How Journalists Became Fahrenheit 451–Style ‘Firemen’

Thursday, November 14, 2019
By Paul Martin

By Jack Cashill
November 14, 2019

“The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.” –Barack Obama foreign policy adviser, Ben Rhodes

A week ago James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas released a hot mic rant by ABC’s Amy Robach lamenting her network’s deep-sixing of the Jeffery Epstein saga three years prior. In watching this video clip and tracking the media response to it I was reminded of a scene in Ray Bradbury’s classic 1951 sci-fi novel Fahrenheit 451.

For the record, 451 degrees Fahrenheit is the temperature at which paper burns. In Bradbury’s novel, the state employs “firemen” to burn books lest the information they contain challenge the official state narrative. “Is it true that long ago firemen put fires out instead of going to start them?” a young woman asks fireman Guy Montag. Montag tells her that’s a crazy idea. “Strange,” she answers. “I heard once that a long time ago houses used to burn by accident and they needed firemen to stop the flames.” Montag laughs.

Not too long ago, ambitious journalists, local and national, prided themselves on gathering information, and their editors prided themselves on publishing it. About 50 or so years ago, however, progressives started to seize control of universities, J-schools included, and newsrooms shifted leftwards with each new graduating class. By 2016, even major newsrooms had become firehouses. Their goal was not to report information but to manage it. In February 2017, MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski unwittingly admitted as much. Said Brzezinski of President Trump, “He could have undermined the messaging so much that he can actually control exactly what people think. And that is our job.” Yes, sadly, that is their job.

By Robach’s math, 2016 was the year ABC killed the Epstein story. In speaking of Epstein victim Virginia Roberts, Robach said, “She told me everything. She had pictures. She had everything. It was unbelievable what we had. We had Clinton. We had everything.” The magic word here, of course, is “Clinton.” The network firemen had to erase the word lest their audience see it or hear it during an election year, and that they succeeded in doing until Robach unwittingly revealed it. Indeed, “unwitting” is about the only way truth sneaks out of a newsroom today.

As ABC surely anticipated, their fellow firemen rushed to the scene to make sure the information didn’t spread. Historically, when faced with a Project Veritas video, the firemen reflexively discredited O’Keefe. Without evidence, they would accuse him of doctoring the video, cite his (bogus) arrest record, and, if need be, call him a racist. This time both ABC and Robach admitted the video was genuine.

Deprived of its collective best weapon, the media cartel resorted to neglect. The networks, New York Times, CNN and others independently decided the story was not newsworthy enough to deserve a minute of airtime or a pica of print. Suppression this time proved to be futile. These firemen faced a challenge Montag never had to, social media. Within eight hours of the video clip’s release by Project Veritas, more than three million people had watched it.

Every major media effort to check the spread of this info seemed increasingly pathetic, but that did not stop them from trying. If a Medal of Valor were to be awarded to firemen for performance above and beyond the call of duty at extreme reputational risk, the honor had to go to the executives at CBS news. At ABC’s instigation, CBS promptly canned young producer Ashley Bianco, a CBS employee of four days. ABC accused Bianco of leaking the video before she left its employ. This termination would have been unseemly enough had ABC execs fingered the right suspect, but they didn’t.

Now working independently, former Fox News host Megyn Kelly interviewed Bianco. When Kelly asked Bianco whether she had been in contact with O’Keefe, the tearful Bianco replied, “I didn’t even know who he was until this week.” There was no reason to doubt her. O’Keefe confirmed that she was not the whistleblower.

Lost in the moment, however, was Bianco’s unwitting revelation: she did not know who O’Keefe was. O’Keefe had been making news since 2009 when he and his partner, Hannah Giles, brought down the $2-billion Hydra-headed monster ACORN. That a producer could have been recruited away from one major network to work for another without ever having even heard of O’Keefe testifies to the good work the firemen had done in suppressing unhelpful information. Forget the audience. Their own producers know nothing.

Lost too in the moment too was Kelly’s failure to show the section of the ABC clip where Robach says “Clinton” or to mention either Bill or Hillary Clinton herself. Epstein’s relationship with Bill Clinton was surely the reason ABC spiked the Epstein story. Not working for a network, Kelly has no excuse for this kind of self-censorship.

At week’s end, CNN aired Brian Stelter’s “Reliable Sources,” a show that “examines the media world, telling the story behind the story” and that allegedly reveals “how the news gets made.” If ever a story deserved Stetler’s attention, it was the Robach story. Stetler, CNN’s fire chief, chose not to mention it. No one was surprised.

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