11/24/16

This is the second part of the seventh posting in the long series discussing many aspects of the 2016 elections. This part deals with the media.

What is there is to say?

I started this blog all these years ago due to my disdain, frustration and contempt for the media at large. While it developed into a general commentary on political issues, in nearly every post I reference the media’s shortcoming in covering the particular issue.

My overall view has hardened. The media in this country (some overseas outlets, as well, such as the BBC or Financial Times, etc.) is terrible. They are breaking their professional principles; they are not serving their traditional role of reporting the truth and keeping politicians’ feet to the fire. Due to a combination of factors such as simple laziness and ignorance but mostly due to significant bias, the media have become a tool serving their preferred point of view and spinning the facts to fit their personal preferences. Most of the time they do it by inference, by level of exposure (give a headline on the front page for a story they want to push while burying the counter or another story they are trying to hide in a small inside page article), by timing, by tone, etc. The vast majority of media players are progressive and/or Democrats. The numbers based on various attempts at research of this issue all point to an overwhelming number of reporters, editors, producers and media executives, etc. being progressives, Democrats and only a tiny minority being conservatives or Republicans. The margins are about 4:1 or maybe even 9:1. These media players (I am not calling them professionals as they are not) maintain that their personal views have nothing to do with their ability to perform their jobs professionally and that they keep their personal views at home, but nothing is further from the truth. Whether they are doing it on purpose or unconsciously, their bias is heavy and obvious.

There are very few exceptions, the most prominent of which is the WSJ, whose reporting is simply exemplary and a test case of how to run a media outlet. The news pages lack any bias whatsoever. The opinion pages, starting with the editorial, clearly hold conservative views but very rarely, if ever, will they allow these views to change the facts. They do interpret the facts commensurate with their view but that is always limited to the opinion pages. Fox News Channel is another exception where, in spite of a coordinated campaign by all other TV news channels and many other media outlets, their reporting is amazingly factual and non-biased. Their opinion talk shows range from far right (Hannity) to right of center (O’Reilly) to fairly center (Megyn Kelly). Their morning program is biased but starting at 9:00 am up until and including their flagship news broadcast of the day, Special Report at 6:00 pm, the reporting is simply factual and professional, bringing both sides of the story.

But that is about it in terms of national news media. The rest are very biased against any conservative agenda and all Republicans. That is the normal state of play. Republicans up and down the ticket are aware of it and in most cases simply accept it and go on. There is simply nothing new here.

However, what happened in this election and post-election has crossed the line from bias against the Republicans to open and active hostility.

According to a poll by Suffolk University and USA Today done just before the elections, 75% of the public felt that the media was biased in favor of Hillary Clinton. That includes 74% of Democrat-leaning voters. Only 7% felt that the cover was pro-Trump. That is a ratio of 10:1. Even an avowed skeptic of polls like me has to admit that these numbers are conclusive.

Here are a few egregious examples of media allowing progressives/Democrats to get away with anything:

  • My recent post “Democrats and Their Subservient Media’s Urban Legend Re Mitch McConnell” (which is a must-read) gives an example of how the media allow Democratic politicians to invent their own facts, repeat it enough times and create a narrative that no one questions, although it is simply a lie.
  • The Benghazi hearing. The media painted Clinton as the winner in the congressional hearing about this tragedy. They focused on the fact that she was there for 9 hours answering tough questions and that, according to the media, nothing new came of that hearing. The facts are different. What was established in that hearing was that Clinton lied bold-faced to the American public. Her excuse for it was thin and would not have been acceptable on any objective basis. However, the media allowed her to get away with lying. It was also established that—while the event was still ongoing and the entire US government was in an emergency mode, while the US Ambassador, her personal appointee, was MIA with his fate unknown—she went home to sleep. An abdication of leadership if ever there was one. Again, the media did not even mention that fact. Trump, while in transition, is not participating in the Daily Presidential Brief (and why would he do that on a daily basis right now??) and CNN/MSNBC simply does not let that go.
  • Comey hearing. That hearing clearly established that Clinton lied under oath to Congress (a felony offense). No one reported on that. Yet, when Trump says one word in a sentence that is not identical to a word he used before, the entire media is all over him for changing his position or even for lying.
  • Trump’s every word was/is analyzed to death and taken to extreme. Did anyone in the media cover what Clinton said in one of the Democratic primary debates?

    
ANDERSON COOPER: Which enemy that you made during your political career are you most proud of?
    CLINTON: Well, in addition to the NRA, the health insurance companies, the drug companies, the Iranians; probably the Republicans.

    ???? The Republicans at large are an enemy on the same level as the Iranians????
Note how much coverage Trump’s inappropriate and offensive, rude remarks against any one of, say, a dozen individuals received in the media and compare that to the coverage given to Clinton’s offensive statement against 30 million—30,000,000—Americans, calling them “deplorable,” adding that they are racists etc. THIRTY Million of us!!!!! The bottom line is that any misspeak by Clinton was waived as an obvious misspeak. Yet EVERY word by Trump is taken literally and exaggerated to an extreme by the media who are making mountains out of molehills.

  • The media, egged on by Democratic politicians led by Clinton, spent a good part of the election campaign blaming Trump for inciting violence. Except for one tiny, limited exception at the very beginning of the campaign, all the violence that occurred was directed AT Trump’s events and supporters BY progressive and Democratic activists. Indeed, there is clear evidence that some of that violence was actually pre-planned and paid for by high-level Democratic Party senior operatives. Where was the media in covering all that violence? The same is occurring after the elections with big media outcry against Trump for expressions of “hate” etc., supposedly by his supporters except that yet again the only reported cases of actual violence are against Trump supporters to a near complete silence from the media on these events.
  • Within 48 hours of election victory, the media ran with the narrative that Trump’s transition is in total disarray. This was covered in typical saturation coverage mode. You could not turn to any news program (ex-Fox) and not hear tons of reporting on this (fake) story. That was 48 hours after the election! Except that the facts are totally different. Obama, for instance, made his first appointment after Thanksgiving in 2008. Trump is already into 7 appointments and Thanksgiving is just here.
  • Having failed on this storyline, the media immediately moved to the next one: there is no diversity in his appointments. Only white men. But he only appointed 5 individuals out of about 100 top posts. Give him a chance. No. Again, saturation coverage on no diversity. Well, he now appointed 2 women, one of whom is a minority, and he offered a cabinet post to an African American.
  • The next point of attack is the conflict of interests with Trump’s business empire. Never mind that he is only two weeks into the TRANSITION. Give him a chance to sort it out. No way. To be clear, there is NEVER going to be a perfect solution for this issue because Trump’s business is vast and because a lot of it is all about his brand. There is simply no perfect way to solve that conflict situation. However, both the law and the voters envisaged that and voted for him anyway. Where was the media for FOUR full years when Clinton as Secretary of State was clearly in conflict of interest with the Clinton Foundation, which was much more egregious, illegal and against promises and written undertakings that she made? Not ONE report or pips from the media during her entire term at State raised this thorny issue. Nada. Now, although it was well known before he was elected and is NOT against the law; they are not giving it a rest.
  • The personal attacks on Trump’s appointees are relentless. Especially Steve Bannon, who is accused of being racist, anti-Semite, anti-women and on and on. Yet, the front-runner for the position of the chairman of the DNC, Rep Keith Ellison, gets no scrutiny at all. Ellison, a Muslim, has a clear history of anti-Semite and harsh anti-Israel rhetoric, which is way outside the consensus in the USA. He was involved with Louis Farrakhan, again outside the US consensus, with Muslim organizations that were, at times, un-indicted co-conspirators in federal terror cases and on and on. Where is the scrutiny on that?
  • Senator Jeff Sessions’ appointment as AG is constantly repudiated by the left because of UNPROVEN allegations—which he denied at the time (and still denies now)—that he made racists remarks more than THIRTY years ago. What if he did? What if he was a racist 30 years ago and has since seen the error of his ways? What about Robert Byrd, the highly respected, longest serving Senator from West Virginia (now deceased) who Clinton called her mentor? Why was it OK for him to be totally respectful and a leading voice in the progressive movement and Democratic Party although, in the 1940s, he was an “Exalted Cyclops” (what the F… does that mean??? Anyway a high official) in the KKK? To be clear, he was a member of Congress since the 50s and a respected Democratic Senator from 1959!?
  • The media interprets everything that Trump says so literally without any logical leeway so as to make it ridiculous and controversial. The appointment of Bannon as Chief Adviser to Trump was in the same press release as the appointment of Reince Priebus; it was first of the two and it was announced that they were equals. Any normal reasonable person would interpret that as follows: Bannon “a top strategists” will have no real executive role. He would do the thinking and strategy and will have the ear of the president. While Priebus is the Chief of Staff with all that that implies. In effect, Bannon is sidelined. In order to maintain the dignity of Bannon, the press release mentions his name first and said that they are equals, which means that Bannon reports directly to the president. According to the media, however, that means that Bannon will be Co-Chief of Staff and that this is a more important position and a recipe for chaos. What nonsense.
  • White-lash story – CNN’s Van Jones (an African American, very much left of center activist) lashed out at the result of the elections about two days after. I wrote about it already in the third installment in this series, “The Global Elites.” The fact that this theory is simply without basis, totally illogical and wrong did not stop Mr. Jones from stating it, did not cause CNN or his fellow pundits sitting on the same panel to question it, to correct him or help him climb down from the tree of invented facts. No. They allowed it to pass and it caught fire with the rest of the media and the pundit class who were looking for something to hang their hat on. Another narrative being invented and no one cares that the facts are showing it to be baseless AND that it totally makes no sense anyway.
  • The media makes a huge story of Trump’s supposed support for racist, nationalistic, white supremacy movements. Trump rejected those many times but that is not enough for the media. Every small fringe group that is happy with the election results is getting huge media exposure, which, by the way, is very helpful to them. Once they elevate these deplorable fringe groups to national level by giving them cover, the media then turns to Trump to denounce them and when he does it, it is never enough. Where was the media in 2008 when President Obama’s personal pastor, the reverend Jeremiah Wright, turned out to be racist anti-Semitic,, anti-American etc.? Let’s be clear about the facts here: Obama sat in this man’s church for 20 years. Obama had the reverend baptize his children. The title of Obama’s first book, The Audacity of Hope, is the name of one of the reverend’s sermons. In spite of all of that, Obama simply denied knowing anything about the reverend’s anti-Semitism, anti-America, anti-white sermons and other well-established extreme views. However incredible that position was given his close and long relationship with the reverend, the media accepted Obama’s denial and moved on, hardly ever mentioning it. Similar treatment was given to Obama’s relationship with Louis Farrakhan and with convicted terrorist Bill Ayers; in both cases the evidence of close relationships and ties was overwhelming by the standard the media uses to judge Trump. Obama was never asked to rebuke any of those.
  • The contempt for Trump is oozing from the coverage. MSNBC pundits and anchors shared a hearty laugh and a minute or two of jokes about Trump use of the term “big league.” While probably not proper Oxford English, this term is not outside the mainstream by any stretch. And you will NEVER, ever see anchors and pundits laugh at ANYTHING that Democratic politicians says unless it is something said against Republicans, and then they laugh in support as opposed to the patronizing contempt they are showing here.
  • CNN should change its name to VNN, the Vitriolic News Network, or possibly VNNN the Vitriolic NO NEWS Network. While during the election campaign they were actively engaged in anti-Trump rhetoric, the shock of the loss made their coverage turn even nastier than that. They are simply vicious in their cover, inventing stories and emphasizing anything they can to make Trump look as bad as possible.

I could go on and on with examples but that is already too long and I have more to say about the media!!

Given that the elections prove that the media coverage was a complete debacle and its understanding of America is flawed, one would have expected that the media will go through a little retrospection to, at the very least, try to understand where they went wrong. Not in the least. There is no need. As always, they know better; it is WE who are wrong, not them. The media are continuing on the same isolated, previous to facts, mind frame and remain convinced of their preconceived notions and ideas.

The two clear strains are evident in the post-elections media cover:

  1. Double down on their anti-Trump stance. Criticize every step and (actual or imaginary) deed or omission by Trump. WHATEVER he does they will seek to present it in the most negative light possible. They are continuing to patronize Trump, and now his transition team, and to maintain their conviction of their own moral superiority.
  2. While obviously admitting that they got it wrong and paying some false homage to “white America working class and non-college educated,” magnanimously accepting that maybe that term is offensive, but of course they did not mean it to be, they are absolutely sure that the problem is only in the messaging, i.e. the poor, uneducated voters did not understand. The Democratic Party, Clinton campaign and the media failed in explaining themselves to we the people.

It simply never dawns on them that they are, and were, simply wrong on the facts, their ideas, their ideals . . . on almost everything. That it is their message and their agenda that was repudiated by the voters. That we really do NOT care about transgender bathrooms or care FOR abortion during the 9th month of the pregnancy. That the voters are much more sophisticated than the media are giving them credit for. That the voters did not fall prey for what the media is now calling “fake news” (the excuse du-jour for the Clinton loss) but, indeed, they did identify the media as being a generator of much fake news by taking spin against Trump to an extreme. They fail to comprehend the possibility that Trump’s tax cutting, regulation busting, peace-through-strength message actually is one that the voters believe in. The only groups affected by fake news are the media and the other elites who really believed themselves and continue to live in their sealed cocoon that I wrote about before, impervious to what really happens and what is actual life out there in the real world.

According to a Gallup poll (see attached) conducted in early September, the trust in the media has sunk to a new all-time low. Even here the media (with the full cooperation of Gallup) are twisting the results. In order to show a less terrible result, the reporting on this poll was that: only 32% of Americans have a “great deal or fair amount” of trust in the media when it comes to news reporting. Indeed, that is an all-time low but if you look at the details of the poll (which is why I am enclosing the actual results here), the situation is much worse. Of the 32%, only 8%—I repeat, only EIGHT percent—of the entire US population have a great deal of trust in the media. That is the ONLY number that really counts. Fair amount is not good enough. The corollary of “fair amount” on the negative side is “not very much” at 41% with no trust at all at 27%! I would say that the phrase “fair amount of trust in news reporting” masks the real truth. Just to show the bias in conducting polls—even by the redoubtable Gallup organization, supposedly the gold standard in polling—when they ask the question regarding Congress there are only two answers available: approve or disapprove. The same poll found that only 20% approve of Congress. What do you think would have been the result if the question re the media would have been asked with only two possible answers: approve or disapprove? How many of the 24% that said that they have a “fair amount of trust” would have said they approve of that situation? I suspect that significantly less than half of those respondents would have interpreted “fair amount” in news reporting being accurate as “approval” thus bringing the approval level to less than 20%. Therefore it is fair to say that, of the basic building blocks of democracy in this country, the one with the lowest approval rating is the media. Americans simply do not trust it and with total justification.

Does that fact cause any retrospection? None. It is hardly even reported on and absolutely no one tries to extrapolate, as I just did, and highlight the fact that really the trust in media is even lower than that in Congress.

The democratic system in the US was built on three equal and independent branches of government: the legislative (Congress), the executive (President and administration) and the judicial (the courts culminating with the Supreme Court). It was long recognized that free and informative media is an essential part of this system and, while the term “the Fourth Estate” may have been coined in different circumstances, it fits the US system to a T. The importance of the Fourth Estate cannot be over stated.

Thomas Jefferson famously said:

“…and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” However he was also known to heavily criticize newspapers for their misinformation.

The following quote by him is chilling:

“I deplore… the putrid state into which our newspapers have passed and the malignity, the vulgarity, and mendacious spirit of those who write for them… As vehicles of information and a curb on our functionaries, they have rendered themselves useless by forfeiting all title to belief… This has, in a great degree, been produced by the violence and malignity of party spirit.”
Thomas Jefferson to Walter Jones, 1814. ME 14:46

On the one hand that is encouraging, as it seems that the US survived the media being unreliable for hundreds of years. However, my feeling is that we are in a worse situation now-a-days.

First, the media today is very influential. Even I catch myself many times blindly believing what I read or hear because I am conditioned to believe what the media tells me. It is only after I force myself to make a rational analysis and seek other sources that I am reminded time and time again: the vast majority of the news that you hear or read in the media is NOT accurate and, in many cases, so much so as to be untrue. That is a frightening thought.

More important, I doubt if the mainstream media was ever, in the history, so uniform in their bias and belief and so intent on delivering on their own agenda as opposed to reporting on others.

I conclude that the Fourth Estate has failed and that we can no longer rely on free media as force for good in our democracy. In no way is that a call to limit the free media. It is a call for all of us to remember that unfortunately we do NOT have a free media.

We need to conduct ourselves accordingly.