Early this month, the Washington Post’s very own one-man Fifth Column, Dana Milbank, posted a Babylon Bee-worthy op-ed headlined The media treats Biden as badly as — or worse than — Trump. Here’s proof. As an empirical exercise, it was a complete trainwreck. The only thing it proved was that if you start out with the answer, you can work backward to find “data” to support that answer. My colleague Mike Miller posted on that debacle in this story: Trump Goes Trump on Ridiculous Claim That Media Is Harder on Joe Biden.
The lampooning of Milbank focused on the risible claim that Joe Biden has suffered from negative press coverage, but, as they say, the lede was buried. This is from The New Republic, a formerly credible site that now drifts between “joke” and “irrelevant,” Is Criticizing Joe Biden a Danger to Democracy?
Over the weekend, The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank made considerable waves with a column that rather lustily accused the media of offering President Biden worse coverage than President Trump. At first blush, this might seem impossible, if only because Trump’s actions—through corruption, incompetence, and the need to constantly battle the media—made it almost impossible to cover him favorably. Milbank, however, marshaled some statistics from data analytics experts, who combed through hundreds of thousands of articles to provide a detailed “sentiment analysis” supporting his thesis that “Biden’s press for the past four months has been as bad as—and for a time worse than—the coverage Trump received for the same four months of 2020.”
But Milbank’s most provocative idea posited that the media needed to be “partisan” in the service of democracy. “The country is in an existential struggle between self-governance and an authoritarian alternative. And we in the news media, collectively, have given equal, if not slightly more favorable, treatment to the authoritarians.”
Milbank was less concerned with the nature of Biden’s coverage than he was that the media were not openly allied with Biden. If you live outside whatever world Milbank inhabits, you are probably as shocked as I was at the claim that the press was not merely a wing of the DNC.
Milbank expounded more on his thesis in this phone interview with Dan Froomkin, who went from swinging a big stick at the Washington Post to writing for a blog that gets tens of readers every week.
“I don’t think anything in our training or experience as journalists prepared us for a moment in which one of the two major political parties is no longer cooperating with the democratic process: promulgating the most outrageous lies, disenfranchising voters and giving state legislatures the ability to overturn unfavorable election results, openly embracing white nationalism,” Milbank said.
Not knowing any other way to write about politics, “they’re doing the normal thing,” he said.
But Milbank’s view is that “It can’t be said too many time that this is not normal… I think we need a rethink entirely how we do things.”
(Here are my thoughts on that very topic: “Press Watch mission statement: Political journalism needs a reset.”)
“The old methods of back and forth just don’t apply,” he said. “There was a time when both sides had claim to the truth — they were just on different sides on the issues. We really are in a new world where one side is, a large amount of the time, operating from fiction. It’s not just fairy tale fiction. It’s very corrosive and damaging fiction,” he said.
“I don’t think it is hyperbolic to say that we are in this existential struggle between democracy and authoritarianism, and between fact and fiction, and we should not be on the sidelines of those,” Milbank said.
If I worked for a “news” organization that won a Pulitzer Prize for pushing the Russia Hoax and has editorialized in favor of punishing people who refuse the COViD vaccine, I might just STFU instead of opining about “democracy” and “authoritarianism.” That’s just me, though.
As the late, great Rush Limbaugh used to say, if you listen to the left, they will tell you what they are up to. If you are watching the massive loosening of bowels on the political left over an epic trolling of Joey SoftServe on Christmas Eve, you can see that these people have read and internalized Milbank’s missive.
As you recall, on Christmas Eve, as NORAD was tracking a fully masked Santa Claus, this exchange happened between a caller and Joe Biden.
Here is our coverage of this nothingburger: Media Melts Down Over ‘Let’s Go, Brandon’ Troll of Biden, as Left Targets the Caller, Dad Who Pranked Biden With ‘Let’s Go, Brandon’ Now Being Threatened, and Man Who Got Joe Biden to Say ‘Let’s Go, Brandon’ Speaks out as the Meltdown Continues.
At least it should have been a nothingburger. But the media reacted as though a mad Bernie Bro had tried to take out the House GOP caucus at baseball practice or a virulent racist had driven his car through a Christmas parade.
Well, that’s not true. The media showed an immense lack of interest in both of those happenings. (My colleague Jeff Charles nails the hypocrisy here Leftist Outrage Over ‘Let’s Go, Brandon’ Dad Is the Fakest of Fake Fakery.) But now CNN is calling “Let’s Go, Brandon” a sign of an insurgency in the making, see CNN Now Attacking the Dad Who Trolled Biden With Bizarre Claim.
They are reacting exactly as if they answered “yes” to the rhetorical question posed by The New Republic — that is, criticizing Joe Biden is a danger to democracy.