On the cusp of the new year, virtually every media outlet will do some version of the year in review. They will highlight their top stories of 2017. This season there are not a lot of stories to revisit since most of the media has sustained repetitious reporting on just a few narratives. For sure, they will focus in on some irrelevant “latest developments” to fill out their airtime and column inches, but there are very few distinctive stories. What these year-end summaries lack is substance, or as it was once known as, hard news. It will be a regurgitation of their preconceived notions, speculations, anonymous sources, political biases and dubious narratives.
It is with this in mind that I would like to review the BIG NON-NEWS OF 2018 – those media reports that never happened – where the media was unapologetically wrong. These are the stories that received significant coverage based solely on conjecture, opinion and a biased intent to do harm. Most of these news reports start with some anchor or parroting panelist saying, “we don’t know …” and then going on with a prolonged explanation (usually biased) as to the meaning of what they do not know.
Here are my top dozen picks for the 2017 news stories that have produced no real news.
1. Of course, the granddaddy of the no-news news reports is the yearlong intense coverage of the alleged Trump campaign’s collusion with the Russians. After more than a year of accusatory coverage by implication and innuendo, there is yet to surface any hard evidence of that collusion. Despite that lack of evidence, this fact-challenged reporting of Trump/Russian collusion has resulted in enormous coverage. Even as reporters and analysts say they must wait to see what Special Counsel James Mueller comes up with factually, they do not wait. Rather, they continue to spread their dark politically motivated narratives.
2. The Trump/Russian collusion narrative has led to a secondary theme – that President Trump is a pal of Russian President Vladimir Putin. They even suggest – no, they say outright – that Trump is an “asset” of the KGB – a Ruskie version of the Manchurian Candidate. To maintain this contention, the media ignores the prima fascia evidence to the contrary – those actions where Trump has pushed back against Putin.
3. Within the larger Trump/Russian collusion narrative have been a number of subordinate bogus stories. You may recall how the media had a frenzy over their self-generated claim that President Trump would give the Russians back those compounds that were seized by President Obama in the last days of his administration. After days of negative conjecture against the President, that story went out with a whimper and to this day, the Russians do not have those compounds.
4. Then there was all that hypothecating as to why Trump would not sign the sanctions against Russia there were passed by the Republican Congress with the votes of many Trump allies. That narrative ended when he did sign off on the sanctions. In a matter of face-saving reporting, the media claimed, without actual knowledge, that Trump did not want to sign them, but was forced to do so. One must wonder by whom he was forced?
5. Another evergreen narrative is that Trump plans to fire Special Counsel James Mueller despite firm denials from the President, his legal team and his top White House aides. This has been reported for months, but Mueller is still in his job.
6. You can also recall the stories speculating that Trump would give the pink slip to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Another speculative story that never happened.
7. On a variation of the Sessions’ theme, the press reported that Sessions had no choice but to resign after being publicly rebuked by his boss. It seemed more of an effort by the press to humiliate Sessions into resigning. Despite the erroneous claims of the press (Trump would say “fake”), Sessions is still the Attorney General and Trump seems satisfied that he is doing a good job of it.
8. We had two rounds of stories about the pending resignation/firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. In the second round, they even reported on his prospective successor in CIA Chief Mike Pompeo or UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. The reports of Tillerson’s political demised were supplemented with hearsay reports of friction between him and Trump – with Tillerson privately calling Trump a “moron.” The entire brouhaha was denied by Tillerson and the President – and Tillerson is still in his Foggy Bottom job and Pompeo and Haley are still in their respective posts.
9. For months, the anti-Trump press reported that there was no way the GOP could pass the tax bill. Once it seemed that it might pass, the mavens of the media carried the Democrats’ totally false talking points that the middle class would not see a reduction in their taxes. This was more of a last-ditch effort to promote negative public opinion in a desperate hope of defeating the bill. Now that it has passed, even the liberal Washington Post has had to give the Democrats four Pinocchios (a real whopper) for the very false claim that their own reporters advanced. The Post should have extended that dubious honor award to the media that was complicit in spreading the false claims. While this writer does not bandy about the term “fake news,” the reporting on the tax bill by the liberal media was, by definition, fake news — propaganda. Of course, now that the truth is known, that media narrative joins the others that are null and void.
10. One of the currently functioning dump on Trump media narratives is that he will pardon those who have been indicted for crimes unrelated to the Trump/Russian collusion narrative and even those who have not been indicted, but the press speculates that they will. Speculating on what a President will do in a situation that has not fully arisen is the height of journalistic dishonesty. In that spirit, I think I will speculate how I will spend the money when I win the lottery.
11. Media bias rises to an unprecedented level when it comes to the ongoing claims that Trump is certifiably insane … off his rocker. They hype this irresponsible narrative with fear-mongering suggestions that in a moment of madness the President will push the nuclear button. While his personality leaves much to be desired, his appointments, policies and actions strongly suggest a man well in control of his thought process. However, he seems to have infected the media with a madness that some have jokingly called Trump Election Syndrome. The members of the Fourth Estate have no professional ability or right to make such medical assessments, but they do because they own the megaphone.
12. When Trump ordered a partial travel ban on migrants from high-risk countries with poor vetting, the media immediately took on the role of the Supreme Court to assure the public that the action was unconstitutional. They constantly referred to it as a Muslim ban even though it clearly was not. Recent decisions handed down by the real Supreme Court have generally supported Trump’s authority to impose such restriction. Poof! goes another media-embraced dubious narrative.
My hope for the New Year is that we will begin to read stories that are actually based on fact, but I am not optimistic.
In the meantime, I hope you all will have a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!