Our Indefensible Media
Individually and collectively, media outlets have a terribly skewed leftist agenda.
Dispatch columnist David French has written an article defending the mainstream media, asserting that much of the criticism coming from precincts on the Right is “lazy and cheap,” “outright dishonest,” and “marked by wild and imprecise generalizations that impose collective punishment for individual failings.” He adds, “Moreover, media critics frequently ascribe evil motives to members of the press and pretend that the press has greater capabilities than it really does — thus rendering it even more culpable when it inevitably makes mistakes.”
Let’s begin with collectivism. If French actually believes the Leftmedia doesn’t have a coordinated agenda, he’s delusional. For almost four years — and almost invariably engendered by leaks from “unnamed current and former government officials,” as well as reporting by former intel officials who work in media — entities like The New York Times, The Washington Post, ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC, and CNN sustained an utterly baseless lie that Donald Trump colluded with Russia to win the presidency.
Moreover, two of those entities, the Post and the Times, won 2018 Pulitzer Prizes for what the awarders stated was “deeply sourced, relentlessly reported coverage in the public interest that dramatically furthered the nation’s understanding of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and its connections to the Trump campaign, the President-elect’s transition team and his eventual administration.”
It doesn’t get more Orwellian than that. Oh, wait — it does. Nikole Hannah-Jones, who won a Pulitzer Prize last week for her ostensibly historical “1619 Project,” now insists her work was meant to be “journalism” and “not a history.” Perhaps Hannah-Jones might illuminate the difference, in terms of accuracy and honesty, considering she was forced to “revise” her initial assertion that the American Revolution was fought to preserve slavery after being called out by historian Leslie Harris, who “vigorously argued against” its accuracy. Nonetheless, what amounts to revisionist race-baiting will now be taught as history in schools around the country.
In short, the supposedly individual failures French laments are being collectively rewarded for lying.
As for ascribing evil motives to members of the press, a 2017 Harvard study revealed that the media’s negative coverage of the current president dwarfed that of his four predecessors. The Media Research Center conducted a similar survey, viewing 1,007 evening news stories about the Trump White House on ABC, CBS, and NBC from June 1 to September 30 in 2018. They found that coverage of Trump was 92% negative.
The media were also highly selective. At that time, “two-thirds of the Trump coverage came from five topics, including the Russia investigation, immigration, the Brett Kavanaugh nomination, North Korea, and U.S.-Russia relations,” Investors Business Daily reported. Missing in action? The successful economy. The very same economy that now receives relentless coverage because it has been battered by the pandemic lockdown. The very same pandemic to which the very same media insisted the president responded too slowly — after they accused him of racism and xenophobia for responding too quickly by shutting down flights from China and Europe.
What about the assertion that it is pretense to believe the press has greater capabilities than it actually does? For the past eight weeks, the American public has been subjected to what is arguably the greatest fear campaign ever devised. To so much as question the “conventional wisdom,” even as that wisdom “evolved” (remember two million Americans were going to die and we weren’t supposed to wear masks?), was to have “blood on one’s hands.”
No politician evinces that capability more than New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. His media-driven popularity soared as pundits like New York Times columnist Ben Smith asserted that Cuomo is “the executive best suited for the coronavirus crisis,” and Carl Bernstein insisted he is showing “real leadership” that Trump “has not.”
Real leadership apparently consists of not only having a worst-in-the-nation coronavirus death rate that has risen to 1,367 per million people but of implementing an utterly unconscionable policy requiring nursing homes to accept infected residents and allowing workers who tested positive for coronavirus to continue treating them. On Sunday, Cuomo finally relented and announced that hospitals can no longer send infected patients to nursing homes. Yet the “executive best suited for the coronavirus” remained unrepentant, insisting, “Whatever we’re doing has worked, on the facts.”
The facts? More than 5,300 people have died from coronavirus in New York’s nursing homes.
French also attributes media malfeasance to “an internet content monster that is always screaming, ‘Feed me! Now!’” and a “consumer audience that very often doesn’t want to hear the truth.”
Columnist Jim Geraghty agrees. “Once the Internet came along, every publisher could see exactly how many people read each article and feature, and it simply didn’t make sense to continue to invest resources in the sections that attracted the least readers, even if the coverage in those sections was an invaluable public service,” he writes. “To one extent or another, outlets all had an incentive to dumb things down and pitch as much of their coverage as possible to the lowest common denominator.”
In short, media malfeasance is our fault. Hence, concepts such as clickbait, agenda-driven story omission and commission, and “if it bleeds it leads” coverage is a response to a generally simpleminded audience with little appetite for nuance, or one that simply demands to have its prejudices reinforced.
Again, utter nonsense, and utterly dangerous. Blaming the audience for decisions to embrace a revenue-driven business model is an abdication of responsibility, especially when those decisions are made by mega-wealthy corporations that could easily afford to operate news divisions at a loss. Moreover, news organizations that dumb things down simply to enlarge audiences aren’t news organizations at all.
More important, an ad-driven model raises a troubling question: What can we expect in terms of honest reporting about major ad providers? The entire setup reeks of corruption — from the top down, not the bottom up, and the attempt to obscure that reality by blaming the audience is completely disingenuous.
(As a side note, that’s one big reason why, since 1996, The Patriot Post has operated with ZERO ads.)
As for French’s assertion that the audience doesn’t want to hear the truth, he might explore which side of the American divide is far more invested than the other in the contemptible concept known as “my truth.”
In terms of genuine truth, Americans are on the verge of learning about what is likely to be the worst scandal in our nation’s history. Yet even as testimony under oath reveals that truth, a news media that is supposed to be a government watchdog has already begun circling the wagons to protect the corrupt actors at the highest levels of that same government.
Why? In reference to Barack Obama and the calculated avoidance of truth, Victor Davis Hanson nails it: “How could the media, Silicon Valley, Wall Street, the bureaucratic state, academia, and entertainment ever process that reality: that a deity was likely the most corrupt president in a generation?”
They can’t and they won’t. And perhaps it isn’t the news audience that comprises the lowest common denominator of the American public.