Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 508, March 1, 2009

"The one hope we have is to aggressively reassert
the libertarian principles that propelled the American
Revolution and turned the world upside down."

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Rocky Mountain News: Not R.I.P., Good Riddance
by L. Neil Smith

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Like many another "great" American newspaper, Denver's Rocky Mountain News, founded just before the War Between the States, is going out of business. Friday, February 27, 2009 was its final day of publication.

Naturally, the other media—TV, radio, the Denver Post which, Bloblike, has absorbed its rival's dwindling market and resources— are in mourning, gushing with phony tears about an historic era having passed. But, as a Denver-area "news consumer" for the past forty-odd years, and now, as a journalist myself, in a medium that would never have sprung into existence if papers like the Rocky hadn't made it necessary, I have rather different thoughts and feelings about the subject.

My history doesn't exactly run over with "great metropolitan newspapers." The first daily I read with any regularity was the St. John's (Newfoundland) Telegram. I was a kid, then, in the era of Sputnik, and I was only interested in news about space and space travel. I wish I could find the huge book of clippings I made back then.

The next daily I knew well was the Pensacola News Journal and it was from that newspaper (as well as local TV and radio) that I learned the hard and heartbreaking way that any resemblance between an event you may be a part of, and media coverage of that event, will be purely coincidental.

And severely punished.

I also learned that most professional journalists are completely ignorant of science, economics, history, the law, and the significance to anyone but themselves of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Is there any wonder why they regularly poll at around 89 percent Democratic?

I have also known USA Today—which could be a good thing in honest hands—the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph (part of a chain held by libertarians including the Orange County Register), and, to a lesser extent, the Las Vegas Review-Journal). All of them, despite whatever viewpoint prevails in the editorial section, suffer from a similar problem: journalism school graduates running the so-called news sections who might as well be alumni of Patrice Lumumba University.

See enough movies and you'll quickly discover that nobody likes the news media. No matter the political viewpoint of the director, the writers, or the actors—from socialist Nick Nolte, to conservative Bruce Willis, to libertarians Clint Eastwood and Curt Russell—TV and newspaper people are invariably portrayed in movies as dimbulbs and dillholes. Media people invariably take this as praise (they actually think they're in the middle of the conventional political spectrum), a sign that they're doing their job right. Their utter inability to see it for what it really is, the lowest rate of customer satisfaction in Western civilization, is another reason they're going under.

Establishment media like the Rocky utterly destroyed the campaign of Barry Goldwater (who might have spared us much of the subsequent pain this country went through after 1964) and cheered for the corrupt old windbag Lyndon Baines Johnson, whose welfare/warfare presidency led directly to many of the messes we find ourselves in now. (With regard to the Libertarian Party, over 30 years, and to Ron Paul's 2008 presidential campaign, they continued down this suicidal path to their dying day, never learning a damn thing from their mistakes.)

During the early years of the Vietnam War, the "mainstream media" took the government's side blindly and unquestioningly, deliberately misreporting protest crowd sizes, making opponents of the war look like idiots at best and traitors at worst. They would, occasionally, criticize specific government policies—the controversy over the M-16's poor performance in the heat of battle—and enthusiastically targeted certain individuals like My Lai scapegoat Lieutenant William Calley.

But it was those very crowds, now filling the streets from curb to curb for miles, that eventually forced the media to reexamine their attitude. When even they could see that the numbers were safely on their side, and the Democratic president they'd helped cram down our throats transformed himself into a lame duck (I remember that night vividly; aside from certain private moments too personal to write about, it may have been the happiest of my life), they turned against the war, but as far as this reader was concerned, they were a decade late.

We called it the "Rocky Mountain Noise", back then, and the "Rocky Mountain Spotted News". (We called its CINO—competition in name only—the "Denver Pest".) Suddenly it was 1968, and newspapers like the Rocky supported a senatorial criminal named Thomas Dodd and his Nazi-derived federal gun law. They had never reported any aspect of Second Amendment politics fairly or accurately, even later, when violent crime rates began to plummet as a direct result of individuals carrying guns for self-defense whether government and media like it or not.

This week, a great deal of the blame for the Rocky's demise has been laid on the Internet. And I suppose, to some degree, it's true. A time finally arrives when, to paraphrase Mr. Spock, you have to give up stone knives and bearskins. However, if the Internet killed the Rocky, it was the Rocky, and other media like it, who loaded the gun. Their sloppy, biased writing made the Internet necessary. Every morning, you'll find more accurate, useful information on the opening page of the Drudge Report than in all of the nation's newspapers, combined.

To compound their error, when the Internet arrived, they treated it exactly the way they treated the libertarian movement, as something a little shady, a little childish, a little dangerous, dirty, and even criminal.

Something to be made fun of—bow ties and propeller beanies.

On the other hand, if the Rocky had ever bothered to pursue and publish the truth, however unfashionable, whoever's ox got gored, whoever's boat it floated, things might have turned out differently. If the Rocky had ever fulfilled its proper Jeffersonian function as an adversary to government—no matter which party was in power—it might have gone on publishing for decades. If it had done more than just reserving space for an occasional token conservative—provided he didn't go too far—and embraced the political equivalent of the Internet, libertarianism, it might be prospering through to the next century.

Mind you, I haven't opened a copy of the Rocky (or the Post, for that matter) in 25 years—you've seen my reasons—but I have watched weekly panel shows featuring its columnists from time to time, and seen the same kind of plasticized, prepackaged, pathetically predictable half-advocacy journalism being practiced by the local TV stations.

I understand that television—which tried to turn phenomena like hula hoops, stacked heels, clove cigarettes, and video arcades into national crises, promoted giant hoaxes like ozone depletion, acid rain, and global warming, and at the same time, lied about Ruby Ridge, the Davidians, and Oklahoma City, while it failed to report on little matters like Agenda 21, the FEMA concentration camps, and the North American Union—is finding itself in a monetary pinch just now and may soon follow the print media down the Darwinian drainpipe. And I can't even say, "Let that be a lesson to you", because most of those who are reading this column right now already learned the lesson, long ago.

And those who need to read it most, won't do it.

Dead dinosaurs can't read.

Four-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith has been called one of the world's foremost authorities on the ethics of self-defense. He is the author of 25 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collected articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at

Ceres, an exciting sequel to Neil's 1993 Ngu family novel Pallas was recently completed and is presently looking for a literary home.

Neil is presently working on Ares, the middle volume of the epic Ngu Family Cycle, and on Roswell, Texas, with Rex F. "Baloo" May.

The stunning 185-page full-color graphic-novelized version of The Probability Broach, which features the art of Scott Bieser and was published by BigHead Press has recently won a Special Prometheus Award. It may be had through the publisher, or at


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