Woke Media Hypocrisy with Batya Ungar-Sargon

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This is a podcast episode titled, Woke Media Hypocrisy with Batya Ungar-Sargon. The summary for this episode is: <p>This week's guest on&nbsp;<em>Truth Over Tribe&nbsp;</em>is Batya Ungar-Sargon, Deputy Opinion Editor of Newsweek and writer of&nbsp;<em>Bad News: How Woke Media is Undermining Democracy.</em>&nbsp;A self-identifying socialist, Batya shares the importance of the working class and how the goal of socialism is to be on their side. In this episode, she and <a href="https://twitter.com/KeithSimon_/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Keith</a> discuss socialism, toxicity in the media, and how cultural Marxism differs from economic socialism. Tune in now!</p><p><br></p><p><strong>Ok, truth time... Did you like this episode?</strong> Tell us by leaving a rating or review! 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 If you did, you won't want to miss what's next (so subscribe now!). And help a friend by sharing this with them. Thank you! 🙏</p><p><br></p><p><strong>Plus, the conversation is just beginning! </strong>Follow us on <a href="https://twitter.com/truthovertribe_" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/ChooseTruthOverTribe" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Facebook</a>, and <a href="https://www.instagram.com/accounts/login/?next=/truthovertribe_/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Instagram</a> to join in on the dialogue! <strong>Want to learn more about Truth Over Tribe?</strong> Visit our <a href="https://info.choosetruthovertribe.com/subscribe?utm_campaign=TOT%20Campaign%203B&amp;utm_source=Show%20Notes%20" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">website</a> and subscribe to our weekly <a href="https://choosetruthovertribe.com/?utm_campaign=TOT%20Campaign%203B&amp;utm_source=Show%20Notes%20-%20website" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">newsletter</a>.</p><p><br></p><p><strong>Resources:</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.blissbooksandwine.com/online-new-books/p/bad-news-how-woke-media-is-undermining-democracy-batya-ungar-sargon" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Bad News: How Woke Media Is Undermining Democracy</a></p><p><a href="https://www.blissbooksandwine.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Bliss Books &amp; Wine</a></p><p><a href="http://info.choosetruthovertribe.com/blog_subscription" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Subscribe To Our Blog</a></p><p><a href="http://info.choosetruthovertribe.com/how-tribal-are-you" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">How Tribal Are You?</a></p>
Batya's perspective on various media outlets
01:20 MIN
How the cultural Marxism in media differs from economic socialism
03:53 MIN
Why the media is drawn to racial issues at the expense of the class issue
02:15 MIN
Did President Trump's economic agenda sound similar to Bernie Sanders'?
04:34 MIN
The story about Kirsten Powers
02:14 MIN
What has Fox News gotten right about the working class?
02:21 MIN

Batya Unger-Sargon: I'm Batya Unger- Sargon, and I choose truth over tribe.

Patrick Miller: Are you tired of tribalism?

Speaker 3: I think a lot of what the left supports is Satanic.

Speaker 4: Only time religious freedom is invoked is in the name of bigotry and discrimination.

Patrick Miller: Are you exhausted by the culture war?

Speaker 6: If they don't like it here, they can leave.

Hillary Clinton: You could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.

Patrick Miller: Are you suspicious of those who say Jesus endorses their political party?

Speaker 6: Is it possible to be a good Christian and also be a member of the Republican Party? And the answer is absolutely not.

Speaker 8: From certainly a biblical standpoint, Christians could not vote Democratic.

Patrick Miller: We trust the lamb, not the donkey or the elephant.

Keith Simon : This is the podcast that's too liberal for conservatives, and too conservative for liberals.

Patrick Miller: I'm Patrick Miller.

Keith Simon : And I'm Keith Simon.

Patrick Miller: And we choose truth over tribe.

Keith Simon : Do you?

Patrick Miller: If you're not familiar with Batya Unger- Sargon, you are in for a treat. She is the kind of person that we need more of in our national conversation. And of course, if you've heard her on another podcast, or read her work in the past, then you'll already know valuable how her voice is. She is smart and gracious. She holds firmly to her beliefs without closing off others, without being condescending toward those that she disagrees with. What I like most about her is that she is a heterodox thinker. She doesn't approach issues from a tribalistic perspective; but she takes each issue, thinks through it, and comes to her own conclusions, even when it goes against her tribe, even when it goes against the people you would expect for her to agree with. Look, I don't agree with her on everything, but I do find her fascinating. Batya Unger- Sargon, Welcome to Truth over Tribe.

Batya Unger-Sargon: Thank you so much for having me. I'm really, really honored to be asked.

Patrick Miller: Well, I've been looking forward to talking to you. I don't even think I had finished your book, Bad News: How Woke Media is Undermining Democracy, before I was like," Man, I've got to talk to this woman." And I think one reason that I wanted to have this conversation is because you are a heterodox thinker. It's hard to pin you down. You don't fit in any of the ideological boxes. You have thoughts that you're sharing that kind of push against all perspectives out there, and I just think that the stuff you're writing and the kind of thoughts you're saying are just super interesting. So I just want to dive in with it here. If you just went up to the average conservative out there, and you just said to them," Hey, what news sources do you think your average socialist listens to, is influenced by?" I'm positive your informed conservative would say," Well, what maybe people identify as the mainstream media: the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC." But you identify, if I understand right, as a socialist. What's your favorite news media? What's your perspective on the Times, CNN, MSNBC, and all these different media outlets?

Batya Unger-Sargon: It's so funny, because my perspective on them is that they are not socialist at all. And oftentimes, you'll hear people criticizing critical race theory, for example, as being socialist or Marxist. And I always say, the problem with critical race theory is that it has an insufficiency of Marxism. And what I mean by that, is that I call myself a socialist. What I mean by that is that I'm on the side of the working class, whatever side they're on; whoever's talking to them and about them, and providing dignity to working class Americans, I'm going to be on that side. That's what it, to me, used to mean to be a socialist; although today's socialists, I think, have really abandoned the fight for economic equality, the fight for the little guy, in order to wage a culture war around issues like gender and race, one that benefits elites economically. And so, that's sort of my critique in the book of the mainstream media. And I think the New York Times, MSNBC, CNN, all of these outlets are doing that. So what they're doing is they are acting like and speaking like they're waging a social justice war on behalf of a more just world, when actually what they're doing is obsessing over gender, obsessing over race, in a way that is alienating to most racial minorities, actually, and propping up their own economic interests, and abandoning the working class of all races. So that's sort of how I see it.

Patrick Miller: Man, there's so much there. Let's just kind of unpack some of that. So what you're saying is that it's almost as if we have two definitions of socialism or Marxism. There's an economic socialism, which I take it that you more identify with, if I understand right. And then there's this cultural Marxism that you're seeing in newsrooms. How long have you been in media? Right now, you're the Deputy Opinion Editor for Newsweek. How long have you been in media?

Batya Unger-Sargon: I have been a journalist since 2012, so 10 years.

Patrick Miller: Okay. So the last 10 years, you've seen kind of a cultural Marxism in media. How is that different than economic socialism that you identify with?

Batya Unger-Sargon: I can't tell you how much I appreciate this question, because it just... It's so rare that somebody reads me so carefully, and really gets at the beating heart of the thing. The cultural Marxism that we're seeing is really an attempt to take something that was in Marx, the idea that there is a power differential between the boss class and the laboring class, and that to laborer is to be exploited. Right? That idea is in Marx, and I don't agree with that at all. What happened in our culture today, is that they took that idea of a fundamental incontrovertible power differential between the powerful and the powerless. For Marx, it was at the economic level. Today, we see that at the gender level and at the racial level. Right? So you see this idea that is actually very academic in nature. Right? The idea that there is a dividing line between the powerful and the powerless, when it comes to race between white people and people of color, when it comes to gender between, cis hetero males and everybody else, trans people, women, et cetera, and that that power differential is the most important thing. So we have replaced a world view on the left that used to be built around right versus wrong; and instead, the only thing that matters is who has the power and who doesn't; so powerful versus powerless, and then superimposing race and gender onto that. And I think that is a fundamentally godless way to look at the world. And it is the opposite of what my hero, Dr. King wanted, which was a world in which we were all being judged by the content of our character, not the color of our skin. By the things we can change about ourselves, our virtues, the way we act, the way we treat other people, that's how you're supposed to judge people. Right? We believe that we were created perfectly in the divine image, and that our job in this world is to make sure that our laws reflect that perfection, that equality. But their worldview, what you've called cultural Marxism, is a view that takes this idea of a fundamental power imbalance and says," That's the most important thing." Now to me, like I said, it is fundamentally at odds with what every person that I respect, every book and worldview that I respect, believes and should believe in. But I think Marx was right, that there is in America today, at least, a Marxist analysis gets at what the real problem is, which is the economic divide, the class divide in America. The fact that our country is being run and written about in journalism, by people who are overeducated with degrees from fancy schools that teach them to have contempt for the two- thirds of Americans that don't have a college degree. And the fortunes of those in that top 10% with those fancy degrees are on the rise. So these affluent liberals, they're actually getting very wealthy while preaching their own virtue on the one side. And the fortunes of the working class are in a downward spiral, to where people are literally committing deaths of despair because they don't see a future for themselves in this country. And so, that divide, that economic class divide, I think the Marxian analysis is very relevant here. And that's what I wish people would talk about is that class divide. And of course, it relates to partisanship, political polarization, not because it's about politics, it's about class; but because the working class, irrespective of who they vote for, tends to be more conservative. So black working class people, black middle class people tend to be much more religious and much more conservative than the elites that represents them, even though they tend to vote for Democrats as well. Working class Americans are much more conservative; because the reason for that is in order to have these kooky views that are now being mainstreamed, these cultural Marxist views, you have to go to one of these fancy schools; because they're so crazy, you never come up with them on their own. Right? The idea that there's no difference between men and women. No working class person is going to come up with that because it's so counterintuitive. Right?

Patrick Miller: I'm sure that you can already tell why I was looking forward to talking with Batya. So you mentioned a couple times in there, something about faith; your faith, or being made in the image of God. What faith do you ascribe to, and how has it impacted your view on these things?

Batya Unger-Sargon: I'm so glad you asked that. I'm Jewish, and I was raised very, very religious, Orthodox. And then I left. I became super liberal, lefty. I became a big feminist. And then I came back. And I'm again, observant; and I feel that religion is so important, and that a society that doesn't have religion, it loses the ability to base its society on right versus wrong. Because without a tradition to root yourself in, when it's just your intelligence, your logic, your brain, there's nothing to stop you from following that down the road of critical race theory and other academic malarkey, I'd like to go call it, to where you no longer have a society that's fundamentally rooted in right versus wrong, and in protecting the vulnerable, which is I think what we have today. So I increasingly think that religion is deeply important to a society and deeply important to America. But it's impossible not to see the sneering and smearing of the faithful from the highest echelons of power on the left. I'm still on the left, but I frequently encounter that, and it's one of the reasons I wrote this book. My book is about contempt. It's about the contempt that the people who think they are the moral ones have for people who have less than them. And I just couldn't sit idly by and watch that anymore.

Patrick Miller: Now you went to one of these fancy schools that you talk about, right? You have a PhD from University of California at Berkeley.

Batya Unger-Sargon: Yeah.

Patrick Miller: Should I assume that was part of your liberal stage or lefty stage that you referred to earlier?

Batya Unger-Sargon: Yeah. People always say to me," What's your PhD in?" And then I'll say," My PhD is in nonsense." Because the secret about getting a PhD is... So I was working on 18th century texts. And I have this also from my Jewish heritage, because our holy books start with the Old Testament, but they're sort of still being written. There's that long literature tradition. And so, every generation, people who are smarter than us; brilliant, brilliant people, sat down and read the same primary texts as us, and came up with brilliant things about it. And so, the idea that you're going to come up with something that's true that hasn't already been said, is just, you have to be so arrogant to think that. Right? So that humility is sort of integral to Jewish text study. If you come up with something, you always start by," I'm sure somebody has said this before." But when you're getting a PhD... So I was studying 18th century text, which meant that for the last 300 years, people who are much smarter than me have been reading those same texts, those same books. So everything that's true about them has just already been said. Right? But you can't say that and get a PhD. You have to come up with something new. And so, there's a premium placed on things that are counterintuitive, that you know are not true, because you know that that guy in the 19th century who was writing about the 18th century, he's the guy who got it right. It's obvious he cracked the code of this book, but you have to say something anyway, in order to have a job. So you have to make something up. And that thing, That mode of thinking, the counterintuitive, the, "You would have thought that this is the true thing, but let me tell you, it's actually the thing you least suspected." That's where I think a lot of our racial and gender conversation is coming from, the counterintuitive. And it's essentially a way of making sure that religious people and working class people and people who don't go to fancy schools don't get to have a say anymore, because you penalize their views. You say that their views are no longer acceptable.

Patrick Miller: So let's dive into this a little bit of your economic socialism. And you talk about the working class. And I think by working class, there's always a term that's used, and people don't really define it; but I think you're talking about people without a college education, people who work 9- 5 jobs, maybe in a factory, or they're a truck driver or school bus driver, a teacher. It's hard to exactly know where to draw the line of what the working class is and what separates them from the elite. Maybe the elite are what people are now calling the pajama class, the ones who can stay at home in a pandemic and work, as opposed to losing their job in a pandemic because you can't do it from home, maybe a car mechanic, something like that. But one of the contentions in your book is that the focus on cultural Marxism, or what you refer to in the book as kind of a woke political agenda, that that focus has allowed the news media to ignore the class differential and the class struggle that certain people in our society are struggling with. And that you say almost it's convenient for them to be able to rail on racial distinctions, and it frees them up from having to think hard about economic division. Can you help us understand why the media is drawn to this racial issue at the expense of the class issue?

Batya Unger-Sargon: Because they've benefited from income inequality, is the sad answer. So journalists used to be working class. For most of the 20th century, most journalists, the vast majority of journalists, did not have a college degree. You just would pick it up on the job. It was like being a car mechanic; you would sort of show up for an apprenticeship, and your boss also didn't have a college degree and he would teach you how to ask questions. Right? And how to write. And there's been this huge status revolution in journalism. Journalists today are way more educated than almost any other industry in America, even though you can't really teach journalism; you don't really need a college degree to do it. And they're in the top 10%. So what do you do when you're a liberal, and you're high on the sense that you're more virtuous than conservatives, and more virtuous than even the people who are a little bit less liberal than you, right, who live next door to you, but you are benefiting from economic inequality. You look at what truck drivers are making and waiters, and you look at what you're paying your cleaning lady and your nanny. And you know that it's pittance compared to what you are making to sit at home in your pajamas and type away on your keyboard on Twitter. How do you sustain a sense of your own virtue in a situation like that, when you're clearly on the wrong side of this issue, benefiting in real ways, economic ways, lining your pockets with something that is driving the incomes down of people on the other side of the fence. And I argue that a moral panic about racism, the invented notion that America is still a white supremacy, the false view that Americans are still racist and getting more and more racist; and that racism poses a huge threat to people of color in America. This invented view was the perfect alibi if you were a rich liberal who still wanted to feel more virtuous than everybody you knew. Because you could say," I'm the one who gets it. I'm the one who understands the true inequality." Without ever having to disrupt the actual inequality that put you on top. That's the argument I make in the book. Now, I think it's really important to point out I don't think that they're doing this cynically. I do think that they really believe it. They don't think that they're lying when they say America is still a white supremacy. But I also don't think they would have allowed themselves to be convinced by something so obviously false if they weren't literally lining their pockets with the proceeds.

Patrick Miller: Yeah. Because you can't change your race.

Batya Unger-Sargon: Exactly.

Patrick Miller: But you could donate more. You could pay a more fair wage. And I think that's one of the points that you make, is it's convenient to find something that you can't change about yourself and rail against that, instead of critiquing yourself about things that you really could change; but it would come at an expense to your own lifestyle, I guess. Right?

Batya Unger-Sargon: Absolutely. And I think that there's even another thing, which is so they'll say," Well, we vote for the people who care about the working class." And I would argue two things to that. The first is, I don't think that an expanded welfare state is a pro- working class agenda. Working class Americans don't want more handouts; they want jobs that give them dignity. And really neither side is offering them that. The Republicans are offering this trickle- down nonsense that immiserates the working class, and Democrats are offering more welfare, which they become surfs. Right? Surfs of rich liberals, right here." Have more money to not work." Right? They don't want that either. They want good jobs, where you can raise a family in dignity with one income, so the mother can stay home and raise the children. And neither side is offering that. But the second thing I would say, is the Republicans did start with the demonizing, but the Democrats have been very, very invested in a narrative that demonizes everybody on the other side of the political aisle as deeply racist. And what they've done by doing that, is they have foreclosed on really important partnerships that could have helped in so many ways. And just as one example, President Trump's economic agenda was very socialist. People don't like to talk about this, but he got rid of NAFTA. He started a trade war with China. He imposed tariffs. He closed the border, which these are all things that Bernie Sanders was talking about doing in 2015 that President Trump actually did. And instead of having the liberals, the lefties be like," Wait a minute. This is pretty good. Let's support this guy. And maybe he'll even do this, or even do that, or even do that." Instead of doing that, they just, every single day," He's the most racist, homophobic, transphobic, blah, blah, blah antisemitic" every day. And that, to me, was just such a missed opportunity to where you see that there are people on both sides, for example, pushing bills to make it illegal for Congress members to trade stocks, very important bills. But there's no world anymore in which they could do that together, and I think that that's very sad.

Patrick Miller: There's so many places I want to go here, and we're going to jump around a little bit from where I was headed. But I think you brought up something that I've been thinking about for several years now. And I haven't heard too many people comment on it. And that is that President Trump's economic agenda sounded a lot like Bernie Sanders' economic agenda back in 2016. And in a sense, they were saying something really different than President Obama and Hillary Clinton were saying. Because Obama and Clinton... And it started back with Reagan, and it kind of built up this idea of the meritocratic system; that if you work hard and do your best, that you can rise to the top. And Reagan started saying it more than any other president up until his time. But the person who really talked in that language was President Obama. Work hard, do your best, and you should be able to move up the system. That, in a sense, was the American Dream. Hillary Clinton preached that in 2016. Here's what she said at Ohio State. She said, and this is about a month before the election. She said," I want this to be a true meritocracy. I'm tired of inequality. I want people to feel like they can get ahead if they work for it." And then all of a sudden, President Trump comes along, and wasn't president at that time. And he never talks that way; never at all. Instead, what he talks about are winners and losers. He says," The system is rigged against you." And that sounded, not in the exact same language, but pretty close to what Bernie Sanders had been saying. And so, I can almost imagine a world, I don't know, if it's 10 years, 20 years, or maybe this world will never come into existence. But President Trump and Bernie Sanders would be in the same political party, and maybe like a Paul Ryan, the former Speaker of the House and Hillary Clinton would be in the same party. What's your take on this meritocracy and the Trump/ Sanders phenomenon?

Batya Unger-Sargon: I could not agree with you more. I think that's such an astute observation. Obviously, we should live in a world where every budding Einstein stuck in an inner city has opportunity to get to Harvard. Obviously, we should live in a world like that. But when that's the only form of equality that you recognize, equality of the elites, it begs the question," What about everybody else? What about everyone else who's left behind in that inner city? What is your plan for them?" And there's no plan for them, because these people only respect intelligence, talent, smarts. They only respect that information, knowledge. They have no respect for the people who make the things, who grow the things, who do the things. They have lost the ability to respect the backbone of this nation. And it's just so gross; and don't even hide it any more. And I agree with you. It's so baked into the meritocratic ideal, which sounds great on paper, but is still about dividing people. It's just that they want the successful people very, very high on top, and everybody else below on the bottom. And I think that that's a very unreligious way to think about things. Because we believe that first of all, in my tradition, we believe that the least among us have the most to teach us. There's no situation in which it's okay to worship some talent, and elevate people like that over others. That's not a just society. A perfect meritocracy is an unjust society. Right? So I love the way that you phrase that. In terms of, can a realignment between the populists on the left, which is me, Sanders, et cetera, and the populists on the right, people like Josh Holly and Marco Rubio and Donald Trump and so forth; and then allow the neoliberals and the neoconservatives to form their own party and worship at the altar of talent and money, and leave the rest of us alone. That is my I dream. That is what I am working for. I think working class Americans are not polarized politically at all. I think Polarization is a totally elite phenomenon because the elites, the political elites, the economic elites, the publishing elites, the journalistic elites, they make money and get power off of telling us that we're divided. But if you get out of New York, get out of D.C., go to church, churches across the country of Democrats and Republicans praying side by side, white people and black people praying side by side. You go to John Deere, you go to any of these union strikes; you have conservatives and liberals standing side by side. They don't care who anybody voted for. It's just not part of their worldview. And it's because I think on the left, we've really replaced community and spirituality with information and knowledge and politics. That's their form of virtue, and so they really obsess over polarization. So I really pray for what you're describing, that we will be able to get past this, and really elevate the working class. And I do get hope when I look around the country, because I think Americans are really much better than their elites.

Keith Simon : We'll be back to the episode in just a second. One of my favorite ways to get questioned for upcoming interviews is to post on Twitter who I'm interviewing before I do the interview. And so, that gives you a chance to pop on there and share the questions you think I should ask. I've got some of my best questions from you, our listeners. So make sure to follow Truth over Tribe on your favorite social platform, and share your best questions so that we can ask them.

Patrick Miller: The meritocracy is, in my opinion now, it's just in some ways really, good because you want people with talent and who work hard to be able to rise to the top. On the other hand, it has some significant drawbacks. And one of those drawbacks is that when you make it to the top, you tend to look around at the people who didn't, and say," Well, it was your fault." You forget that maybe you were born into the right zip code, or maybe you were born with good health, or you were born with a talent that society values economically. There's a lot that goes into your success beyond your hard work. I'm sure you worked hard, whoever it was that made to the top. I'm sure they all worked hard, but there's a lot of people who work hard digging ditches. There's a lot of people who work hard serving in restaurants. There's a lot of people who work hard, and they just don't have the talent, or maybe they didn't have the exposure, the parents, the health, or whatever it is, that allowed them to rise the top. And so, it creates resentment from the working class, to look up and be sneered at by these elites who are going to tell us that we just didn't work hard enough in school or what have you; so I appreciate what you're saying there. Now, remember when the Representative Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez went to the Met gala; and she wore a beautiful dress. I forget exactly who the designer was, but I'm sure it was a very expensive dress. And then on the dress was painted," tax the rich." Now, when you see that, because she, I think, is a part of the Democratic socialist movement, do you see that as speaking truth to power? I went to the Met gala, and I've got this message for you, rich people," tax the rich." Or do you see it as going to the well to do the fancy plays with all the rich and elite people, and using the working class for your own political advantage? How do you interpret that?

Batya Unger-Sargon: So, that was a really interesting moment, because I saw that and I was like," If she had done this before I wrote my book, I wouldn't have had to write my book." Because it was like my whole book in one image. She was acting like what she was doing was very revolutionary, bringing this revolutionary message to the elites; when actually, that message was her ticket of entree. Because all of those elites believe in taxing the rich; liberal elites love high taxes, because they are so rich that it's just not going to even impact their lifestyle. They just want to feel less guilty about it. And they are happy to pay whatever tax bracket you offer them. They really do. And so, her showing up there with that dress; that dress, that$2, 000 dress with those words on it, that was not a contradiction. That was her ticket of entree, that message. That is what gave her access to the upper echelons of power, was being a" lefty socialist," that kind of socialist chic, which is basically, it's all just a luxury product, essentially. Saying," Defund the police," that is a luxury product; because it means you don't live in a place where there's crime, where you have to worry about it. Now I did see a video she made with Vogue while she was getting dressed for the Met gala. And it was really heartbreaking, because it came out two days later after she had gotten just excoriated on both sides, by the conservatives and the lefties, were like," What are you doing?" But in the video, you can see how sincere she was. It was really heartbreaking, because you could see that she really thought that this was a revolutionary act. And it really broke my heart a little bit, because she had no idea what was coming, and she really did not have that self- awareness. And I think it's really important to keep in mind that these people do really believe in what they're doing. Yuval Levin has this great quote, where he says," Washington would be a much easier place to navigate if everybody who showed up there came and said,'I'm going to get all the money and all the power.'" But actually, everybody shows up and says," I'm going to heal the world." And it makes it even more difficult, because some people are very wrong. Let me ask you something though. Are you a lefty? Because you sound like one.

Patrick Miller: Well, I play the middle, and I read fairly widely, and I enjoy the dialogue and pushing back one side against the other.

Batya Unger-Sargon: Uh-huh(affirmative).

Patrick Miller: So when I read your book, I was kind of captured by some of the ideas that you shared. And I'm not sure exactly where I am. I think some people would probably laugh hearing you ask if I'm a lefty. But on the other hand, there are some things I'm sympathetic to that you're talking about. So I try to play it down the middle, maybe be a little heterodox or hard to pin down, kind of like you. So one of the things you talk about in your book, and it's bad news, how woke media is undermining democracy, is you talk about how the newsrooms kind of have this, I think, pressure to conform. And so, what I'm thinking of is the story you share about Kirsten Powers. Now, I came across her because she was on the center left, but speaking to kind of the people on the right. She was the Fox News contributor. She wrote a book about how the left is killing free speech. I read that book. I thought it was a really interesting book several years ago when it came out. But then she switched. She switched teams, in a sense. Can you tell us that story, and maybe what we can learn from it?

Batya Unger-Sargon: So she was at Fox, and she wrote a book called How the Left is Silencing Free Speech, just like you said. And then two years later, she wrote this mea culpa, like," I did not understand how much white supremacy there still is here. I did not understand what my black brothers and sisters are going through. I failed to acknowledge the depth of systemic racism." And then the next thing you know it, she's a contributor at CNN. And it was like she had to repudiate her very apt critique of the left, and acknowledge this" systemic racism" in order to then make it into CNN, where she's worth about$ 25 million at this point. To me, that's the cynicism of that; to get from Fox, where you can critique the left, to CNN, where you have to criticize the right. The way you do that is by talking up systemic racism and becoming rich. Right? And getting rich off of it. That thing, the two sides of the same coin, it's really telling. And I want to stress, I do think that we, and I'm sure you agree with me, there are still areas in America where we struggle with racism. We do have a problem with policing. We do have a problem with mass incarceration. We do have a problem with segregated public schools. But increasingly, Republicans agree with all of this stuff. They're totally on board with this. Mass incarceration, Republicans have been releasing more prisoners over the last 10 years than any Democrat anywhere in America. And I'm talking about mass prisoner releases. President Trump's First Step Act was only the last in a series of this. George Floyd, after his death, it was Senator Tim Scott, a Republican, who put forward a police reform bill that was blocked by the Democrats with the filibuster that they now call a relic of white supremacy, but they used it to literally kill the police reform bill of the only black Republican Senator. So there's just so much cynicism to go around. We do still struggle with certain areas where the government does need to clamp down and find ways to address these remaining issues of racism. But there's no longer a partisan divide over them; and yet, it is being talked up as a partisan divide so that Democrats can get power, can really further their own interests. And I think that cynicism is something I really try to get at in the book, because it doesn't help anybody except the elites.

Patrick Miller: One of the things that you bring out in the book, both presently, but also in the history of media, is how the business model; and I think this is incredibly important and I love this part of your book, is how the business model shapes the media. So we have this idealistic, or maybe we used to have it, maybe no one really has this idea anymore. But that the media is just objectively reporting a set of facts, or what's the truth? But you say," No. Not only is that not true, but the media is presenting news in a way that gets clicks, a way that makes money." But that that's not new; that's always been the case.

Batya Unger-Sargon: Right.

Patrick Miller: And that the media has kind of had a tendency to overlook the concerns of the working class. So I want to get your take on that in a second here. But just one more thing; is that the New York Times is often criticized as not having a regular columnist, contributing columnist, who voted for Trump. And so, the idea is," Look. 44, 45%, whatever it was, of America voted for the former President. And you don't have a columnist who reflects their views, almost half the country." But the New York Times doesn't have a columnist either who comes from kind of the working class. So help us understand how the business model drives the news cycle.

Batya Unger-Sargon: So, for much of the 20th century, the majority of American news was made by local newspapers. And those papers were produced in towns that had a mix of conservatives and liberals, Democrats, and Republicans. And so, the owners of these newspapers, they had a choice. They could report the news with a left wing slant or a right wing slant, and get 50% of the town's focus readers. Or they could report the new straight, and get 100% of the town's readership; and that's what they chose to do. So, journalists have always been much more left wing and liberal than Americans at large, much less religious. But they're sort of crusading tendencies pulling them towards the left were sort of pulled back to the center by their bosses who were either Republicans or the owners of corporations or both; and they wanted, from a sort of profit mode of point of view, the most amount of readers. That's how you got your money, through subscriptions. And they wanted the most amount of subscriptions. Okay. Then, what happened was, you saw really the collapse of the local news industry, and with it, journalism became much more digital and much more coastal. So now 75% of journalism jobs are on the coasts, which means that 75% of journalists live in the most expensive and the most blue American cities. They literally don't know any working class people, and they don't know any Republicans. So they've been totally sequestered. Now, that enabled them to do shotty reporting for sure. But it was only when the business model shifted from pulling them to the center, towards pulling them to the extremes, that they really were able to follow their own tendencies to the extremities. And that happened because in digital media, we measure success not based on mass subscription, but based on what's called engagement, which means how many times is your article shared? How many people quoted it on Twitter? How many people commented on it on Facebook? This engagement shows the advertisers, it shows the people collecting data, how much time readers spent on the page. And that is how journalists now make their money, either through ads or through subscriptions or through gathering people's data and selling it to third party sites. Now, what this means is that because we know who our reader is, because you can track everything online, we can now tailor content to affluent readers. Right? So if you're not local anymore, everybody's national now. Right? So you can say," Look. I can get just the most amount of readers, or I can figure out a way to make sure that my advertisers and the people buying data from me know that 90% of my readership lives in a district, in a zip code, where the median income is$150, 000 a year. And then I can charge more for that data and more for those ads, because those are the eyeballs that everybody wants." So they are now catering to the most elite, the most progressive, and the most extreme readers, because the most extreme readers are the most engaged. And that's what happened at the New York Times. Over the last five years, it's readership became 91% Democrats. 91% Democrats. That's very hard to achieve. Okay? If you're the paper of record, and you spent your whole life telling people," We report down the middle, we have people from all sides." They lost that. In five short years, they lost that. 91% of their readers are Democrats. It's really, really terrible. And as to what you said about Trump voters and working class people; look, there's a big overlap between who voted for Trump and who was working class. And he got 67% of the white working class. But in 2020, he got a lot of working class people who were Hispanic and black and Muslim and Asian and LGBTQ as well. The working class saw Trump as a tribune. And so, it's no accident that they have nobody in their newsroom who's working class, nobody writing columns from the center of the country. And in the run up to the election, in the six months leading up to the election, that they told us every day was the most important election of our time, there was not one op- ed by somebody voting for Trump explaining why they were voting for him. It was an absolute disaster. The op- ed editors were too scared to run it, because they knew they were correct, that they would get fired if they did. And I think that is really, really terrible.

Patrick Miller: So the story kind of is played out that Trump hated the media, and the media hated Trump. And to some extent, I'm sure that was true. He would call them the enemy of the state, which I thought was wildly inappropriate and even dangerous in some situations. But I don't think they were so much at odds as much as they were business partners. Because with Trump's election, the New York Times readership skyrocketed. Their numbers of subscription skyrocketed, the people watching CNN. And as soon as Trump left office, here's just some numbers from the Morning Brew: CNN lost almost half of its primetime viewership in the key 25- 54 demographic in the period between President Biden's inauguration and March 15th; so this is back when he was inaugurated into office. From January to February, unique visitors to the New York Times website dropped 17%, while the Washington Post clocked a 26% decline over the same period. So, it almost seems like they were business partners feeding off of one another, and making money off of one another because then they were giving Trump all kinds of free time, free exposure. So, one of the things that you bring out in the book is that Fox News has done a better job, I guess you'd say; I'll let you say it here in a second. I don't watch much news media on television at all. But Fox News has done a far better job of reaching the working class. Some statistics you give in your book, this is the Fox News audience, based on income; 23% make$ 75,000 or more, 31% make between$ 30,000 and$75, 000, and 33% make less than$ 30,000. So a third of Fox viewers make less than$30, 000 a year. Or here's education; 24% have a college degree or more, 33% have some college, and 43% have high school or less. So almost 80% of Fox viewers don't have a college degree. What is it that Fox has gotten right about the working class, that maybe other media outlets has missed?

Batya Unger-Sargon: So, in the New York Times, they like to say," Fox News is eating my mom's brain." That's an actual headline, I think." Fox News ate my mom's brain." There's a lot of hand wringing, alah, the 2005 book, What's the Matter with Kansas? About white working class voters abandon their economic interests for culture wars. And they're always sort of talking about Fox News in this way. But I think that the truth is the exact opposite. Fox News is not turning the working class conservative. Fox News is conservative because it's catering to the working class. And the working class tends to be more conservative overall. I don't think that they're great on economics. They do still sort of worship at the God of trickle- down economics and tax cuts for the rich and so forth. I don't see a lot of pro- union commentary or whatever. But they do not insult working class values. And so, while both the right and the left have abandoned the working class, from an economic point of view, the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC et al, these guys sit there abandoning the economic interests of the working class, and they sneer at their values. Whereas at Fox, they've managed to unite rich and working class and poor conservatives by simply respecting their faith, respecting their values, being patriotic, not making them feel ashamed of being American; just all sorts of things that are built around the value of autonomy, which is very important in the working class. So the idea that parents have a say in their children's education. Right? This is something you have to turn on Fox News to hear. The idea that black children should not be shot in their beds by career criminals, this is something you have to turn on Fox News to watch. And there's so many issues about class, that it's so clear that the liberal media has simply sided with affluent progressives at the expense of the working class. And Fox is just speaking to a working class audience. I watch Fox News and CNN all day. I have them both up on screens, because that's part of my job as an Opinion Editor.

Patrick Miller: Wow.

Batya Unger-Sargon: Yes. Pray for my soul, yes.

Patrick Miller: That would be a miserable job. You just made me never want to be an opinion editor again. That would be like purgatory. I don't know.

Batya Unger-Sargon: Yeah, basically, you've got to follow the story where it goes, and see how each side is sort of interpreting it. And I have to tell you, the difference between them is not political, and it's not about race. It's that the CNN newscaster is picturing a viewer with a college degree, and the Fox News newscaster is picturing a viewer without a college degree. That's the number one difference between them. So I think you really put your finger on it.

Patrick Miller: Hey Batya, I really appreciate your time that you've spent with this. You have written a fantastic book, Bad News: How the Woke Media is Undermining Democracy. And how can people follow you? Are you on Twitter? What are you active on in social media?

Batya Unger-Sargon: I'm on Twitter. My Twitter handle is @ bungersargon. So just b, and then my last name. You can read op- eds that we publish at Newsweek all the time, and you can order my book. It's available on Amazon. It's available at encounterbooks. com, and it is also available if you feel like supporting a small business, there's a small, brand new bookstore in Kansas City, Missouri. It's owned by two black sisters, and it's a wine salon and bookstore; and it's called Bliss, Wine and Books, and you guys can order it there as well if you want to support a small business. This is so important at this time.

Patrick Miller: Bliss, Wine, and Books?

Batya Unger-Sargon: Yeah.

Patrick Miller: And what's your connection? Are you friends with these two sisters?

Batya Unger-Sargon: Well, I did a book event in Kansas City with American Public Square, which is a debate society; and they connected us with the bookstore. And one of the sisters came out, La’Nesha Frazier; and she was just incredible, just such a beautiful person, religious. And she and her sister love wine and they love books, and they were like," How come there's no space women can go to just enjoy a glass of wine and a good book? And so they started one.

Patrick Miller: Man, they've got my business. They like wine and books; because I'm a big fan of both. Yeah. I feel bad telling you that I bought your book on Kindle through Amazon. And as I was listening to you, I thought," Oh, that's the corporate titan who is taking advantage of the working class, probably." So I wasn't surprised to hear you. One more time, the name of their business, we'll link to it in our show notes. But one more time-

Batya Unger-Sargon: Oh, Thank you so much. Bliss, Wine and Books.

Patrick Miller: Okay. Thanks so much for your time, Batya. I really appreciate it.

Batya Unger-Sargon: Thank you so much. I really, really enjoyed talking to you. Thank you so much.

Patrick Miller: Take care. Thanks for listening. If you found this podcast helpful, make sure to subscribe and leave a review.

Keith Simon : And make sure it's at least five stars.

Patrick Miller: Stop. No. Just be honest. Reviews help other people find us.

Keith Simon : Okay. Okay. At the very least, you can share today's episode. Maybe put it on your social, your favorite text chain.

Patrick Miller: And if you didn't like this episode, awesome. Tell us why you disagree on Twitter, @ truthovertribe_. We might even share your thoughts in an upcoming newsletter.


This week's guest on Truth Over Tribe is Batya Ungar-Sargon, Deputy Opinion Editor of Newsweek and writer of Bad News: How Woke Media is Undermining Democracy. A self-identifying socialist, Batya shares the importance of the working class and how the goal of socialism is to be on their side. In this episode, she and Keith discuss socialism, toxicity in the media, and how cultural Marxism differs from economic socialism. Tune in now!

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Today's Host

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Patrick Miller

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Keith Simon


Today's Guests

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Batya Ungar-Sargon

|Deputy Opinion Editor, Newsweek