Are many in the mainstream media “enemies of the American people”?
President Trump has at times claimed they are, spurring an effort led by the Boston Globe, which today joined more than 350 other newspapers, including the New York Times, the Miami Herald, the Minneapolis StarTribune, the Houston Chronicle, and the Denver Post in blasting Trump’s rhetoric.
I began my professional career as a journalist and still occasionally write for the mainstream press. First, let’s stipulate that even at the worst, most biased news outlets, there are journalists out there doing a good job. Even the New York Times, owner of what is almost certainly the most banal, dishonest, and provincial editorial page among major metropolitan dailies, often breaks important and useful stories, especially when these don’t directly touch partisan politics. And while the Times’ news coverage also suffers from severe political bias, the paper follows the standard rule of keeping its news-gathering and op-ed sections largely distinct.
And of course, even some overtly political investigations, displeasing as they may be to Republicans, are good and legitimate reporting. But generally speaking, today’s so-called mainstream media are horrifically biased in how they cover the news and, far more important, how they decide what is and is not newsworthy.
Trump — who, it should be noted, is far more available to the press than his predecessor ever was — has criticized the media vociferously, and for good reason. The term “fake news” was first popularized by Hillary Clinton, but it was ultimately adopted by conservatives because it so perfectly describes our experiences with the media environment.
To give just one trivial recent example from my own career (and I could cite dozens), through the recommendation of a Hoover colleague I was recently asked to take a semi-regular gig on a political panel on one of the largest NPR stations. The subject matter seemed interesting, so despite my strong reservations (based on experience) about NPR, I agreed. The first show went fine, and at one point I sharply criticized a GOP bill that I thought was terrible. Afterwards I heard back from the producer about how much they had liked me and asked me to come back a few weeks later. On the next show, I strongly defended the administration from what I felt were unfair attacks — and pointed out politely but firmly that there were likely no Trump supporters in the NPR newsroom, and that I felt this bias affected some of the questions I was getting.
To my utter lack of surprise, I haven’t heard from them since.
I have talked to many journalists at “mainstream” outlets who insist with great sincerity that their only motive is to get the story right, yet their institutions consistently refuse to hire anyone who might seriously challenge the dominant views in the newsroom. If these newspapers’ editorial or reporting staffs were 20 percent, even 10 percent, made up of Trump supporters — keep in mind that the president won almost half of the vote in 2016 and has an approval rating north of 40 percent today — their news coverage would be dramatically different. But at the end of the day, protestations to the contrary aside, they have no real interest in doing so.
Ironically, while the media pearl-clutch about Trump’s rhetoric, their coordinated campaign against him today has used terminology far more incendiary than anything ever said by the president. The organizers of today’s coordinated effort have referred numerous times to Trump’s alleged “dirty war” against the press. Far from a casual rhetorical flourish, the phrase “dirty war” is a reference to a period in Argentina in the 1970s and 1980s in which the ruling military junta kidnapped and killed an estimated 30,000 overwhelmingly leftist critics of the regime. It is shockingly irresponsible, but incredibly revealing of their own myopia, that journalists allegedly lecturing us on civil discourse are equating some critical tweets and comments by the president with state-ordered mass murder.
For at least a half century most MSM outlets have seriously eroded our democracy through irresponsible and biased reporting barely hidden under the thinnest patina of false objectivity.
Meanwhile, there has been a much more real war against conservatives on the Internet, with some mainstream and many more anti-establishment figures generally being deplatformed, often with the eager approbation of journalists.
Of course, the past was no golden age either. On the contrary, the days in which confirmed liberals such as Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather ruled the media roost from their monopolist position were far worse than today. The fact that confidence in the mainstream media has plummeted in recent decades is a sign of the health, not sickness, of our electorate. The Internet, though now under unprecedented attack as a free-speech zone, nonetheless provides a critical outlet in which conservatives can fight back against the mainstream media’s attempts to control our discourse.
As Ned Ryun, former speechwriter for George W. Bush, eloquently put it in a recent column, “because the supposed wise men of the age refused to fully call out the mainstream media for what they’d become, the pretense [of objectivity] has continued for decades.” As Ryun points out, there was a time not far back in the American past where newspapers were understood to be ideological — even partisan — a situation that still persists in many respects in Europe. How refreshingly honest it would be if we got our daily dose of left-wing agitprop from the New York Liberal or the Washington Democrat rather than the New York Times and Washington Post.
The gaslighting of the American public must end, as must the media’s playing the victim, when for at least a half century most MSM outlets have seriously eroded our democracy through irresponsible and biased reporting barely hidden under the thinnest patina of false objectivity.
As a general rule, I don’t like calling any group an “enemy of the American people,” but if forced to choose between that appellation and the MSM’s preposterous claim that they are champions of open discourse and defenders of the First Amendment — well, honesty is the best policy.