Nearly 60% of Americans Think the Media Are Liars and That Is as Good as It Is Going to Get

AP Photo/ Evan Vucci

In the aftermath of the Capitol riot on January 6, we were inundated with multiple stories about the nefarious acts carried out there. There was the story of men prowling the Capitol with zip ties. No one ever talked to them but the media let us know that they were surely on the hunt to kidnap members of Congress. That turned out to be a lot less than accurate, see Remember That ‘Zip Tie’ Guy Capitol Riot Story? Turns out That’s Not Quite True Either. We were regaled with tales of “kill teams” searching for Mike Pence and Mitt Romney, a story that was amplified by Nebraska VichyCon Ben Sasse. Now we find out those stories were false. We were told that many of the people in the Capitol were armed with guns. Thus far there have been zero people in the Capitol charged with any kind of a firearms violation. There is the whole saga of deceased Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick. Sicknick, we were assured, had been beaten on the head with a fire extinguisher and died in an intensive care unit. The truth appears to be that Sicknick was at the riot, returned to his office, texted his family he was fine, did not file any kind of injury report or criminal complaint, and died at his desk. A month after the event, after a narrative was firmly established, the New York Times got around to printing a retraction, see NYT Retracts Story First Published on Jan. 8 That Capitol Hill Police Officer Was Killed by a Fire Extinguisher Thrown by Protesters. Finally, there is the shabby and disgraceful revelation that the leftwing rioter was on the payroll of two news organizations as he filmed the execution of Ashli Babbit, see Leftist Videographer John Sullivan Was Paid by Major Media Organizations for Footage of the Capitol Unrest. Glenn Greenwald, who is definitely of the left, has this excellent takedown of media coverage of January 6.

The reason I record this litany of lies is to make a point. Virtually nothing the media told you about January 6 is true. This includes characterizing a small uproar, at least by the standards set by the BLM riots last summer, as an insurrection. Our Townhall colleague Kurt Schlichter has the definitive takedown, see Stop Calling It an ‘Insurrection.’ RedState had the definitive takedown first, but now we don’t, and that’s a different story.

Today Axios features a story Media trust hits new low. Well, smack my ass and call me Sally. Whoddathunkit?

Let’s look at what they are saying and then examine it:

Why it matters: Faith in society’s central institutions, especially in government and the media, is the glue that holds society together. That glue was visibly dissolving a decade ago, and has now, for many millions of Americans, disappeared entirely.

By the numbers: For the first time ever, fewer than half of all Americans have trust in traditional media, according to data from Edelman’s annual trust barometer shared exclusively with Axios. Trust in social media has hit an all-time low of 27%.

  • 56% of Americans agree with the statement that “Journalists and reporters are purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations.”
  • 58% think that “most news organizations are more concerned with supporting an ideology or political position than with informing the public.”
  • When Edelman re-polled Americans after the election, the figures had deteriorated even further, with 57% of Democrats trusting the media and only 18% of Republicans.

 

Anyone who thinks the “media” are a central institution and that trusting them is any part of the “glue that holds society together” is a nutter. This is fiction taught, maybe, in journalism schools or dreamed up in some journalistic circle-jerk. It just isn’t true. American society was completely fine before the development of the various media empires. If anything, the media has been a major factor in the societal malaise in which we find ourselves. Why would anyone who saw the way the media pushed a laughably stupid conspiracy theory for four years and gave themselves prestigious awards for reporting on something that has been debunked in all its particulars ever trust such a bunch of clowns? When you watch major papers championing utter bullsh** like the 1619 Project, and preaching critical race theory, and credulously reporting climate fearmongering as fact, all the while shouting down dissenting voices, you have to ask yourself, “Who are the 40+% numbskulls who still trust the media and how do I avoid them?” The second question is, “Who are the 27% that trust social media and how do we spay/neuter them so we can check the breed?”

Back to the article.

  • Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan writes that “our goal should go beyond merely putting truthful information in front of the public. We should also do our best to make sure it’s widely accepted.”

This is actually what is going on. Major media produces a narrative and Facebook and Twitter act as hired thugs to suppress any alternative and contradictory facts that may emerge. Sullivan’s goal might be laudable, even though totalitarian, were the media capable of merely producing truthful information. Look at the shameless fellating of Andrew Cuomo by the media for his handling of the China virus in New York even as non-traditional media, like RedState, were reporting on the fraudulent death counts and the outright war on civil liberties there.

The solution is even more bizarre.

How it works: Media outlets can continue to report reliable facts, but that won’t turn the trend around on its own. What’s needed is for trusted institutions to visibly embrace the news media.

  • CEOs (a/k/a the fourth branch of government) are at or near the top of Edelman’s list of trusted institutions.
  • By the numbers: 61% of Trump voters say that they trust their employer’s CEO. That compares to just 28% who trust government leaders, and a mere 21% who trust journalists.

The bottom line: CEOs have long put themselves forward as the people able to upgrade America’s physical infrastructure. Now it’s time for them to use the trust they’ve built up to help rebuild our civic infrastructure.

What I mean is that I think that taking the leap from me trusting my CEO to keep the business running and make payroll and come through with raises and bonuses is not the same as trusting that CEO to know his ass from a hot rock on public policy or current events especially since we all know where they got their information. This is just grasping at straws and utter balderdash. It is unclear why the guy who proposed this numbskullery thinks CEOs who see more clearly than most the disconnect between what the media report and what is actually happening would sign on to carry this flaming bag of feces. Why CEOs would be willing to burn their personal credibility down fluffing stories written by some privileged, sheltered J-school grad who thinks socialism is great is an equally great mystery.

Journalism, as practiced today by the New York Times and Washington Post and as attempted by USAToday and Newsweek and Time and Bloomberg is finished. There is no market for what they are selling, or for the advertising that used to fund them. They no longer offer any competitive advantage. Tesla, for instance, decided to scrap its entire public relations department on the theory that Elon Musk can do more on social media to get the word out better than his spinmeisters talking to hacks who are only interested in bad news.

The media are going to go down swinging. Last month the New York Times ran a vapid and moronic column titled How the Biden Administration Can Help Solve Our Reality Crisis.

Several experts I spoke with recommended that the Biden administration put together a cross-agency task force to tackle disinformation and domestic extremism, which would be led by something like a “reality czar.”

It sounds a little dystopian, I’ll grant. But let’s hear them out.

Right now, these experts said, the federal government’s response to disinformation and domestic extremism is haphazard and spread across multiple agencies, and there’s a lot of unnecessary overlap.

Renée DiResta, a disinformation researcher at Stanford’s Internet Observatory, gave the example of two seemingly unrelated problems: misinformation about Covid-19 and misinformation about election fraud.

Often, she said, the same people and groups are responsible for spreading both types. So instead of two parallel processes — one at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, aimed at tamping down Covid-related conspiracy theories, and another at the Federal Election Commission, trying to correct voting misinformation — a centralized task force could coordinate a single, strategic response.

“If each of them are doing it distinctly and independently, you run the risk of missing connections, both in terms of the content and in terms of the tactics that are used to execute on the campaigns,” Ms. DiResta said.

This task force could also meet regularly with tech platforms, and push for structural changes that could help those companies tackle their own extremism and misinformation problems. (For example, it could formulate “safe harbor” exemptions that would allow platforms to share data about QAnon and other conspiracy theory communities with researchers and government agencies without running afoul of privacy laws.) And it could become the tip of the spear for the federal government’s response to the reality crisis.

The obvious problem is what happens when the government is lying? What happens when the media are lying. There will be attempts to centralize information flow with the media as gatekeepers but I think it is doomed.

When all is said and done, though, the media will look back on the past four years as the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was a time when their hucksterism, their raw, naked partisanship, their willingness to tell whatever lie it took to press their political agenda was laid bare for the world to see. There is no coming back from this. All that remains is deciding when to lock the doors and turn out the lights.