Reporting on a study carried out by the Columbia Journalism Review, Salon.com has come to the conclusion that a biased media is not good at reporting the truth. Don’t get too excited about their breakthrough though. Just like many media outlets on the right, Salon only takes issue when the other side is biased
Salon’s characterization of Sean Hannity’s is a remarkable illustration of how the Fox News and talk radio personality has transformed from a defender of conservative principles into a staunch defender of a non-conservative President.
Sean Hannity had a busy weekend on Twitter. The Fox News host and “street martial arts” practitioner had a fire lit underneath him upon hearing that President Donald Trump had accused Barack Obama of ordering wiretaps at Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign. As any good journalist would, Hannity took Trump’s statement at face value and immediately set about trying to get answers.
That quest involved spending all of Saturday rage-tweeting variations of “What did Obama know and when did he know it” at former Obama staffers. Shortly after midnight on Sunday morning, Hannity put the final touch on this journalistic achievement by tweeting out a Breitbart article about how he’d “grilled” the former president and his aides over the issue.
Hannity, like many others on the right, is stuck in the rut where any criticism of Trump is automatically a false political attack and every accusation Trump makes is automatically gospel.
Media balkanization is by no means a new phenomenon, but a new study by Columbia Journalism Review has found that pro-Trump propagandizing of this sort is having a measurably deleterious effect on how all media outlets cover Trump. The review identified Breitbart News as the gravitational locus of a conservative media galaxy that pumped out “disinformation” throughout the 2016 presidential campaign: “This turned the right-wing media system into an internally coherent, relatively insulated knowledge community, reinforcing the shared worldview of readers and shielding them from journalism that challenged it.”
There is little there that I would argue with. In the run up to the 2016 election, Trump adviser Stephen Bannon squandered what the late Andrew Breitbart built and turned it into nothing more than a pro-Trump version of the kind of political-media complex Breitbart had pledged to destroy. (Read his book Righteous Indignation, if you doubt that.) The only difference is the political agenda driving their narrative. The history and name of the site provided a facade of credibility for many readers while in terms of content it became little more than a pro-Trump version of ThinkProgress or MSNBC.
What the Salon writer completely fails to recognize or acknowledge is that the entire left-wing media system has been “an internally coherent, relatively insulated knowledge community, reinforcing the worldview of readers and shielding them from journalism that challenged it” for ages. The only difference is the scale on which it occurs. Left leaning media far outnumbers its right leaning counterparts. Fox News has the big ratings on cable TV but the left has a grip on virtually everything else. (Sadly, Fox News has largely gone in much the same direction as Breitbart News lately.)
The left wing dominance of broadcast and print news media has allowed the left to create the illusion (or delusion) that they actually occupy the middle. Dan Rather once famously said that he thought the New York Times editorial page was very “middle of the road.” I believe some media figures on the left do this as a conscious strategy to sway public opinion toward their own party, while others simply have been indoctrinated into thinking they actually do represent the mainstream.
The scope of the left’s influence on media and journalism is vast enough to pull off the “big lie.” This is how we become flooded with misinformation in narratives like the one that equates opposing illegal immigration with being anti-immigrant or the one that insists that how much one cares about education or healthcare is determined solely by how much federal spending one supports.
Media on the right doesn’t have the ability to pull off that sort of mass propaganda operation, but they certainly can do it on a small scale among those who are already of like mind. Here at RedState we have chronicled many of the bogus stories that have gone viral thanks to bloggers and pundits being in the tank for Trump.
The left has discovered all sorts of things to be concerned about in the age of Trump. The Electoral College caught many of them completely by surprise. Many acted as if it were some recent (and naturally racist) Republican vote suppression scheme. The most diligent water carriers for President “Pen and a Phone” Hussein Obama suddenly had strong feelings about too much power being accumulated in the Executive Branch. That Russia represents a geopolitical threat is a concept the left has very recently embraced with gusto.
Now media bias is in their crosshairs. That’s good, but like Breitbart News, Hannity, Gateway Pundit and others, tunnel vision won’t let them recognize it in themselves when their own team is in power.