Because of its power over whole populations, the most dangerous force in America today is the mass media.
The Tom Bissell essay on the Underground Literary Alliance has been for me a useful case study. By taking it apart, one can understand the mentality of the person who created it, as well as of those who agree with it. One can extrapolate, from this one essay, to the entire media.
If a media member is able to create outright falsehood—if fellow establishment writers eagerly believe the falsehood—then we can legitimately ask the question: Are many other media essays and accounts falsehoods?
The overarching premise of the Bissell essay is that there is no literary establishment. Yet Tom Bissell himself has spent his entire life behaving as if there is—from his early connections to name writers; to attendance at the renowned Bennington summer workshops to obtain more connections; his internship at Harper’s in New York; his defense of powerful lit figures like Franzen and Eggers; and so on.
Why, then, the mythmaking?
As interesting is the fact that nominally intelligent writers like Garth Risk Hallberg, Maria Bustillos, and Thomas Beller not only agree with the essay in its entirety—they refuse to question it, and flee from questions about it.
This alone proves an unquestioning, monolithic mindset.
Study the New York media for any period of time and you see this worked out on issue after issue. Close to 100% agreement—if you don’t agree on every point you’re treated as subhuman and read out of their ranks. Every major question for them is Yes/No; black or white.
Question the accepted truth and you’re treated not just as a skeptic, but as an outright nut. Ostracized. An example of herd behavior.