The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, May 01, 2017

The Dinner

Bias in the media is nothing new. It became blatant during the Obama years where relatively little criticism was levied against even the most egregiously bad decisions and policies, where serious scandals were de-emphasized to protect a president that the vast majority of "journalists" loved, and where the media became (in the words of Glen Reynolds) "Democratic operatives with bylines."

With the upset election of Donald Trump, the media has now morphed into an aggressive and sometimes vicious cadre of partisans. Their approach is predictably petty and anti-Trump, while at the same time being dishonest because it promotes a Democratic narrative rather than factual reporting.

What is different is that the media, distrusted by a clear majority of all Americans, is under attack by Trump. The new president, in his typically imprecise and often hyperbolic style, notes the media's blatant bias frequently, calling it (aptly) "the dishonest media." His tone may be crass, but Trump isn't wrong.

This weekend the national media held an event that has for years been, shall we say, tasteless. A self-congratulatory "White House Correspondent's Dinner" in which media big shots tell the lesser notes how important their job is, how they are simply the messenger, and that how crucial they are to our liberty and freedom. There is truth in all of that, but it becomes muddled when much of what those same media types do borders on propaganda, not journalism.

Byron York comments on the Dinner:
Bottom line: The White House Correspondents' dinner, the premier event of the Washington press corps, was two hours of mawkish self-celebration followed by 30 minutes of Trump-bashing.

The self-celebration began with a video in which past players in the White House-press nexus stressed the importance of cherishing and protecting the role of journalists. It continued with the remarks of Jeff Mason, the Reuters correspondent who is this year's president of the Correspondents' Association, and continued further with a rare joint appearance by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and continued further with the announcement of this year's journalism awards, and continued further with the awarding of scholarships to aspiring journalists, and continued further…well, it simply never stopped.

Mason's remarks managed to be both self-congratulating and defiant, and at the same time proof that Trump is living rent-free in the White House Correspondents' Association's collective heads. For many years, the dinner has been almost entirely about the president. This year, with Trump absent, the Association tried mightily to make the dinner about freedom of the press, about the value of journalism, about the First Amendment — the big banner behind the podium read CELEBRATING THE FIRST AMENDMENT. But the fact was, the dinner was still all about the president. It was just about a president who wasn't there.

"Tonight looks a little different," Mason conceded upfront. Different, but not worse; Trump's absence not only did not harm the Correspondents' Association, Mason told the crowd, it in fact served to reinforce the group's values. "We are here to celebrate the press," Mason declared, "not the presidency."

But the dinner has always been about celebrating the presidency, and — especially in the Obama years — about celebrating the president. Mason, to his credit, began with an important, if awkward, concession: With the exception of one hiccup early in the administration (the time the White House excluded a number of reporters from an off-camera briefing), the press is actually doing quite well under Donald Trump.
Yet, in listening to media types talking about the Dinner and more importantly, their role in our culture, there seems to a defensiveness that hasn't existed before. Media icon, Carl Bernstein for example, seemed compelled to note that his colleagues never trafficked in 'fake news." For a counterpoint, read here.

Presidents (almost always GOP presidents) accepted media bias and held their tongue. Trump does not. And because he criticizes their bias on a regular basis, he "lives rent free inside their heads." Deep, deep down, they know they're not reporting objectively or even honestly, and that's why, in York's words: "Reporters, even big stars with remarkable access to the White House, appeared on the defensive, over and over. We are not fake news, they said. We are not. Not!"

Actually, in far too many instances, they are.