Losing the War in the Name of Principle

CNN journalist Jim Acosta does a stand up before the daily press briefing at the White House, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018, in Washington. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has refused to break with the president and say she does not think the news media is the "enemy" of the American people. Sanders was pressed on the question by Acosta during a White House briefing. In a heated exchange, Sanders listed a litany of complaints against the press and blamed the media for inflaming tensions in the country. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

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(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

There is much commentary here and elsewhere regarding freedom of the press in the age of Trump.  For example, see here, here, here and here... and that is just Redstate.  Obviously, a free press plays an important role in a constitutional democracy and it is why it is guaranteed in our First Amendment.  But, like free trade many people forget the equally important aspect of that freedom- fairness.  And it goes without mention that with freedoms come responsibilities.


Before discussing the professional press specifically, a recent media event and press coverage of that “event” illustrates what conservatism is up against here.  Roseann Barr tweeted out what can accurately be described as a racist rant.  For that, for the first time in television history, a network fired its top star and cancelled its #1 show.  The criticism against Barr came hot and heavy from both the Left and the Right (with a precious few exceptions).  A few days later, Samantha Bee referred to Ivanka Trump as a “feckless c**t.”

Most of those on the Left (with a few precious exceptions) rushed to the defense of Bee who was punished with a week off and a back-handed apology.  Her transgression was often explained away as she did what comedians are supposed to do- “push the envelope” and “make people feel uneasy.”  And here I thought the role of a comedian was to make people laugh.

The problem is worse when one realizes that Barr’s was a random, one-off Tweet in the middle of the night.  Bee’s, on the other hand, was a scripted monologue said before a live audience and recorded.  One involved race, the other gender.  While Roseann Barr dominated the news cycle, Bee was relegated to 30-second spots on CNN.  Yet a few years previous CNN had extensive coverage of an unknown congressional staffer who criticized the Obama girls on her private Facebook page.  The staffer was eventually fired.  Progressives can behave badly, others not so much.


When brought to the attention of the media, they said the situation between Bee and Barr was a “false equivalency.”  To see how false it is, simply imagine the reaction if Samantha Bee had used the name Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, or Elizabeth Warren instead of Ivanka Trump.  We would still be hearing about it today.

We see this same tendency when it comes to the professional press.  It is often said it is their job to “ask the tough questions” just as the comedian is supposed to “push the envelope.”  In both cases, the pundits are over-thinking their roles and ascribing more gravitas to both than either is due.

Since the beginning of the Republic, the professional press was biased.  Before the age of television, newspapers ruled the roost and whether it was fomenting a Civil War, expansion west, wars with Spain or later with Germany, the role of the press in these things is well-documented by historians.  They were powerful conduits in the shaping of public opinion and they had an agenda.

For a brief time, television avoided the tendency and attempted to report the news without bias.  That changed in the 1960’s with coverage of the war in Vietnam.  Since then, probably because the graduates of journalism schools have been taught the mantra, all pretense at objectively reporting the news has been thrown out the window.  And the 24/7 news cycle now consists of 30 seconds of news and 30 minutes of analysis and punditry.


There is a reason that numerous polls show journalists slightly above telephone solicitors in terms of popularity among professions.  “Reporters” have proven they are selectively aggressive in their pursuit of “the truth” and “asking the tough questions.”  Where were the tough questions and the relentless pursuit of truth from 2009 to 2017?  Where were these self-proclaimed guardians of democracy during the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups, or Fast and Furious, or Benghazi, or the transport of cash to a terrorist regime in Iran?  Obama got away with a lot because he knew he could get away with a lot since he had willing allies in the media.

Among the self-righteous, pearl-clutching conservatives there now appears to be a tendency to rush in and defend the actions of the press for one reason: Trump.  These so-called constitutional conservatives are complicit in the Left’s antics.  In Trump, conservatism (yes! conservatism since his actions and policies are conservative)  finally has a person willing to forcefully push back at the professional press. One may not like the messenger, but one should not argue with the message.

Because a news network is the subject of a chant, we are now to believe that every journalist is at risk for their lives?  Leaving aside the complicity, hypocrisy and double standards which are all things to be expected from the Left, what is galling is the similar reactions from many on the Right.  We are told that there are higher principles, yet those principles are rarely defined.  As best this writer can tell that when it comes to an aggressive and belligerent press, the conservative principle is to suck it up, take it on the chin, “sticks and stones,” we are to expect it, and a whole lot of cheek turning.


People like Samantha Bee got a pass because she was on the correct team.  Complaining and appealing to the higher ground is moot when you have an opponent who show no willingness to seek the higher ground since they have no concept of the higher ground.  All those self-righteous so-called constitutional conservatives who believe martyrdom is a conservative principle need to ask themselves which team they are on.



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