The Corner

Politics & Policy

The Highly Conditional Priorities of Our National News Media

President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs from the White House in Washington, D.C., April 5, 2019. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

A few respondents have observed that there were some liberals who complained about the Obama administration’s immigration enforcement policies back in his first term. That’s swell, but the amount of attention and outrage directed at separating families, crowded detainment facilities and cooperation with local law enforcement was miniscule from 2009 to 2012 compared to that of today — so miniscule that some of us could fairly conclude that the methods used in immigration enforcement were a second, third, or fourth-tier issue for most Democrats and most people in the national news media, and that many Democrats believed those methods were reasonable and justified as long as their preferred president was running things.

The argument isn’t mere hypocrisy; the argument is that large swaths of the national news media are only truly interested in topics when they are useful for demonizing Republicans. Immigration-enforcement methods that were bottom-of-page-A24 news in the Obama administration become top-of-page-A1 news in the Trump administration.

For example, Vladimir Putin is pretty much the same guy today that he was five years ago and ten years ago and 15 years ago. But the amount of coverage of his regime and the threat it represents to the United States increased exponentially once it became clear that President Trump had a friendly (some would say spectacularly naïve) perspective about him. Even now, the context for most of the discussion about Putin and Russia’s regime remains focused on the treat he presents to Democratic odds of winning in 2020 as opposed to the threat he presents to the United States and its allies. You see overwhelming coverage of the potential for more ridiculous Facebook ads and comparably little coverage of an estimated 120,000 Russian troops in eastern Ukraine.

Facebook and the other Silicon Valley giants didn’t become big and powerful overnight. All of their data collection about users has been going on for years and years. But because they present a convenient scapegoat for Trump’s election, now there are much louder cries that government must step in and regulate them. The Obama reelection campaign app for Facebook access details such as users’ and their friends’ tags, likes and demographics, and it was hailed as genius. When Cambridge Analytica did the same with a personality survey app, it was described as sinister manipulation.

We’re on pace for a $900 billion deficit in 2019. That’s bad. But our annual deficit has been more than $440 billion each year since 2007. It’s been as high as $1.4 trillion in 2009 and as low as $441 billion in 2015. The topic is now once again worthy of editorial-board fury.

National media institutions are rarely outright pro-Putin, but he becomes a much bigger concern when Trump is in office. Our media is rarely outright pro-deficits and debt, but they become a bigger concern when a Republican is in office.

Why do most Republicans think that most Democrats are secretly fine, or at least indifferent, to the way ICE searches for, detains, and expels illegal immigrants? Because most Democrats were fine, or at least indifferent, to the way ICE searched for, detained, and expelled illegal immigrants during the Obama administration.

It is indisputable that large numbers of the national media look at events and ask, “Is this news good for Republicans or good for Democrats?” and seek out the angle that makes their preferred party look good. One might even argue that they’re only interested in these issues as fodder for their preferred narrative, that Democrats are the good guys and Republicans are the bad guys.

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