularly, is a hard-hit field, and the hard times predate the rise and fall of these purely online journals. The internet moved print journals online, and they have failed to recover lost advertising revenue, having been hit by a combination of fewer subscribers, more widely available online content, and competition from websites unrelated to news and opinion writing diverting potential advertising revenue.
Of course, the internet has been disruptive to other industries as well. Mom-and-pop retail stores have been decimated by the ruthless price efficiencies of the Walmarts and Amazons of the world. Before the internet, factory workers in manufacturing lost many jobs due to the twin pressures of automation and low-cost manufacturing in China, as well as the short-sighted designs of their own unions.
Some of these job losses were also accelerated by public policy, specifically high rates of immigration, free trade policies indifferent to structural unemployment, and Draconian environmental regulations. But the structural unemployment of local retail outlets, factory workers, coal miners, and other “old economy” jobs occasioned little sympathy from the gang at Huffington Post and BuzzFeed.
Their techno-utopianism said this was all for the greater good and that these backwards people from the heartland probably had it coming due to their endemic racism and prejudice. Most unseriously, dozens of articles proposed these out-of-work 50-year-old coal miners and factory workers with high school diplomas “learn to code.” President Obama even endorsed the idea long before it became hate speech on Twitter.
This raises the question, of course, why did these journalists not learn to code already? Could it be that they were not capable or interested in doing it? Or could it be that even this job was too unstable, open to competition from H1Bs who could undercut wages through the simple expedient of a visa? Could it be that these coding jobs failed to leverage their advantages and were subject to wage pressure from young people and women, who are more interested in office work than in coal mining, lumberjacking, and factory work?
Everyone knows unemployment is a bad thing. Remember the maudlin account of the delayed federal workers’ pay? But I can’t forget Hillary’s obnoxious blaming of the victim with her claim that the middle of the country was simply less dynamic, rather than a territory hobbled by the public policies that she and the Huffington Posts and BuzzFeeds of the world championed. “Learn to code” is unrealistic advice, which is precisely why the aggrieved have pushed it back into the faces of the self-pitying laid-off journalists. As one would expect, it was not well received.
“Learn to code” is today’s equivalent of “let them eat cake.” It’s no less obnoxious and unrealistic when conveyed to out-of-work BuzzFeed and Huffington Post writers than it was when originally thrown at truck drivers, factory workers, and coal miners. But it is so much more deserved.
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