Cracking the Frame: Reading Outside the Media Template

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Written By Mike Maharrey and cross posted from Tenth Amendment Center

Engaging in an honest, intellectual argument requires hard work.

So many people simply don’t bother.

Instead, they smear, demonize and attempt to marginalize opponents. If spinmeisters can convince the general public that the messenger advancing the idea they don’t like is so extreme, so radical and so crazy that they don’t deserve consideration, the critic can win the argument by default.

When it comes to progressive ideas, a willing accomplice in the press makes this little game that much easier to play. Many journalists sympathize with a progressive viewpoint, so they willingly perpetuate the labels and templates generated by progressive “thinkers”. And a media herd mentality can quickly spin a party talking point into a forgone conclusion.

Repeat a template enough times and it becomes fact. Journalists quickly stop questioning the underlying assumptions, hanging every story inside a frame that includes subjective, debatable ideas presented as indisputable fact – as if brought down from a mountain etched on stone tablets. Read any mainstream media story on climate change for an illustrative example.

Historian and nullification advocate Tom Woods calls this “zombie journalism.” The term conjures up a hilarious image – hordes of tattered fedora wearing figures in trench coats, clutching pad and pen, march relentlessly forward chanting “racist, neo-confederate, secessionist.” Facts thrown by a desperate public noiselessly absorb into some kind of slimy ooze dripping from their green tinged skin.

In recent weeks, the zombie media has turned its attention to nullification. They can no longer ignore the simple idea that states can and should say, “No!” to unconstitutional overreach. Eleven states have filed bills nullifying the recently passed federal health care act.

By and large, media types like the notion of federal control over health care. And they like the idea of big government doing big things. So it becomes incumbent to shoot down this nullification nonsense.

Problem is, it’s not so easy to tear down the idea. Thomas Jefferson espoused it. James Madison did too. In fact, the concept springs up throughout the history of the United States. If properly explained, it makes logical and philosophical sense.

So – don’t explain it.

Apparently, that’s the strategy progressives plan on pursuing. Instead they demonize nullification advocates as  redneck racists, waving rebel flags, intent on tearing the country apart.

The zombie media has picked up the mantra – neo-confederate.

It’s a pretty good communication strategy, one has to admit. Nobody wants to be called a racist. Even real racists. And nobody wants to see the nation torn apart. Most Americans are at least somewhat patriotic. For all of its faults, we love the United States.

So if opponents can convince the public that nullifiers wear gray uniforms and ultimately hope to destroy the Union, leading the states into a second secession because they hate black people, they can win the debate without ever having to challenge the idea of nullification on its merits.

That’s why you won’t likely see a mainstream media story on nullification without some reference to secession. Take the recent AP story written by John Miller.

In Texas, a nullification proposal threatens state officials who don’t comply with jail time and fines. Last year in Austin, an insurance salesman led a Texas State Capitol rally as protesters hoisted signs urging not just nullification, but secession.

Here’s what’s kind of funny, in an ironic way, but will likely sink into the oozy skin of the zombie journalist without leaving a mark.

Nullification has always been viewed as a way to preserve the union.

When Thomas Jefferson penned the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 and 1799, he made it clear that commitment to the union remained firm.

“…to assure them that this commonwealth continues in the same esteem of their friendship and union which it has manifested from that moment at which a common danger first suggested a common union: that it considers union, for specified national purposes, and particularly to those specified in their late federal compact, to be friendly, to the peace, happiness and prosperity of all the States: that faithful to that compact, according to the plain intent and meaning in which it was understood and acceded to by the several parties, it is sincerely anxious for its preservation:”

In 1833, Virginia judge Able P. Upshur wrote a vigorous defense of nullification. In his mind, it provided a safety valve, a process to challenge unconstitutional federal overreach short of armed rebellion.

“If there be no such principle, is not the federal government as unlimited in its powers as any other government, whatever be its form, whose encroachments on the rights of the citizen can be repelled only by rebellion or other application of physical force?”

State governments serve as a check on federal power, keeping it within its constitutional restraints, and interposing for its citizens to protect their freedoms and liberties.

Keep in mind, states aren’t asserting a right to overturn just any old federal law.

“Now be pleased to bear in mind,” Upshur wrote, “that nullification does not proceed upon any supposed right of the state to repeal a constitutional law, but upon a right of a state to declare an unconstitutional law really is so, and to refuse obedience to it for that reason.”

The nullifying state does not upset the constitutional order. The federal government does that, insisting on enforcing unconstitutional acts and exercising power it does not rightfully possess.

If states do not have a right to judge for themselves the constitutionality of federal acts and interpose for their citizens, it leaves the people no recourse when the feds trample their rights but to insist on secession or other extreme measures.

Nullification provides protection for the states and the people, and a check on federal power within the constitutional structure. It is not meant as a tool for rending the Union or usurping legitimate federal authority – contrary to the media template.

“But Upshur was pro-slavery,” the zombies moan.

And on they march.

Michael Maharrey [send him email] is the Communications Director for the Tenth Amendment Center. He proudly resides in the original home of the Principles of ’98 – Kentucky. See his blog archive here and his article archive here.

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