Chuck Todd’s recent article in The Atlantic was an insult to the intelligence of those of us who are ordinary voters and avid media consumers. He blames conservative media and their stars for the unprecedented distrust and credibility problems mainstream media outlets face.
That’s right: he thinks millions of Americans loathe and distrust the national press solely because Fox News, Tucker Carlson, and Sean Hannity regularly—and falsely, in his opinion—tell their viewers about the bias in national media. He is being either clueless or dishonest, and it might be a bit of both.
Let me explain some of the many reasons the national media’s approval ratings have been tanking. It is because our biggest and most prestigious media outlets like CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, The Washington Post, and The New York Times have become mutant ninja outfits in the Trump era. They have not only joined the opposition but have joined the Resistance, becoming nothing but propaganda machines that actively present alternative realities to the American public.
One of Donald Trump’s favors for American voters, through his candidacy and presidency, has been to reveal to a majority of them just how biased and dishonest their media is. I say this as a former Democrat who used to implicitly trust our national press to give me an even-handed picture of our politics.
That trust was irreversibly shattered starting in 2016. It began for me when I watched the dishonesty with which the national media covered Hillary Clinton’s email woes. They played down her email scandal and her shady shenanigans with the Clinton Foundation.
That trust was further destroyed in the last two years watching the media hysterically portray Trump as a dictator, and his every misstep as the end of democracy and civilization. Probably the worst example of media bias and dereliction of duty is how the media has ignored or misrepresented the almost daily reports of Federal Bureau of Intelligence and Department of Justice abuse of power.
Todd says in his article that the public doesn’t fully understand journalistic conventions, and he’s right. We who don’t have pedigreed educations and journalism degrees may not be aware of the minutiae of journalism conventions. But we know the difference between good journalism and bad journalism.
Good journalism follows and investigates truth wherever it may lead, doesn’t have agendas and pre-conceived narratives, and doesn’t try to effect political outcomes. Good journalists present the whole picture to their audience, not a curated version of reality. Bad journalism is the opposite, and we’ve been seeing a surfeit of it in the last few years.
Here’s what even more objectionable: To wear your bias honestly is at least okay, but to present yourself as unbiased purveyors of truth and facts then deceive your consumers with biased coverage is a hundred times worse. According to this argument, I prefer Hannity, as he at least doesn’t pretend to be a journalist and is upfront about being a Trump supporter. But who is keeping Anderson Cooper and his ilk honest? The answer is: no one.
Further, Todd complains that mainstream media outlets’ credibility has suffered because Fox News attacks them with labels like “liberal media” and “liberal bias.” One answer to that is: Labels and attacks won’t stick if you’ve been doing your job well.
The reverse is true too: national media outlets attack conservative media outlets as “right-wing media” and “alt right media.” I’ve seen that mainstream media’s favorite—and effective—ways of discrediting conservative reporting and arguments is by calling it “conspiracy theories,” “right-wing conspiracy,” or “pro-Trump talking points.”
That’s indeed how Todd and journalists like him have been neutering the shocking revelations about the infractions coming out of the FBI and the DOJ. Speaking of which, here’s another reason for distrust of media: By not honestly covering the biggest abuses of power coming from the FBI and the DOJ in recent years, mainstream media outlets have revealed themselves as merely the media arm of the Democratic Party.
It is a sad commentary of our times. Some of our Ivy-League-educated, Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalists have passed up on some of the biggest, contemporary investigative stories because those stories don’t fit their narrative and agenda of ousting President Trump.
Looking at its conduct in the last two years, I’ve wondered on occasion if the mainstream media is a part of the entrenched political establishment in this country. They seem as threatened by an outsider president as the establishment politicians are. When journalists become political activists, it is time to put them in quotes, as in “journalists.”
American mainstream media’s problems are too many and too deep to rectify now. To reiterate just a few: They act as corporate mouthpieces and push illegal immigration. They ratchet up racial and other controversies to gin up ratings and demonize the other party and its leaders. They look down on ordinary, hard-working Americans in middle America. They don’t report on abuses of power coming from powerful quarters.
And their clientele is shrinking. They are talking to mostly themselves and their supporters. By not holding themselves truly accountable, they’ve lost respect. Todd should look in the mirror and, instead of blaming conservative media, do an honest assessment of mainstream media. That’s where the blame squarely lies.
Saritha Prabhu is a freelance writer and opinion columnist for The Tennessean of Nashville.