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

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Piling On

During the presidency of Barack Obama, the main stream media acted like the iconic statue of the three monkeys, covering their eyes, mouths and ears to anything that hinted of scandal, bad decision-making, or incompetence. The trained hamsters who arrogantly (and incorrectly) labeled themselves "journalists" were the praetorian guard for Obama, not only shilling for his administration's policies, but burying anything and anyone who might taint his legacy. The result, sadly, was a presidency that was unaccountable and therefore, unconstrained in its effort to reshape the policies, culture and foreign policy of the United States, even when those efforts were disastrous. The result, was broad-based dissatisfaction with government and ultimately, the election of Donald Trump.

Matthew Continetti provides a useful summary of the aftermath:
For years, reporters were content to obscure their ideological dogmas and partisan goals behind the pretense of objectivity and detachment. Though the Washington Post, New York Times, and CNN practiced combat journalism against conservatives and Republicans, they did so while aspiring to professional standards of facticity and fairness, and applying, every now and then, scrutiny to liberals and Democrats worthy of investigation.

Donald Trump changed that, of course. He is so unusual a figure, and his behavior so outlandish, that his rise precipitated a crisis in a profession already decimated by the collapse of print circulation and advertising dollars. The forces that brought Trump to power are alien to the experience of the men and women who populate newsrooms, his supporters unlike their colleagues, friends, and neighbors, his agenda anathema to the catechism of social liberalism, his career and business empire complex and murky and sensational. Little surprise that journalists reacted to his election with a combination of panic, fear, disgust, fascination, exhilaration, and the self-affirming belief that they remain the last line of defense against an emerging American autocracy. Who has time for dispassionate analysis, for methodical research and reporting, when the president's very being is an assault on one's conception of self, when nothing less than the future of the country is at stake? Especially when the depletion of veteran editors, the relative youth and inexperience of political and congressional reporters, and the proliferation of social media, with its hot takes and quips, its groupthink and instant gratification, makes the transition from inquiry to indignation all too easy.

There is still excellent journalism. I would point, for starters, to the work on charter flights that led to the resignation of Tom Price. But the overall tone of coverage of this president and his administration is somewhere between the hysterical and the lunatic. Journalists are trapped in a condition of perpetual outrage, seizing on every rumor of discontent and disagreement, reflexively denouncing Trump's every utterance and action, unable to distinguish between genuinely unusual behavior (the firing of Comey, the tenure of Anthony Scaramucci, the "fine people on both sides" quip after Charlottesville) and the elements of Trump's personality and program that voters have already, so to speak, "priced in." Supposedly authoritative news organizations have in one case taken up bizarre mottoes, like "Democracy Dies In Darkness," and in another acted passive-aggressively by filing Trump stories under "entertainment," only to re-categorize the material as news with the disclaimer (since dropped) that Trump is "a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist, and birther." The mode of knee-jerk disgust not only prevents the mainstream media from distinguishing between the genuinely interesting stories and the false, partisan, and hackwork ones. It also has had the effect of further marginalizing print and broadcast journalists from middle America.
The trained hamsters of the mainstream media have become the propaganda arm of the Democratic party, and like the party that "journalists" overwhelmingly support, they are in a hole and just keep digging. Sure, the Dem base revels in the media's hysterical and often dishonest coverage of the Trump administration, but in the center of the country (both politically and geographically) there's different story to be told.

In order to validate their own ideological prejudices, the media, along with the other three anti-Trump constituencies (the dems, the GOP elites, and the deep state) are doing their best to destroy Trump (for his part, Donald Trump often provides them with an unintentional assist). They hope that his defeat in 2020 will be an "I told You So" moment. But that strategy just might be perceived as piling on, and the result the media so fervently desires might be more elusive than they think.