I don't know if this has always been the case but I can easily show that the "mainstream media" has a very strong right wing bent since, at least, the Iraq War. This right wing bent is so crazy that they even help, endorse or promote right wing lies and thus is worthy of comment. Cognitive dissonance, stupidity or bought? (All extracts are from Media Matters.org, an independent media research group)
Media Matters: Study: NY Times, Wash. Post quote more than twice as many Republicans as Democrats in political coverage
Throughout May and June, two of the nation’s leading newspapers, The New York Times and The Washington Post, quoted Republicans at more than twice the rate of Democrats in their political news coverage.
Media Matters: STUDY: NY Times, Wash. Post coverage of caravan plummets after midtermsNews stories referencing the caravan drop by more than half post-elections, front-page ones by more than two-thirds
In the weeks leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, The New York Times and The Washington Post filled their news pages with reporting about a caravan of migrants moving through Central America and Mexico toward the United States. The caravan was more than 1,000 miles from the U.S. border -- a journey of several weeks on foot -- and shrinking. But President Donald Trump, in a series of demagogic statements aimed at bolstering GOP chances in the elections, warned that the caravan constituted an “invasion” and a national emergency, and the Times and Post allowed him to set their news agendas.
After the election, Trump largely stopped talking about the caravan, and the coverage of the subject in those papers plunged.
After President Donald Trump’s speech following back-to-back mass shootings over the weekend in Texas and Ohio, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times all ran similar headlines claiming that he condemned “bigotry” or “hate” but “not guns” or “gun policy.” While highlighting the president’s failure to directly address the issue of gun safety is important, the three dailies allowed Trump’s condemnation of bigotry to stand in headlines without contextualizing his role in perpetuating that same bigotry.
The New York Times ran the August 6 headline “Assailing hate but not guns” after its initial headline of “Trump urges unity vs. racism” was heavily criticizedfor downplaying the president’s weaponization of racial hatred. The Times' executive editor, Dean Baquet, acknowledged the earlier headline was a mistake, however the second headline still failed to connect the president’s speech to his own record of racism and bigotry.
In addition to the Times’ second faulty attempt, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times ran two nearly identical headlines: “Trump condemns bigotry, not guns,” and “Trump blames bigotry -- but not gun policy.
It is important for the press to cover the president’s failure to meaningfully discuss gun policy after two mass shootings killed 32 people in one weekend -- as opposed to Fox News, where anything except the gun is always the problem. However, the president’s long history of weaponizing racial and ethnic hatredmust also be mentioned in any headline about his purported denunciation of bigotry.
That journalistic imperative is even stronger when the president’s speech is partly in response to a mass shooting reportedly committed by a white supremacist who cited as his motivation an “invasion” of undocumented immigrants -- an idea consistently pushed by Fox News and Trump himself.
Media Matters: In drawing equivalencies between white supremacists and antifa, media outlets obscure ideologies -- and impacts - White supremacists commit murders in pursuit of genocidal policies. Antifa throws punches. They're not the same, and media outlets should make that clear.
Last weekend marked the sequel to 2017’s violent right-wing rally in Charlottesville, VA, that left one counterprotester dead and many injured. Unite the Right 2, as the anniversary event was dubbed, was poorly attended by a small coterie of white supremacists. The media focused a significant amount of their coverage of the event on a sensationalized version of the threat posed by the loose, decentralized group of anti-fascist activists collectively known as “antifa.”
“Antifa clashes with police and journalists in Charlottesville and DC,” Vox declared. The Washington Post told its readers that “antifa protesters” had “harassed the press.” The headline of a piece in that paper’s opinion section asserted that “black-clad antifa again [gave] peaceful protesters a bad name.”
CNN personalities also weighed in with their disapproval on social media:
It’s easy to understand why the “black bloc” -- anti-fascist protesters who wear black masks when confronting racist groups -- attracts alarmist headlines, as images of masked ranks are both exotic and easy to otherize. And right-wing media have seized on this trend. As Media Matters’ Grace Bennett noted, Fox & Friends’ coverage of Unite the Right 2 entirely obscured the white supremacist intent of the event, instead sowing fear about an “antifa mob,” while The Daily Caller decried “violent antifa protests.” But according to experts on extremism and those who cover fascist and anti-fascist groups’ clashes on the ground, media fearmongering about antifa protesters obscures both the ideology and the real impacts of anti-fascist groups’ opponents -- the violent racists.
A look at Washington Post and Vox coverage of antifa at Unite the Right 2 indicated that the most serious reported incident of antifa protesters confronting the press they described was when activists cut a local news reporter’s microphone cord, after expressing a desire not to be recorded.
“Reporters covering protests should also come aware that most black bloc activists do not want to be photographed, for fear of being doxxed by the far right, or identified by law enforcement,” Kelly Weill, a Daily Beast reporter who covers the far-right and its opponents and was present at the rally, told Media Matters. “[Journalists] should take into account the implications a photograph might have for its subject, and why that subject might object. When anti-fascists come into conflict with journalists, it’s in reaction to being filmed. They aren’t hunting the media, unlike their opponents who regularly dox and threaten journalists in attempt to silence them.”
Weill said the activists’ fear of being targeted by law enforcement is legitimate. She pointed, as an example, to a case in which the government charged hundreds who participated in a protest rally at Donald Trump’s inauguration with felony and misdemeanor charges after some of them were caught on camera at the protest.
“I've found people can usually tell whether you're making a good faith effort to listen to them, and they respond accordingly,” Weill said. She said she thought the relations between the journalists and antifa protesters “were fairly smooth” when factoring in “the nature of the event -- more than 1,000 journalists, protesters, and police [were] at an emotionally charged white supremacist rally where police occasionally shoved media and protesters together in densely packed kettles.”
Even though last year’s Charlottesville rally was violent -- it ended with a white supremacist driving a car into a crowd and killing counterprotester Heather Heyer -- fearmongering headlines about antifa led to a narrative of false equivalency. And that narrative quickly reached the upper echelons of the conservative movement, most notably the president, who felt empowered to place the “blame on both sides.”
Despite near-universal shock at the president’s equivocation, media outlets have failed to correct their role in pushing that narrative, continuing to sensationalize the threat posed by antifa and thus downplay the inherent violence of white supremacist activity.
“Antifa is a subject that’s worthy of exploration. It’s not a subject that’s worthy of exaggeration or hyper-sensationalism,” Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Center on Extremism, told Media Matters.“There have been a number of serious incidents where they really assaulted people over the years. … But white supremacists have committed hundreds of murders over the last 10 years -- aggravated assaults, kidnappings, and terrorist attacks. There’s no comparison.”
Both Weill and Pitcavage pointed out that media outlets have fundamentally misunderstood the nature of antifa -- a decentralized group which, as its name suggests, primarily emerges to oppose organized fascism when it arises, as opposed to operating proactively.
“I think most media fundamentally misunderstands anti-fascism, in part because the right presents ‘antifa’ as a unified gang or a kind of catch-all bogeyman that describes everyone from anarchists to moderate liberal Sen. Tim Kaine,” Weill said. “A significant chunk of center-left media has adopted this incorrect characterization, either out of lack of fact-checking or this pundit-style drive to present all conflicts as a clash of two equally valid ideologies. Some research would clarify that ‘antifa,’ as it's commonly understood (as a gang or a central organized group) isn't a real thing.” Weill also pointed out that not all anti-fascists endorse engaging in physical brawls with far-right groups; others focus on online activities and rhetorically countering fascism within their towns and cities.
Media Matters: The media’s “civility” game helps TrumpThe Red Hen reaction shows how Trump benefits from backward media accountability
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was politely asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, VA, this past weekend because the owner was unwilling to serve a senior Trump administration official who defends (among other things) the cruel and inhumane separation of migrant families and internment of immigrant children. This act of protest -- the most recent example of a senior Trump official being heckled or protested over the family-separation policy -- galvanized certain pundits who voiced a moral objection to what they viewed as a grave injustice: “uncivil” behavior by ordinary people toward perpetrators of a despicable government policy.
This ridiculous crusade was led by the Washington Post editorial board, which published a profoundly silly piece urging all of America to “Let the Trump team eat in peace.” Per the Post:
OVER THE WEEKEND there was a fair bit of argument about the decision by a small restaurant in Lexington, Va., not to serve dinner to President Trump’s press secretary. It wasn’t the first time recently that strong political feelings have spilled into what used to be considered the private sphere. We understand the strength of the feelings, but we don’t think the spilling is a healthy development.
I agree completely with The Week’s Ryan Cooper, who writes that this reaction is counterproductive and morally backward: “If there is any main wellspring of ‘incivility’ … it comes from the monstrously evil actions of the Trump regime.” Diverting the focus from the evils of the White House to the “uncivil” protest actions they inspire does the evildoers a tremendous favor.
The civility game does nothing but privilege the people whose views and actions are horrific. When the president does contemptible, anti-democratic things like ordering the separation of migrant mothers from infants and demanding that due process be eliminated, he and his lackeys follow a poisonous process in which the White House enthusiastically demonizes its adversaries -- Democrats, immigrants, journalists, anyone who objects to toddler internment -- while rigorously and woundedly demanding that everyone else follow the rules of polite discourse. The idea is that the president and his cronies deserve respect and deference no matter what they say or do simply because of the offices they hold.
This cynical posturing gets helped along by journalists and pundits who acknowledge that the president’s policies and beliefs are abhorrent but nonetheless self-righteously cluck their tongues at the “incivility” of the White House’s critics. The Washington Post editorial board writes that the Red Hen’s defenders are correct on the merits when they say that the child internment scandal is “no ordinary policy dispute” and that President Donald Trump “has ordered terrible violations of human rights at the border.” But even in the face of what the paper recognizes as a uniquely appalling violation of rights and norms, the Post still takes a swipe at those who are “justifying incivility” and asks us to imagine a world in which abortion rights advocates are harassed for their (constitutionally protected) views -- something that happens literally all thetime and too often has deadly consequences.
This vapid argument was perfectly crystallized in a chiding tweet from Washington Post columnist David Ignatius:
“However troubling her views.” Her “troubling" views are the story! The despicable arguments and actions of the administration are driving this public backlash against senior officials. But elite members of the media are busily doing the White House a favor by prioritizing “civility” over accountability -- forget about the fact that she’s the mouthpiece for an administration perpetrating a deliberate evil against a vulnerable population; this senior government official deserves respect and steak tartare.
Media Matters: How The Press Never Stopped Blaming Obama For Radical GOP Obstruction
Right on cue, as President Obama readies his exit from office, The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza this week published a misguided critique of the Democrat’s two terms. His analysis focused specifically on Obama’s broken “promise” and parroted a favorite Beltway media talking point: Both sides are to blame for the federal government being mired in “partisan gridlock” during his eight years, and it’s largely Obama’s fault he didn’t “fix” politics. Obama didn’t create “a government that worked for all of us”; he failed to create “something new, different and better,” wrote Cillizza.
Cillizza acknowledges that “Democrats immediately point to the fact that congressional Republicans, almost from the first day of Obama's time in the White House, made opposing him a political strategy,” but dismisses it as being the primary cause for the partisan mess. (In Cillizza’s view, it’s both sides’ supposed culpability for the failed “grand bargain” in 2011 that serves as the key event.)
The erroneous analysis represents a safe refrain that’s been repeated by journalists for years, as they’ve collectively convinced themselves that Obama’s culpab
le for the radical Republican obstruction that partly defined his two terms. They’re comfortably certain that if Obama had just reached out earlier, or more aggressively, or more sincerely (or “schmooz[ed]" a bit harder), things could have played out more smoothly and Obama could have written a different Beltway script where harmony and progress reigned.
It’s pure fantasy, of course.
Fact: When Republican leadership adopted the radical position that they’d refuse to even hold hearings for Obama's next Supreme Court nominee, the GOP systematically shred more than 100 years of protocol in the process. That’s what Obama faced for much of the last eight years, and the press’s messaging has helped Republicans every step of the way.
Still, the bipartisan fantasy endured: Republicans wanted to work with Obama and make serious, good-faith deals, it’s just that Obama wasn’t savvy enough to read their signals (i.e. Why won’t he just lead?).
What’s so bizarre about this parallel universe that the press concocted is that by the end of Obama’s second term, Republicans weren’t even trying to hide their radically obstructionist ways in closed-door strategy sessions. They bragged about refusing to work with Democrats. (Today, they insist that Trump, who lost the popular vote, somehow secured a “mandate” that Democrats must respect.)
Yet here’s Cillizza in the face of Republican obstructionist boasts, still pretending Obama’s largely at fault for screwing things up and that he passed up a great chance to forever fix partisan rancor. So desperate is the media’s need to portray the Republican Party as a mainstream institution that has not drastically veered toward the fringes in recent years, that journalists are willing to blame the victim. And they’ve been willing, and eager, to normalize Republican behavior.
Just logically, why would the president who's had his agenda categorically obstructed be the one blamed for having his agenda categorically obstructed, and not the politicians who purposefully plotted the standoff? It doesn’t make sense, other than because the Beltway press is opting to give in to Republicans and downplaying the party’s radical ways -- in an apparent effort to maintain the preferred media mirage that “both sides” are to blame when the government doesn’t function.
When Republicans obstructed Obama's agenda, the president was responsible for not changing the GOP's unprecedented behavior. And if it wasn’t entirely Obama’s fault, then “both sides” were to blame for the GOP's extremist actions and the grand gridlock it purposefully produced.
And the media blame game started from essentially day one for Obama. On January 29, 2009, the Los Angeles Times reported, “As the House on Wednesday gave President Obama the first big legislative victory of his term, it was clear that his efforts so far had not delivered the post-partisan era that he called for in his inauguration address.”
Meaning, nine days after first being sworn in, Obama was being blamed for not having ushered in a shiny, new “post-partisan era.” (Loved that Times headline, too: “Newpolitical era? Same as the old one.”)
But no, Obama didn’t usher in a new bipartisan era, because Republicans wouldn’t let him -- and that’s according to Republicans. “If he was for it, we had to be against it,” was how former Republican Ohio Sen. George Voinovich once explained the GOP’s knee-jerk response to Obama proposals.
Given a path by the press to obstruct Obama and to also be rewarded for scoring victories over him in the process, Republicans seized every opportunity and soon defied historic norms.
We saw it with the sequester obstruction, government shutdown obstruction, paid leave obstruction, cabinet nominee obstruction, Hurricane Sandy emergency relief obstruction, the consistent obstruction of judicial nominees, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act obstruction, and of course the 2013 gun bill obstruction.
That was the expanded background check bill featuring a centerpiece proposal that enjoyed nearly 90 percent public approval,
including overwhelming support from Republican voters and gun owners. But Obama couldn’t get most Republican senators to budge. “There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it,” explained Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-PA), who was one of just four Republicans who voted for the compromise bill.
But most of the context was left out of the gun vote coverage in 2013, as pundits and press rushed in to blame “Obama and his allies” for the actions of obstructionist Republicans.
For the record, there were some lonely voices in the Beltway wilderness who specifically debunked the “both sides” meme and placed the gridlock responsibility squarely on the shoulders of activist Republicans.
“We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional,” scholars Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein wrote in The Washington Post in 2012 in an essay adapted from their then-new book. “In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Sunday morning broadcast network political talk shows and much of the media at large wasn’t interested in their analysis, which Ornstein told The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent was unfortunate given the fact that their assessment “focused on press culpability — it would be hard to find a more sensitive issue for the media than the question of whether they’re doing their job.”
That simply wasn’t the preferred story the Beltway press wanted to tell during the Obama years.
Media Matters: Why We Should Keep Using The Term “Fake News”
The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan uses her latest column to call for journalists to stop using the phrase “fake news,” a term reporters and activists have used over the past few months to describe a form of politicized misinformation that had at least some impact on the 2016 presidential election. She reasons that “though the term hasn’t been around long, its meaning already is lost” in the wake of a deliberate effort by conservatives to co-opt the term.
Sullivan is one of the best media critics currently working, with a keen sense of the media’s responsibility for calling out lies and a well-earned wide following. That’s what makes her missive so troubling.
If conservatives succeed in their effort to dilute the meaning of “fake news,” the result will not be the clearer discourse that Sullivan hopes to inspire. Instead, critics will lose a common term used to identify and accurately describe a real and specific problem, while conservatives will take that victory and apply the strategy behind it to other fights, making it even harder to describe the challenges in a “post-truth” news environment.
“Fake news” describes a unique phenomenon. Sullivan’s definition is “deliberately constructed lies, in the form of news articles, meant to mislead the public.” This largely mirrors Media Matters’ own description: “information that is clearly and demonstrably fabricated and that has been packaged and distributed to appear as legitimate news.”
The term gained prominence after conservative and “alt-right” social media accounts and Russian intelligence services weaponized fake news during the 2016 presidential election, leading to an extensive discussion in the press over fake news content, its purveyors and beneficiaries, and the information ecosystem that allows it to flourish.
Some conservatives have been trying to delegitimize the term by broadening it to encompass virtually all information with which they disagree. Breitbart, the right-wing, white nationalist website run by top Trump aide Stephen Bannon, was among the first to adopt that formula; it has deployed it dozens of timessince to criticize stories by a litany of legitimate news outlets like CNN and The New York Times as “fake news.”
For Sullivan, the term has been so “tainted” by these conservative efforts that it’s no longer of value. “Let’s get out the hook and pull that baby off stage. Yes: Simply stop using it,” she writes. “Instead, call a lie a lie. Call a hoax a hoax. Call a conspiracy theory by its rightful name.”
Media Matters: How Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss have taken the NY Times’ campus concern trolling to new heights in just 2 years The two were brought over from the WSJ to bring a bold new perspective to the paper. Instead, they’ve been amplifying its most played-out talking point.
In April 2017, The New York Times announced the hiring of Wall Street Journal columnist and Pulitzer winner Bret Stephens. In a memo sent to staff, editorial page editor James Bennet wrote that Stephens would “bring a new perspective to bear on the news” as part of the newspaper’s plan to “continue to broaden the range of Times debate about consequential questions.”
Hiring Stephens was a controversial move given his history of denying the reality of human-caused climate change, engaging in Iraq War revisionism, and disputing the existence of the campus-rape epidemic. And Stephens did little to assuage critics of his hire; his debut column for the Times was an error-riddledop-ed misrepresenting the state of climate consensus in the scientific community. That article was later held up by Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt to defend his personal skepticism of climate science.
Stephens was joined at the Times by fellow Wall Street Journal alum Bari Weiss. At the Journal, Weiss wrote about things like “campus rage,” “the PC police,” and “social justice warriors” who were supposedly outraged over the film Sausage Party. In another memo to staff, Bennet announced that Weiss would “be writing and commissioning the kinds of quick-off-the-news pieces that are such a critical part of our efforts to amplify the section’s already important voice in the national conversation.”
Instead, it seems their presence has served mostly to intensify the focus on topics like campus speech and social justice activism -- namely, arguing that liberals are overstepping their bounds in both arenas. From reading Stephens and Weiss, you'd get the impression that some of the most pressing issues in the country are the conduct of protesters demonstrating outside a Ben Shapiro speech -- where he’s no doubt busy CRUSHING a question about atheism and DESTROYING the argument for trans rights -- and runaway PC culture on college campuses, which poses an existential threat to democracy itself.
Weiss appears to delight in shining a light on minor campus controversies such as the one that erupted at Evergreen State College, when a professor was challenged by student activists for his views on a proposed “day of absence” protest. Similarly, she has shown a particular interest in stories about speakers being “no platformed” at universities.
In a piece titled “We’re All Fascists Now,” Weiss bemoaned Lewis & Clark Law School students’ protest of a speech by American Enterprise Institute’s Christina Hoff Sommers. On Twitter, Weiss called this incident “a 21st-century auto-da-fe,” referring to public executions carried out during the Spanish Inquisition. But far from the teeming masses her article made the protest out to contain, video shows only about a dozen demonstrators in total.
Weiss also took issue with students’ characterization of Sommers as a “fascist,” noting that she is “a self-identified feminist and registered Democrat.” As this piece illustrated, Weiss has a tendency to give incomplete and often inaccurate descriptions of her stories’ protagonists. In this case, Weiss failed to note that Sommers was a prominent voice in the anti-diversity “GamerGate” movement, has joined panel discussions alongside the likes of neo-Nazi sympathizer Milo Yiannopoulos and far-right troll Steven Crowder, has appeared on Fox News to argue against perceived liberal causes, and has been a guest on white supremacist YouTube channel Red Ice TV’s Radio 3Fourteen. The original version of Weiss’ article also referred to libertarian talk show host Dave Rubin as “a liberal commentator” who was supposedly “denounced as an ‘Anti-L.G.B.T. fascist’ and a ‘fascist lieutenant’ for criticizing identity politics.” But those criticisms of Rubin came from a parody Twitter account, and the references to him were later removed.
Recall how major newspapers handled the letter Barr sent to Congress on March 24 summarizing what the attorney general termed the “principal conclusions” of the report Mueller submitted a few days earlier.
There was no reason for journalists to accept Barr's rosy assessment at face value -- Trump had long publicly griped that his previous attorney general, Jeff Sessions, had failed to act in his personal interest, making it likely that Barr had been selected at least in part because he was willing to do so. His letter was a transparent attempt to spin the report in Trump’s favor while it was still hidden from the public.
And yet, the next morning some of the nation’s biggest newspapers had splashed Barr’s statements across their front pages as evidence that Mueller had exonerated Trump and his associates:
“For President Trump, it may have been the best day of his tenure so far,” The New York Times’ Peter Baker reported. “The darkest, most ominous cloud hanging over his presidency was all but lifted on Sunday with the release of the special counsel’s conclusions, which undercut the threat of impeachment and provided him with a powerful boost for the final 22 months of his term.”
Over the next few weeks, that phony narrative circulated, bolstered by Trump’s own false statements, the willingness of major news outlets to parrot those falsehoods, and Fox’s vicious attacks on the rest of the press for their prior reports on Russia.
On the morning of April 18, Barr held a press conference to discuss Mueller’s report, which was scheduled for release later that day. This was, again, a clear effort to spin the press. And again, many in the press fell for it, echoing his obvious false claims.
Then the report came out and the Trump-Barr story collapsed. The report diverged from Barr’s description in several key ways that made it much more damning for the president than the attorney general had let on. But by the time reporters had access to Mueller’s actual conclusions, the damage had already been done.
“What Barr did shaped the debate for the half of the country that mattered,” The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake concluded after reviewing the discrepancies between Mueller’s report and Barr’s statements. “It gave Trump’s supporters a built-in narrative that, though misleading, has taken hold.”
Mueller himself was reportedly disturbed by Barr’s letter and the way it was subsequently interpreted by the press. In a March 27 letter to Barr, he wrote that Barr’s summary “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the investigation. In a subsequent phone call, he reportedly told the attorney general “he was concerned that media coverage of the obstruction probe was misguided and creating public misunderstandings about the office’s work.”
The weeks since have done little to assuage such concerns, as major media outlets continue to view Mueller’s report in large part through the false statements of the president and his allies.
Post a Comment