In ‘On Media Bias,’ I wrote the following:
Bias is a part of humanity, and there really isn’t anything wrong with it. Anyone who reads the stuff I write will know where I stand. I don’t hide anything. Even if you hate things like free markets, Western Civilization, the gold standard, traditional American values, and Donald Trump, you can’t be annoyed with me personally because I do not hide the fact that I support these things and tailor my words accordingly.
What people don’t like is duplicity. And for decades now, the mainstream media has been guilty of it in spades. This is because it (by ‘it’ I mean the collective of ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN and even Fox News, as well as the New York Times, Washington Post and numerous other major papers) purports itself to be objective actors who merely act as sieves, filtering the torrent of news that comes out in a particular time frame into the most pure elements.
In the past few days, Liz Spayd, public editor of the New York Times, has come under fire from those in the leftist old media, merely because she veered into the land of objectivity, which organizations such as the NYT hold themselves out to be. Brian Stelter of CNN implored is fellow journalists on TV to refer to Trump as an authoritarian strongman. Time magazine awarded Trump the ‘Person of the Year,’ but just couldn’t graciously give him the honor without adding some snark in the subheading, calling him the ‘President of the Divided States of America,’ as though he did the dividing as opposed to merely exposing existing divisions:
The old media has been exposed bare during this election cycle, and they are showing no signs of learning from what happened.
The Spayd saga started when she went on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News to discuss a few tweets by NYT reporters which Carlson felt to be unbecoming:
Carlson’s point was that most of those journalists had no business injecting their personal criticisms of Donald Trump into the discussion via their tweeting if they still wanted to be called journalists. He spoke in tougher terms, naturally, but Spayd didn’t necessarily disagree with Carlson’s overall point.
To be sure, some of the tweets in question were rather tame, but a couple of the examples Carlson brought up were instructive:
— Peter Baker (@peterbakernyt) December 2, 2016
We had fearless journalism throughout 2016. Voters wanted they wanted. https://t.co/Qqs08OJ5Wo
— Michael Barbaro (@mikiebarb) November 9, 2016
Those tweets, as Carlson points out, give the impression that the media did its job by actively trying to keep Trump from getting elected, but failed because the pesky electorate wanted what they wanted. This is particularly true of Barbaro, who tried oh so hard to craft a narrative of Trump as Sexual Predator, with two major hit pieces in the NYT over the course of the campaign.
Spayd has been castigated for somewhat agreeing with Carlson’s point that there should be some semblance of objectivity in news reporting, especially when it comes to organizations with prestigious names, such as the NYT. Some suggested she should resign, and others suggested she was a disgrace.
That backlash is telling, in that it seems that for some of these leftist old media types, objectivity is potentially an antiquated thing in 2016. The NYT themselves famously struggled with this issue over the summer. The problem for the old media is that a push away from objectivity in the face of an adversary they don’t like is only going to backfire. Consider Brian Stelter’s assertion this weekend that the media should explicitly refer to Trump as an authoritarian strongman, and to ‘start using those words on TV.’
Stelter bemoans the fact that in authoritarian countries, the first thing a strongman does is to de-legitimize the press. While this is true, Stelter doesn’t realize that his position on Trump is what is doing the de-legitimizing, in that he is, and has been subscribing to the ‘Trump is literally Hitler’ argument for a year now, merely because he disagrees vehemently with Trump’s views.
In the article that accompanied the announcement of Trump as Time Person of The Year, while accurately describing the Trump phenomenon in some parts, was chock full of passages such as this:
His rhetoric had in fact opened up a new public square, where racists and misogynists could boast of their views and claim themselves validated. And to further enrage many Americans, Trump regularly peddled falsehoods, without offering any evidence, and then refused to back down from his claims. He promised to sue the dozen women who came forward to say they had been sexually mistreated by him over the years. He said he might not accept the outcome of the election if it did not go his way. He described a crime wave gripping the country based on a selective reading of statistics.
Rich, considering the Exhibit A of Trump’s ‘racism’ was the fact that in his announcement speech he ‘called Mexicans rapists, murderers and drug peddlers,’ which is only true through a ‘selective reading’ of what Trump said in full, in addition to erroneously thinking that ‘Mexican’ is a race.
As I’ve mentioned before, there is nothing wrong with bias, we all are biased to some degree. I don’t think reporters such as Stelter or Barbaro should be blamed for being biased. But what they do is ascribe an air of objectivity to what is really subjective bias, such that anything that opposes that is conspiracy, or more fashionably, ‘fake news.’
In constructing that paradigm, and then treating those who then disagree with it as thought criminals and worse, the old media is behaving like the authoritarians they accuse Trump of being, while painting the part of the public which doesn’t share their views into a corner. The fact that Stelter’s show is called ‘Reliable Sources’ is a bit of irony that underlines this point.
When disagreement is a social crime, dissidents are going to retreat into the underground and build its own resistance. This is what the alternative media is all about. The objectivity void created by the old media will be filled by others who are equally biased, but simply represent the other side of the argument. And given the old media’s side has shown to have bankrupt messaging, that other argument will become more and more attractive.