One of the constant beliefs in America has been the importance of a free press to act as a fair and balanced referee between competing political factions and forces. One of the hallmarks of an authoritarian state is control of the media messaging to the public so that only one side is presented. It is not only a matter of which facts are presented and which are censored, it is also how facts are interpreted. Citizens are led to believe what the powerful political/media establishment wants them to believe. It is propaganda by definition
Under authoritarian rule, control of the media is imposed by law and violence. If the media allies to one political party and one set of policies without being restricted by law and violence, the result is essentially the same. They operate as propagandists by selecting subjects that support their partisan alliance – spinning all facts to fit the preconceived political narratives.
While the press has always been prone to individual biases, there has historically been a proliferation of biases on both sides. In fact, many newspapers were named according to their political bias. It was a tradition that goes back to the founding of the Republic. Two of the longest running newspapers today are the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, founded in 1819, (the name Democrat was added in 1878 as a symbol of protest when the Democratic Party took over the south) and the Press-Republican (originally the Plattsburgh Republican) in northeast New York State, founded in 1811.
While most news was generated locally, the new technologies of radio and television enabled news companies to reach a national audience. As the reach of the media industry broadened, the source constricted into very small cultural community – essentially New York City where all the major broadcasters of the time, NBC, ABC and CBS, were located. With the advent of cable, this small community of broadcasters expanded to 24-hour so-called news formats – although most of the airtime is devoted to partisan opinion rather than news.
Along with the nationalization of the electronic media, a number of newspapers developed a national following either by expanded readership or acquisition of publications in distant cities – most notably the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune and U.S. Today. News was also distributed nationally by such magazines as Time, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report – all based in New York City. The media culture and the hard left New York Democrat culture became one.
This narrow base with expanding reach was influenced by another trend. Since the 1960s, the American journalism schools were turning out a new breed of journalists. By the 1970s, the new term was “advocacy journalism” – essentially abandoning the profession’s historic ethic of presenting the facts. Suddenly, the opinions once reserved for the editorial page filtered into the news – and the slant was almost always to the left. The J-schools essentially populated the news enterprises with reporters, editors, producers, columnists and eventually senior executives who were partisan Democrats and philosophically liberal. Polls taken over the course of 25 years show that no less than 80 percent of journalists identify with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.
As a result of a one culture elitist news industry, media bias is a toxicity that has virtually wiped out the Fourth Estate as the all-important referee in the arena of public policy. It is no longer a free press, but rather the public communications component of the currently empowered liberal wing of the Democratic Party. They have become propagandists, prosecuting the opposition conservative Republicans in the court of public opinion much like a prosecutor proffering a one-sided brief in a court of law – and they do so without the restraint of any rules of evidence. Opinions, conjecture, speculation and hypothecation are all given the status of fact. It is reporting based on a belief system rather than a fact-based system.
To better understand the full picture of politics and public policy, it is necessary to scan the full range of news providers, from left to right, in order to see the reports literally censored by partisan coverage. One needs to hear the full statements of leaders to avoid the out-of-context abridgments that characterize the contemporary reporting biases. It is important to separate hard news, of which there is very little, from the partisan opinions that consume most of the air time and print space under the guise of analysis.
Placing opinion as news is an incestuous exercise in which far too many interviews are between reporters and columnists from within the same New York City/D.C. bubble. Even hosts of one show often appear as guest commentators on other shows. It is much like getting a second medical opinion from the same doctor.
As bad as the bias has been in the past, the election of Donald Trump has caused much of the major media to lose all semblance of objectivity. Whether it was the shock of the election, the Trump pugnacious personality, or both, the media made common cause with the Never Trump movement – a movement with only one objective, impeachment and removal from office.
The traditional concept of a presidential “honeymoon” for the first few months was abandoned. Bipartisan support for the new president was briefly expressed immediately following the election. “We all want the president to succeed for the good of the nation,” said President Obama and defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton. Within days, those sentiments were shoved aside by calls for resistance and revolution. There were unprecedented efforts to stop Trump’s inauguration – all amplified and promoted by the elitist New York media.
They have openly deployed all the abuses of journalistic ethics to further that goal. They spend most of their time reporting only stories that negatively or can be made to appear to negatively impact on the President and the Republican Party (with emphasis on the conservative wing). They maliciously intimidate and demonize, by implication and overt statement, the millions of Americans who have supported Trump. They smear the Republican brand.
Not only is the bias in the selection of the stories to air, but they pack panels with pundits who parrot the preconceived narratives. They claim balance by including pseudo-Republican “contributors” who offer no counterpoint but simply mouth the same talking points. On the rare occasions when they interview someone of a modestly differing viewpoint, the anchors and hosts, who traditionally served as moderators, come out from behind the screen of objectivity to argue the liberal Democrat view – often with arrogant judgmental anger. Liberals and Democrats are almost never challenged or subjected to tough questions and are most often fawned over like heroes. Innuendo and guilt by association, once the banes of journalism, are now embraced as a leading characteristic.
Yes, there are more conservative news and opinion outlets, but they are under constant attack from the more aggressive left. The liberal media cabal attacks FOX News as some marginal right-wing outlet when, in fact, their ratings dominate the cable news industry. Based on impartial polls and number of viewers, FOX lives up to its slogan “fair and balanced” better than does CNN, claiming to be “the most trusted name in news.” While FOX and CNN most certainly lean right and left respectively, MSNBC is off the chart in their complete sell-out to the Democrat radical left agenda and the unabashed effort to bring down the Trump presidency.
In an effort to drive Trump from office, the elitist New York/DC news outlets have promoted some of the most dishonest and outrageous false narratives imaginable. Perhaps the most outrageous is that the President is nuts. This is not meant in that more benign meaning of being silly or just wrong. They are pushing a bogus argument that Trump is certifiably insane – too mentally unstable to be in the Oval Office. This is vicious nonsense. The President may have an offensive personality, but he is not unbalanced.
Along with this narrative, the elitists' press gives air time to the fringe impeachment advocates, such as California Congresswoman “Auntie Maxine” Waters, Texas Congressman Al Green and billionaire radical lefty Tom Steyer, who has committed tens of millions of dollars in dis-informative television ads calling for Trump’s impeachment. (Although in Steyer’s case, as I dealt with in a previous commentary, he is likely using the ads to build an email list for a future run for national office).
One of the darkest strategies is the avowed resistance to “normalizing” Trump and the Trump presidency. This is nothing less than a euphemism for not reporting anything positive. Highly successful elements of the President’s overseas travels are under-reported or totally ignored while the Never Trump media obsesses on minor issues that can be spun as negatives. The press proffers the false narrative that nothing is being accomplished by the President and Republicans in Congress when, in fact, any informed left winger should be apoplectic over what is being accomplished. If the accomplishment does not match the media bias, it is discounted or given a negative spin.
Part of the media strategy is to peel off Trump voters, supporters and fellow Republicans. Mika Brzezinski, the amoureux and other half of Morning Joe namesake Joe Scarborough, keeps calling on Republicans to abandon the President. Any Republican who does, such as Senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, get a hero’s welcome and extensive air time. They become profiles in courage within the New York media bubble. Those who defend the President get virtually no air time. When Senator John McCain criticizes Trump, it is top-of-the-hour news. On issues where he supports the President, and he does, he is ignored.
There can be no doubt that the ‘round-the-clock partisan attacks on the President are impacting his polling numbers. The press is pushing hard to have the Democrats take over the Congress in the firm belief that they would impeach and remove Trump. Certainly, a Democrat House would vote for impeachment, but it is less likely that even a Democrat Senate would remove the President from office. That has not diminished the media’s effort to accomplish that goal, however – or to simply run Trump and the Republicans out of office to restore the Democratic Party’s forum for elitist authoritarian control.
The pity of all this is that in pursuing their rule-or-ruin strategy, they are doing great harm to the United States. Their efforts to undermine the presidency makes them an unindicted co-conspirator with Vladimir Putin. It could well be argued that the actions of the Never Trump press have better served the intentions of the Russians than all the contacts between the Ruskies and Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.
Perhaps the greatest threat to the Republic at this point is this modestly veiled attempt to overthrow a duly elected President by the defeated faction in the last election. This is nothing less than a bloodless (so far) coup. This is something that has never been accomplished or even seriously attempted, in the history of this nation. It is only conceivable because the elitist press has created a critical mass by its lockstep allegiance with one side of the political divide – in this case, the liberal authoritarian wing of the Democratic Party. In abrogating their professional responsibilities and ethics to be fair and balanced, they have abandoned their role as a positive force in a free society no matter how much they brag about their importance to the nation. When they say an independent and free press is essential to the welfare of the Republic, they are correct. It is just that they are not filling that role.
Forget about Trump. Forget about partisan politics. For the sake of the nation, we should all hope and pray that the efforts of the left to take over by hook or by crook do not succeed. The election of 2018 could be one of the most important in our history. It will indicate whether the American culture of personal freedom based on a strong federal system to keep Washington in check will survive. Or whether this nation is on the destructive authoritarian path of paternalistic socialism. The future could depend on the restoration of the news media to its historic positive function.