Why The War Between Trump And The Media Is A Good Thing

Promoted from the diaries by streiff. Promotion does not imply endorsement.

A lot of people, including, surprisingly, a number of current and former RedState frontpagers are apparently very distressed at the open state of war between the Administration and the news media. Confused and upset at seeing the Press Corps treated with none of the traditional deference – and fear – to which they have become accustomed, many appear to have convinced themselves that the current state of hostilities between the Trump Administration and the news media is solely due to the unique awfulness of Donald Trump.

The mistake being made here is assuming that the Washington Post, the New York Times, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, etc. would be acting any differently if the President were anyone but Donald Trump. Awful in many ways as he is, the news media’s antipathy toward his Administration is really nothing unique, and has a lot less to do with Donald Trump than a long running institutional, ideological and partisan animus against the Republican Party.

For all the complaining about Donald Trump calling the media the “Enemy of the People”, the fact is that the media has long labeled every Republican President and the Republican Party as a whole the exact same thing.

For those of us who can still vividly remember the media’s seething hatred and contempt toward George W. Bush and his Administration from the onset, there’s no doubt that the same scornful disdain and loathing, at best only marginally less pronounced, would have met a Cruz, Rubio, Perry or even Fiorina Administration. Along with the perennial charges of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.

Simply put, the evidence does not support the argument that any Republican President would have been able to avoid a similar torrent of negative coverage as what has confronted the Trump Administration – no matter how careful his speech or disciplined his behavior. There is a fifty year pattern of behavior by the news media when it comes to Republican Administrations and Presidential nominees that we just can’t ignore.

Let’s not forget; John McCain spent more than eight years shamelessly sucking up to the Washington Press Corps, routinely attacking his own party’s President and fellow Republicans in Congress in exchange for newspaper headlines and stories calling him a “Maverick.” He regularly referred to the media as his “base” and surrounded himself with advisers who were reliable echoers of the most damaging Democrat talking points against the GOP, their association with him being used to lend their attacks extra credibility.

McCain even appeared as a guest speaker at retreats for Congressional Democrats, where he would shower praise on the Democrat Party and calumny and oppobrium on the Republican Party, much to the media’s delight.

Yet he magically turned into a raging racist, sexist, adulterous warmonger when he won the GOP’s nomination in 2008.

In 2012, the GOP nominated Mitt Romney, one of the most decent men to run for the Presidency; courtly, polite, self-effacing and deferential to the point of obsequiousness to the Press – even going as far as to differentiate himself from Newt Gingrich in the 2012 Primaries by loudly proclaiming his refusal to get into a fight with the media, even after Newt parlayed his pushback against the Press to win in South Carolina.

He was still covered as a racist, sexist, dog torturing, gay hair cutting, rape enabling, cancer giving theocrat who wants to lock women up in binders. And, of course, found himself brutally undercut on national television by the supposedly neutral moderator refereeing a crucial debate with Barack Obama – on a point in which he was actually correct.

Basically, if you’re a Republican running for office, from the Presidency to the Governor’s office, House or Senate, there is no possibility of a rapprochement with the news media. As a Republican President, you will always be portrayed as some unholy combination of bigoted, cruel, corrupt and/or stupid. Every speech, action, decision, policy, staff hire, nomination, etc. made by you will be cast as an assault on the American people.

In fact, your very election to the office will be portrayed as a result of some form of chicanery or appeal to bigotry.

Note that in the last 60 years, not one Republican President’s successful campaign for the White House has been considered legitimate – clearly and cleanly won – by the media. Richard Nixon’s 1968 and 1972 victories are attributed to the “Southern Strategy”. Reagan’s victories in 1980 and 1984 were due his speech at the Neshoba County Fair in Mississippi, George H. W. Bush to the supposed racist Willie Horton ad by an independent PAC, George W. Bush’s win in 2000 due to his brother somehow “stealing the vote” in Florida and again in Ohio in 2004. Trump’s 2016 victory is now claimed by the media to be a result of hacking by Russia.

So let’s make no mistake, every GOP President entering the Oval Office is greeted by the media with a declaration of war. From day one, the newsrooms of the vast majority of the nation’s most prestigious legacy media institutions dedicate themselves to sabotaging his agenda and undermining his credibility and legitimacy at home and abroad.

This is not the result of some conspiracy but a natural consequence of the fact that the typical newsroom is approximately 95% Democrat and those few who are Republicans are too afraid of social ostracism to identify themselves.

Two things should be noted about such a pronounced imbalance – first; a bias of this magnitude is practically impossible to come about by accident. It is, without question, the result of a deliberate policy about staff hires and a decision to follow a particular ideological direction by editors, producers, and publishers.

Second, such a politically monolithic newsroom would lack the internal policing mechanism necessary for reporters to avoid playing political favorites in their reporting, even if inadvertently. In fact, it is guaranteed that the resulting ideological echo chamber would naturally lead to an intensification of tribal loyalties and political manicheanism.

Again, this is deliberate. The people in charge certainly know that having a newsroom staffed exclusively by people of the same partisan and political convictions means there is no need for a conspiracy. The very environment creates an “us versus them”, “right side of history” mentality in which the ends justify the means, making secret rooms and handshakes unnecessary.

The point is this; the sudden upsurge of journalistic “mistakes” we’re seeing in the news today, all of which seem to fall in the same direction, that all just so happen to be to the disadvantage of a Republican Administration and the GOP as a whole, was something we’ve seen before from 2001 to 2009.

The President then was also a Republican. It’s not a coincidence.

Hanlon’s Razor says; “Never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by stupidity.” The problem with that is the fact that the networks, the major newspapers and the wire services, are not in the habit of hiring stupid people.

These are competent, experienced and intelligent men and women, who know exactly how word choices in ledes and headlines affect perception. They know that the vast majority simply scan the headlines and at best just skim through the lede paragraphs. They know how to saturate the airwaves to get a particular story to penetrate the consciousness of the casual viewer. They know the ratio of people of who see the initial allegation on page A1 and the retraction on B29 – it’s no different from Twitter.

They know how false news and perceptions are spread.

In other words, Occam’s Razor says these are not “mistakes”. These are deliberate attempts to mislead and deceive the American people. And thanks to the ideological bubble in which they operate, most of them are heartily convinced they’re doing the right thing. After all, how can it be wrong to prevent racists, sexists, homophobes, transphobes, etc. gun nuts who only want to commit genocide against immigrants, and legalize rape, from getting elected?

This attitude is not exactly hidden. In an overwhelming majority of the nation’s journalism schools and newsrooms, journalists are now encouraged to embrace “social justice” and allow it to color their work. Many journalists see their role today as not just to seek out and report the facts but also to ensure that they follow an approved narrative. It is not enough to present readers and viewers with facts, news consumers are to be guided to come to the “right” conclusions, particularly when it comes to hot button political and social issues.

Many journalists now describe their role as being “curators” of information, one newspaper editor going as far as saying that he has taken it upon himself to prevent the races of suspects at large and wanted by the police from being mentioned in news reports to prevent readers – a large number of whom he clearly believes are prone to unreasoning bigotry – from “stereotyping” minorities.

In this new type of journalism, facts are to be shaped, twisted and altered to match the preferred narrative. Stories that reflect badly on favored groups or are unhelpful to one side of the political divide are not to be pursued. Accuracy is deliberately sacrificed and distinctions (e.g. illegal immigrants vs immigrants) are blurred. Partisan affiliations are hidden in paragraph 10 when inconvenient and blared in the headlines when otherwise.

And no, I’m not just talking about millenials but the experienced and even famous older hands with regular bylines on the front page, the people anchoring the news shows and most of their guests.

There’s significantly more than an ounce of truth in the observation that GOP’s most experienced communications operatives work in Congressional offices, the Executive Branch during a Republican Administration and the party’s various affiliates and think tanks from 9 to 5, five days a week. The Democrats’ best communications people work at ABC, CBS, NBC, the Associated Press, the Washington Post, the New York Times, NPR, CNN, MSNBC, etc. 24/7/365.

It is important for Republicans – as a whole – to (finally) publicly treat the media – particularly the major legacy institutions of the American Press – as part and parcel of the opposition. The presumption should always be of bad faith – and yes, this applies even to Jake Tapper. Every “mistake” should be treated as a deliberate act of sabotage – because 99% of the time, it actually is.

The presumption of bad faith means exactly that. It is similar to the presumption of racism and sexism with which the media treats all Republicans. It means doing journalists the honor of presuming competence. This means every political damaging mistake is evidence of malice. It means assuming every misstatement of fact, every error that could be damaging to Republicans, should be considered and called out as a deliberate lie and an attempt to deceive the electorate at large.

If I were advising Trump, I would advise him to stop calling the media the “Enemy of the People” (which is actually a lot more apt than it appears at first glance) and start calling them “Deceivers of their People” – “deceiver” is, first of all, a more descriptive and defensible term than “enemy” and, second; more easily lends itself to being expounded upon when challenged – America’s current class of journalists deliberately deceive, fabricate and twist the truth to manipulate the American people for partisan and ideological purposes.
I would advise him also to fund a daily show on YouTube pointing out as many errors, dubious coverage decisions, phrasing, contributor choice, interview questions, etc. as possible, comparing the coverage with the utterly obsequious way the networks treated Obama and attributing it all to partisanship.

It means nothing less than carrying out a campaign to destroy the credibility of the American Press Corps. It means defaulting to rejecting every attempt to explain away such one-sided “mistakes.” It means never extending to them the benefit of the doubt. It means calling them out, loudly, brutally, mercilessly. It means constantly and consistently referring to reporters individually (yes, even Jake Tapper) and collectively as liars, deceivers, manipulators, libelers, slanderers and partisan water carriers for the Democrat Party. It means doing everything you can to drive down their credibility, undermine their authority, call their motives into question, and destroy their market value.

Because, try as I might, I simply cannot see any profit in going along with the polite fiction that a set of people who bear you nothing but ill will and are actively seeking to bring about your destruction are good faith actors. I certainly do not understand the insistence that they be treated as such. In his most recent interview with Ben Shapiro, Brian Stelter charged that conservatives supposedly want to “get rid of journalism altogether”, to which Shapiro clarified that he didn’t want CNN, NYT, WaPo, etc. to disappear, he just wanted them to improve. I disagree with Shapiro in this case; instead, I believe the collapse and disappearance of CNN, NYT, WaPo, etc. as currently constituted would be what leaves room for better and improved journalism.

As mentioned before, every Republican President is confronted by a Press Corps determined to undermine his credibility and legitimacy, with the ultimate hope of seeing him fail and driven from office in disgrace.

It is therefore entirely appropriate to attack their credibility and legitimacy in return. The First Amendment neither strips a President of his First Amendment rights and compel him to silence in the face of a transparently hostile Press Corps. The First Amendment does not demand any form of deference, respect or even civility towards reporters or the news organizations that employ them. The First Amendment does not require that any elected official publicly go along with the polite fiction that the New York Times is a neutral non-partisan unbiased news outlet. The First Amendment does not demand that the AP gets the first question at a White House Press Conference or the exclusion of conservative outlets. The First Amendment places no restriction on anyone casting doubt on ‘media sources’ – reporters have no ‘right’ to be believed or have their product accepted without skepticism.

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