We all get it at this rate. Clickbait has destroyed the media, journalism is dead, ethics are used to justify bad behavior and not mollify it, and the public — attuned to emotions and consumerism — will reward “news” that verifies their biases and prejudices rather than opinion pieces that challenge people to think and behave differently.
Deep breath. Slow exhale.
Does anyone else get the sense that the legacy media just doesn’t get it? They complain about “fake news” and digital media rising behind them, only to stand over the public like an abusive spouse and continue to rain hammers about social media, the public discourse, why things are terrible, and so forth ad nauseam. After all, doesn’t the public realize how bad the media feels when they have to treat us this way?
How are we treated? Let’s review the series of hype-over-substance that the media has chosen to engage in over the last 10-15 years, shall we?
Duke Lacrosse Team: Accused of gang rape in 2006, the media swooped in and chased the story to the utter ruin of the accused… until investigators discovered there was no substance to the story at all. Yet where could the Duke lacrosse players go to get their reputations back?
Rolling Stone/UVA: Rolling Stone published a lengthy article describing a culture of rape at the University of Virginia, offering in graphic detail the rape of one “Jackie Coakley” (not her real name) at a fraternity house. Problem was, the story never held up, and Rolling Stone was eventually settled a defamation case brought by the fraternity for $1.65 million.
Jussie Smollett: Frankly, I had never heard of this actor until he accused two men of beating him in a Chicago street, pouring an unidentified chemical on him, putting a noose around his head and screaming “This is MAGA Country!” Just one small problem. Not only did it never happen, but Smollett apparently hired two Nigerian men (one of whom was his personal trainer) to the tune of $3,500 to choreograph the “attack” — and just as they were about to be charged with hate crimes, they came clean. For three weeks, the media was in full fever over the attack until Chicago police concluded their investigation.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh: Without due process or evidence, Justice Brett Kavanaugh was thrown to the wolves by Senate Democrats more concerned with hijacking the process rather than seeking out truth or evidence, even to the point of forcing Christine Blasey Ford to testify in front of Senate Judiciary after she indicated she did not want to go public. None of the accusations have ever been substantiated.
Covington “MAGA” Teens: After being accused of acting disrespectfully to a Native American activist based on clips seen on Twitter, it took three days before additional video evidence demonstrated that the teenagers were not only approached by the agitators themselves, but behaved in an entirely respectful manner all the way through. There is currently a defamation suit filed against several media outlets that is at the moment pending, including a $275 million defamation suit against CNN.
The Mueller Report and “Russian Collusion”: After two years and $25 million spend, the long-awaited Muller Report showed… nothing. Nothing at all. Did the Russians try to collude? It seems so. Did the Trump campaign take the Russians up on any of these attempts? Most certainly not… but for months the American public (and the liberal media) has been feeding folks the narrative that Trump is unfit to be president because he was the operative of a cabal of Russian interests abroad.
Yet even now, the media is in a lather trying to run with the narrative “No Collusion; No Exoneration” — as if disproving a negative is the standard for justice?
At some point in time, the media needs to admit where things are heading. This is no longer a condition where the media is serving its own purpose as a medium for information. Rather, it is surrendering to the narrative of propaganda and institutional bias.
Too often, the concept of “lawfare” emerges as a tried and true tactic of eliminating political enemies — and with a compliant and willing left-leaning media, certain narratives are worth keeping alive against enemies potential and actual. Certainly Trump was the victim of the grandest conspiracy to commit lawfare in modern American history. Yet where are the media’s victims supposed to regain their reputations? In a defamation lawsuit? In an exoneration? Does it ever really work that way? Will there every be an investigation against those within the “deep state” who chose this path as a means to hobble the incoming Trump administration?
…and what happens when an outgoing Trump administration pulls out all the stops now that the effective bar has been lowered?
One thing is for sure. This is no longer a political environment. This is knife-fighting. It starts with heated rhetoric towards an under-educated, over-commercialized and hyper-credentialized public. It descends into witticisms, lawfare, and events such as “Unite The Right” in Charlottesville. Good people walk away; bad people take their place.
The widening gyre continues to turn. The best lack all conviction while the worst are filled with passionate intensity…
…but make no mistake. The media, because they have chosen to behave more like McCarthy and less like Murrow, are cheapening and ultimately destroying public discourse, settling for the lowest common denominator. Sure there will be outposts… but it will not predominate unless those in a position to do so demand better of themselves.
That is a crisis well beyond the political, and until editors and reporters choose to be better and do better, they will only feed the vices of the public, not accelerate its virtues.