There is a new Gallup Poll out on the public’s trust in mass media and it isn’t good.
Naturally, Democrats are the most credulous audience, seemingly willing to believe most anything:
But the bad news for the media is that the numbers are only going to get worse over time. Eventually we’ll see grads of Columbia’s Journalism School living in refrigerator cartons beneath the overpass as the behavior of the 50+ crowd become that of the 18-49 group:
Why is this?
Well, Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post has an answer. It is “partisans.”
But, I believe really strongly that the decline in trust in the media is primarily attributable to partisans — whether in politics or in the media — who have a vested interest in casting the press as hopelessly biased. What better way for liberal or conservative talk radio to (a) lure listeners and (b) stoke outrage than to insist that the mainstream media is lying to you? What better way for politicians to raise money from partisans already skeptical about the media than to say the media isn’t telling the truth?
Seriously, Chris? Partisans? You mean the very fact that the media itself is highly politicized has nothing to do with it? Over the years we’ve seen numerous investigative reports proven to be hoaxes. Dan Rather manufactured an entire string of falsehoods concerning President Bush and he was only caught out by partisans. Fake soldiers were paraded about to testify about war crimes by a credulous media. Candy Crowley intervened in a presidential debate between Romney and Obama to correct, falsely as it turned out, Romney. Your own “fact checker”, Glenn Kessler, is a political hack who renders “True but False” ratings on Republicans. His column even went so far as to declare Carly Fiorina’s statement that she started work as a secretary False when it was demonstrably true. Even so, Kessler remains a paragon of truth and virtue when compared to the clowns who run PolitiFact.
News coverage is no better:
To give you an idea of how deeply ingrained political bias is in the media let’s look at “objective” media coverage of Cecile Richards’s “testimony” before Congress. The headline from The Hill reads:
GOP: Planned Parenthood wasted millions on ‘lavish’ travel, parties
Nice use of scare quotes. But the real story is the URL of the article:
Anti-abortion smear? What in the name of Heaven is that? Do you really think that a news organization that thinks it is cute to editorialize on page titles is going to give a fair hearing on the subject?
More to the point, Cillizza himself is part of the problem. I generally like his column but let’s take his twitter feed as a symptom of the problem. On September 28, as the Gallup poll was released, Cillizza had this to say:
Trust in the media is at an all-time low. That’s a terrible thing for all of us. http://t.co/wnRbJOhv0x pic.twitter.com/Zl7Sv7ha3Y
— Chris Cillizza (@TheFix) September 28, 2015
(All of us? Really? Me not believing crap is bad for me?) The very next day, though, you have this:
This picture. pic.twitter.com/eYgmhvOccN
— Chris Cillizza (@TheFix) September 28, 2015
So what in this tweet makes me think that Cillizza is capable of giving fair coverage to the Trump campaign? Nothing. (As an aside, read the replies to that tweet but be sure to have your adult diaper firmly fastened)
He goes on to assert that trust in media is some kind of a glue that holds society together:
The belief — pushed by these groups and outlets — that there are no referees (or even rules) in all of this makes disagreeing without being disagreeable is virtually impossible. The idea of reasonable people disagreeing has also been laid to rest or damn near it. The realities of our modern political dialogue — if you can use that word to describe it — is that people who disagree with your point of view are at best dumb and at worst purposely misunderstanding things. From those conclusions about motive, nothing positive can come.
You can think the media thinks too highly of itself. (We do.) You can ask who appointed us the refs. (Fair.) And, you can be skeptical — in fact, you shouldbe skeptical — of something being reported that smells fishy to you. (We, as humans, can and do get stuff wrong.) But what you should not wish for is that the mainstream media disappear or be rendered irrelevant.
Whether you like or agree with an independent media all the time — breaking news: you won’t! — you should value an entity that does its best to hold those in power accountable. Without such a force, you would like society a whole lot less. And our society would be a whole lot less.
It seems lost upon him that when the media, itself, paints people and opinions as “at best dumb and at worst purposely misunderstanding things” — which is the entire oeuvre of the “fact checking” fad — it is no longer independent, it is a tool of partisanship. Even partisans know partisanship and they distrust it.
Image Credit: https://polination.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/media-bias-and-political-scandals/