“People depend on us to tell them what we see, not what we think. What good are we if we’re afraid to do it?” — Matt Taibbi, “The American Press is Destroying Itself”; June 12, 2020. Rolling Stone.
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
Even perfectly good, well-intended actions have consequences. Some of them can be long-term; devastating.
Take the obsession with being “tough on crime” that has swept through the three branches of the U.S. government over the last decades: Republican and Democratic politicians alike have fallen victim to the mentality that a heavily punitive legal system is the only effective answer to universal societal problems like crime, violence, and drug abuse.
From Nixon and Regan, we got the “War on Drugs”. It didn’t do much to curb drug abuse in the U.S., but it did create perverse incentives in the legal system that prioritize investigating and prosecuting drug crime over other, more violent crimes like sexual assault.
In prosecuting drug crimes, a police department and the state can seize property and monetary assets; Prosecuting assault, murder, and armed robbery is less lucrative.
From Bill Clinton and Joe Biden we got “three strikes you’re out” in 1994. It didn’t do much to curb felonies, but did create a system in which millions of nonviolent drug offenders have since been sentenced to life in prison.
Three strikes also inadvertently created a more desperate and dangerous felon: Violent offenders facing a third potential conviction stopped leaving so many witnesses alive to give testimony.
Like other misguided but well-meaning actions, the recent behavior of the mainstream press is having dire consequences.
“Eventually, everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
No Conservative News is Good News
Under current media “standards”, any NYT editor is at perfect liberty to publish op-eds by the Taliban.
The Rolling Stone can put the Boston Marathon bomber on its cover. The murderous head of a terrorist organization personally responsible for a significant increase in sexual violence, rape and mass human slavery can be extolled as an “austere religious scholar”.
But publish the conservative opinion of a sitting U.S. Senator, widely shared by millions of other members of the electorate, and you’ll be a former NYT editor looking for a new job.
That the U.S. press is sympathetic to progressive causes to the point of a dogmatic adherence to one-sidedness may seem convenient to Democrats at the moment.
But one of the reasons the mainstream media is not allowing alternate viewpoints is because acting otherwise might expose what a truly terrible job the media at large is doing.
Under the comforting guise of moral progressivism, the mainstream media is cashing in on crisis after crisis and doing little else.
Coverage of the recent George Floyd protests reveal the weaknesses in the current journalistic model. Rage-inducing click-bait headlines are easy money; any in-depth follow-up which might result in a more nuanced and realistic view of the subject of police brutality or systemic racism in America is lost in the subsequent- if short-lived- kerfuffle which inevitably follows.
When it isn’t ignored completely.
As soon as the tear gas cleared, the breathless, non-stop U.S. media coverage of the protests died down rapidly. Once gut wrenching photos of protestors clashing with riot police decked out in full armored gear weren’t available, members of the media, and even respectable journalists, did not go looking for the bigger story.
“In the end, the graphs above suggest the media saw the protests of the last two-plus weeks not as a stand against racism and police brutality nor a moment for Black Lives Matter, but rather a made-for-TV spectacle of mass protests and militarized police, only to lose interest as the tear gas dissipated.” — Kalev Leetaru, Real Clear Politics. “Protest TV Coverage: Spectacle of ‘What’ Outweighs the ‘Why’”
Besides the money-factor incentivizing one-sided sensationalism, the other problem inherent in this unremitting media chorus line- where toeing the idealogical line of liberal progressivism is a prerequisite and no dissenting opinions are tolerated- is that it creates a perfect situation for your common, garden-variety stool pigeon to thrive.
With every single voice in media singing the exact same tune, pushing the same set of opinions and the same narrative, comes the prefect opportunity for some enterprising person to cross the picket line and expose the weaknesses of the movement from inside.
Journalists jumping on the bandwagon for clicks- or worse, for fear of being ostracized if they deviate from the new media standard of de-platforming, no-platforming, and otherwise censoring views that don’t align with the ever leftward trending of the Democratic Party- will inevitably be usurped by one of their own. This usurper will buck the trend for the exact same reason:
1,000 well-educated, cosmopolitan, liberal journalists saying the same thing; 1 well-educated, cosmopolitan- though slightly more mercenary- liberal journalist breaking ranks to say something different. In this case “different” being instantly controversial.
Indeed, this lack of dissenting opinion in mainstream media has already given rise to an entirely separate media industry.
People interested in news from a more conservative or neutral viewpoint have not been converted by the dearth of this content on mainstream media sites.
They have simply gone elsewhere for their news. In droves.
An entire cottage industry has been the direct result of this blatant one-sidedness. Conservative media, once consisting of solely of Rush Limbaugh and fringe talk radio, has found fertile ground in those resistant to the new model of explanatory, idealistic, activist opinion coverage masquerading as journalism.
Conservative media is now an enormous, multi-billion dollar industry in its own right. And it is growing every day. This is clearly a sign that something has gone awry with the media model which purports to serve Democrats and progressivism.
Surely this wasn’t the intention of well-meaning but misguided journalists determined to advance liberal ideology and defeat Donald Trump.
Career Democrats may think they have the Twitter-media hydra by the tail. Voting Democrats may revel in the obvious fact that the media is so loyal to progressive liberal causes. But if the leadership guard like Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden think they are still calling the tune, they should take a look at what is happening in news rooms across America as moderate Democratic viewpoints are shouted down, cancelled, and forced to confess before being forced out anyway.
Take a look at what is happening in the CHAZ, which had to be rechristened the CHOP, because the BLM movement was somehow being hijacked by young progressives in Seattle demanding to succeed from the U.S. government.
Open discussion and nuanced policy disagreements in a Democracy cannot be yielded to a mob tarnishing a worthy cause with emotional histrionics, un-ironic hyperbole, pithy catch-phrases, Twitter- snark, and degrees in journalism from prestigious universities which did not educate students on the importance of free speech.
The unintended consequences are snowballing, and the credibility of the U.S. media is in graver danger than ever, at a time when public trust in the media would be most helpful to Democratic causes.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)