Media

Have Journalists Ever Met the People They Write About?

Reporters ask questions of the White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, June 7, 2021. (Leah Millis/Reuters)
The latest explanation of why workers are staying home is astounding.

‘Many business owners,” records Axios, “argue that COVID-era enhanced unemployment benefits of $300 a week are keeping would-be workers at home.” Thankfully, though, Axios is here to explain “the big picture” to them — which, in case you were blissfully unaware, is that “workers are burned out not just by their jobs but by the cultural drama around them — fallout from the Trump presidency, continued police shootings, and the consequences of Jan. 6.”

Once again, I must ask: Has the average member of the press corps ever actually met anyone in America?

This isn’t a conservative-vs.-progressive thing. It’s not a Republican-vs.-Democrat thing. It’s not a coastal-elite-vs.-flyover-country thing. It’s not even a Trump thing. It’s a journalists-vs.-normal-people thing. Outside of the narcissistic and incestuous Thunderdome that houses the American media, it remains the case that people simply do not think in the way that the Beltway-media class believes they do. They are not traumatized by the daily news. They do not make key life decisions based upon the behavior of the president, nor wait for him to leave office before deciding that they are so disturbed that they no longer wish to work. They are not fixated upon the latest congressional MacGuffin or the implications of a given riot or the occasional mistakes of the police. And when they are looking to enjoy a good “cultural drama,” they do not look for it in the same places as the editors of the Washington Post do.

Only journalists and politicians do that. Why? Because they’re freaks. I mean that quite seriously, and I happily include myself in the description. People who argue about the national news every day are straight-up oddities — doubly so when they do it from New York or Washington, D.C.; triply so if they do it in pursuit of a comprehensible political ideology; and quadruply so if they do it using the digital funhouse we call Twitter. Don’t mistake me: There’s nothing wrong per se with being a weirdo. It’s a free country. But there is a lot wrong with being a weirdo who is totally unaware that he is a weirdo. And there’s even more wrong with being a weirdo who spends his days projecting his own interests, obsessions, anxieties, pathologies, and ideologies onto an unwitting and normal population that is nothing at all like him, while claiming that he is giving a voice to that same unwitting and normal population. Increasingly, I see it accepted that “Twitter isn’t real life.” Well, journalism isn’t, either, I’m afraid.

Yesterday, Punchbowl’s Jake Sherman noted that Joe Biden had said, of journalists: “You’re the brightest people in the country.” Then he added, sadly: “Trump didn’t say that.” But why would Trump have said that? Why would anyone say that — other than, perhaps, a paid therapist? I’m sure there are some bright journalists out there, just as there are some extremely stupid journalists out there. But is there anybody with a pulse who believes that, as a class, journalists are the “brightest people” in the United States? If their output is any guide, half of them can’t even read.

Other than moving to the United States in the first place, the best geographical decision I have ever made in my life was to move to North Florida and surround myself with people who are living their lives far more normally than I am. Here, I am friends with plumbers and doctors and teachers and web designers and landscapers and car dealers and retirees — all of whom would be genuinely and uproariously amused to learn how they are regarded by the average journalist. If space aliens were to read a month’s worth of political Twitter ahead of a visit to the United States, they would be forgiven for concluding that every person in the United States was fully engaged in a fight to the death between two coherent and mutually exclusive political creeds, a central question within which was where one stood on the presidency of Donald Trump. But this, of course, is farcical nonsense.

If I were to ask an average person what they thought of what happened on MSNBC or Fox last night, I would elicit a confused stare, followed by a muttered apology that they’d love to stand and talk but that they are late for the school concert or for church or for work or for doing anything other than talking about the crazed musings of Joy Reid or Sean Hannity. If I were to ask an average person whether they are “burned out” by American politics, I would likely be regarded as the sort of person to leave off the invite list next time a child has a birthday party. And if I were to suggest to someone that they might think about quitting their job because of the events of January 6, I would run the risk of being put into an asylum. There are more things in heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy. We deserve better “big pictures” than these.

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