Politics & Policy

CNN Is Not So Different from Breitbart

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders waves before the start of the Democratic presidential candidates’ debate in Flint, Mich., March 6, 2016. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
Both outlets are tendentious, partisan, biased, and relentlessly propagandistic for their own side.

CNN went apesnit Friday night on the news that Facebook had tapped Breitbart as one of the sources for its new “news tab.” National Review was also tapped, indicating that Facebook is making an effort to be inclusive in its understanding of what news is. Perhaps Facebook has noticed that a declared ideological agenda, as opposed to an undeclared one, is insufficient cause for disregarding a media outlet.

CNN’s Brian Stelter used a chunk of his Friday-night newsletter to waste everyone’s time reporting that various like-minded individuals were of like mind; literally all of the “experts” he contacted for comment about the inclusion of Breitbart were established anti-Breitbarters who he knew would provide him with anti-Breitbart comments. Why reporters continue to launder their opinions through cherry-picked experts, professors, wonks, and fellow journos is a mystery. Why not just tell us what you, Brian Stelter, obviously think, which is that Breitbart is beyond the pale and ought not be admitted in polite company? Make the case, Brian Stelter! Don’t hide behind your friends’ opinions. The case can very easily be made. Except . . . not by you.

The argument I present is not an ad hominem one. It’s a question of the proper credentials for membership in an exclusive club. Breitbart’s willingness to slant the facts in service of its narratives about immigration, crime, and Islam is comparable to CNN’s disregard for balance on these subjects and others.

Almost everything Breitbart presents is the truth, or at least arguably the truth. The problem with Breitbart is that it is tendentious, partisan, and biased, relentlessly propagandistic for its side and less interested in the pursuit of truth than in scoring points.

So is CNN.

Breitbart plays up true information that advances its worldview while downplaying or pushing back against true information it sees as damaging to its cause.

So does CNN.

Breitbart regularly resorts to name-calling, exaggeration, and even outright hysteria.

So does CNN.

Breitbart can hardly get through a single story without nudging reminders of how it wants you to think. The same is true for CNN. Breitbart is spectacularly unfair to its ideological opponents and cares very little about whether it is using facts in a misleading way. Such is the case with CNN. The only real differences I can detect between the two outlets are that CNN occasionally presents an item on, say, the weather, that gives us a brief break from partisan haranguing, and CNN occasionally makes a half-hearted gesture in the direction of inclusion by, say, inviting Jeffrey Lord on a discussion panel that includes seven, or nine, or ten Trump haters. Or at least it used to invite Lord. Note that CNN fired Lord when he sarcastically said, “Sieg Heil” in a tweet that accused someone else of being a fascist, which he clearly was labeling a bad thing, not praising fascism or identifying with it. CNN, typically, proved that it was either too stupid to understand how insults work or too cowardly to ignore the bleating herds of Twitter sheep who pretended to misunderstand the remark. “Nazi salutes are indefensible,” CNN said in its statement of dudgeon. “Jeffrey Lord is no longer with the network.”

It was just a few days ago that Jake Tapper outrageously tarred Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri as an anti-Semite. “In which @HawleyMO calls a Jewish journalist a ‘smug, rich liberal elitist,’” Tapper said in a tweet that went out to 2 million followers. Tapper is one of the few CNN journalists I respect. If even he is caught up in silly partisan hackery it’s a very bad sign. Hawley had not said or implied anything remotely anti-Semitic, and this was a cheap shot, totally unbecoming of anyone who hopes to be seen as a nonpartisan reporter. It’s Breitbart-ish.

Does Breitbart occasionally report things that turn out not to be true? Yes, on very rare occasions. But so does CNN. It reported in August that the CIA had recalled a top spy from Russia because President Trump had “repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source.” The New York Times clarified that the decision to extract the spy was made in “late 2016” — during the Obama administration. CNN falsely reported in 2017 that Anthony Scaramucci was being investigated by Congress for ties to a Russian investment fund. CNN falsely reported that Donald Trump Jr. was tipped off in advance about the Russia-backed DNC Wikileaks dump of 2016, when in fact he was told about it after the dump. CNN repeatedly bends facts to exaggerate the prevalence of school shootings. In the service of its anti-gun crusade, which has the feel of Breitbart’s anti-immigration campaign, Don Lemon said, “I was able to go and buy an automatic weapon. . . . Most people can go out and buy an automatic weapon.” No, he didn’t. No, they can’t.

Like Breitbart, CNN revels in being petty and making something out of nothing, as it did when it misleadingly edited a video to make it appear that Trump had committed a faux pas by dumping the remains of a box of fish food into a koi pond in Japan. CNN omitted the part of the video that showed Japan’s prime minister had done so first, indicating that Trump was merely following suit. The way CNN obsessively snipes at its rivals at Fox News Channel is pure Breitbart-ism. Stelter rails against FNC with such lunatic energy that he is in effect CNN’s Chief Fox News Correspondent. Major news organizations used to consider such naked, bitter jealousy to be beneath them, but alas David Brinkley is gone.

CNN entertained a panelist — on Stelter’s show, called “Reliable Sources,” no less — who said President Trump “is as destructive a person in this century as Hitler, Stalin, and Mao were in the last century. He may be responsible for many more million deaths than they were.” Anderson Cooper Breitbart-ishly characterized tea-party members as conducting a “War on Obama” and derided them as engaging in “tea bagging,” which is not only partisan and nasty but actually obscene. Cooper descends to schoolyard mockery when “reporting” on Trump-adjacent figures in a way he didn’t for Obama appointees. It is simply not possible that Cooper can look in the mirror and see a judicious, evenhanded, nonpartisan reporter when he does this kind of thing:

And tonight, we commend the bravery of White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, who finally got a brief furlough from West Wing Witness Protection. Grisham popped her head out this morning to check in with her supervisors over at Fox News. Though, it seems like she saw her shadow and [is] now back under ground for six more weeks of stonewalling. . . . Ooh, Stephanie. You got to increase your vocabulary, I mean, your criticism. “Theater” now has been used twice. I mean, Grisham clearly doesn’t get to Broadway enough if she, you know, thinks those press conferences are theater.

Journalism? No, this is just tedious, witless, predictable, undisguised oppositionism. Obama could do no right with Breitbart just as Trump can do no right with CNN. The latter is nothing more than a billion-dollar version of the former.

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