Left-Leaning Media Seek a Misinformation Monopoly
They peddle their own falsehoods while trying to drive opposing views out of circulation entirely.
By Gerard Baker - WSJ
Kyle Rittenhouse is a domestic terrorist. Brett Kavanaugh is a rapist. Donald Trump won in 2016 only because he colluded with the Kremlin. Nick Sandmann, the boy from Covington Catholic High School on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, was an entitled white bigot. Mr. Trump said the neo-Nazis at Charlottesville were “good people.” Last year’s riots were mostly peaceful. Unarmed black men are routinely shot in huge numbers by police officers. The discovery of Hunter Biden’s laptop was a Russian plot.
Which of these have you heard in the last five years? I doubt there’s an American with even the faintest interest in public events who wasn’t made aware of every one of these stories, didn’t have them repeatedly drummed into his head in the amplifying loop that connects agenda-driving traditional news organizations, culture-shaping digital sites, knowledge-delimiting search engines, and information-controlling social media platforms.
I didn’t pick deliberately obscure fabulations, “nutpicked” items of agitprop peddled by extremists. I didn’t have to scour the nether regions of the Marxist-anarchist web to find them. These were all, for a while, the received versions of major news events promoted by the people who loudly proclaim their credentials as guardians of the truth. They were all conspicuously consensus accounts of the biggest stories “reported” in the past five years by the usual newspapers and TV networks, relayed by the entire news food chain that seeks to emulate them and retailed eagerly by the half-wit entertainers of Hollywood, publicity-hungry professional athletes and the crowd of gender- and media-studies graduates who churn out press releases for S&P 500 companies.
And these are only some of the more obvious ones. I could have added: Inflation isn’t a problem. Andrew Cuomo was America’s greatest governor. Republican-run states are killing people with their anti-science Covid policies. A white man killed a succession of Asian-Americans in Georgia in a fit of racist rage. Russians offered cash bounties to the Taliban to kill American soldiers. Anyone who suggested the pandemic started in a Chinese laboratory was a racist. Oh, and Mr. Trump’s postmaster general was stealing mailboxes.
Can you name similar falsehoods on the other side? Of course you can. There’s the impenetrable drivel of QAnon and its tale of a political elite that drinks the blood of children. But also, less lurid and more widely disseminated and believed: The 2020 election was stolen in some kind of conspiracy between Venezuelan operatives and Democratic ballot-counters. Covid vaccines don’t work. Jan. 6 was a false-flag operation. All every bit as false and misleading as the fictions of the bulk of the media.
But there’s an important difference.
It’s not simply that the left-leaning media and their allies control most of the public discourse. They do, but that doesn’t much matter any more. My suspicion is that most news now is consumed by people who choose what they believe. Tens of millions of Americans have simply shut the traditional media out of their consciousness. I’m not even sure I believe the sports reporting there any more. I had to seek independent verification recently that the Atlanta Braves had won the World Series.
It may be a pity that we don’t have widespread faith in most of the media anymore, but it’s not the end of the world. It’s happened before and it will probably resolve itself over time. Contrary to the screaming hysteria from some on the right, Don Lemon won’t single-handedly dismantle democracy.
The larger problem is that these people, even as they tell us their ideologically approved falsehoods, are trying their level best to drive the other side out of circulation completely. Not just the falsehoods; they’d like to drive out facts and arguments they don’t approve of too. And they think they can do it.
The big buzzword on the left these days is—absolutely without irony—“misinformation.” Many of the big media companies now have teams of reporters to cover “misinformation” or, more conspiratorially, “disinformation.”
As far as I can tell, not one of these has yet produced a single report on any of those fabrications I briefly described at the top of this column. Surprise.
The aim is a full-bore corporate and regulatory crackdown on news and information that doesn’t help their cause. They want the memory-holing of the Hunter Biden story to be the model for all news dissemination.
The recent brouhaha over the Facebook whistleblower who exposed internal debate at the company about the content on its platform emphasizes this. It underscores how important it is for conservatives not to be tempted down the primrose path of regulatory redress. It’s not the harm the company may be doing to teenage girls’ self-esteem that’s driving the mainstream media’s criticism; it’s the harm that the plethora of conservative news sites and commentators that dominate Facebook’s newsfeed is doing to the self-esteem of corporate media.
This is the ultimate objective of those who have fed us so much falsity for so long now. They want the primary channels of digital information, not only social platforms but search too, to be as epistemically closed as the rest of the media is currently.
They live in a self-contained world where only one sort of information counts as misinformation, and they intend to get us all into that world. Then, by their own impeccable Orwellian logic, there will be no misinformation. Only truth, duly enforced.
Why is corporate legacy media dying? Danchenko indictment and collapsing Russia Hoax narrative reveal the answer: Root Rot.
By John Kass - a writer. Writing is his oxygen. And there is plenty to write about. My farewell column to the readers of the Chicago Tribune ends with -30-. It’s an old school newspaper code. It means, the end. He too is disgusted with todays media and has similiar thoughts hence his departure from the Chicago Herald.
I’ve spent most of my life in what is now called corporate legacy media. Many colleagues were committed to doing great work and telling the truth and I loved it.
But now I see it rotting away. Any gardener can see it.
I have a few hobbies to clear the mind and find refuge from the barking dogs of politics and news. One is fly fishing. Another is gardening. I don’t consider myself a master gardener by any means, though I can at least grow tomatoes, plant and prune a rosebush, set a trellis for climbing vines. I’ve never quite gotten the hang of hydrangeas.
But I do have eyes to see when a troubled plant is dying.
And what I see in the Washington Media Complex as its favorite narrative, the Russia Collusion hoax, collapses around them is deep decay.
The leaves of the plant wilt. The plant doesn’t know that it is effectively dead. How can you tell? You need to go beneath the surface examine the roots. You’ll see.
It’s root rot.
Like those wilting withering leaves, the symptoms have been visible for years, as when media became a frenzied mob to wrongly defame a boy–young Nicholas Sandman of Covington, KY.– as a racist because the journalists didn’t like the kid’s politics and his red cap.
Or the media tar and feathering of Kyle Rittenhouse, the foolish teenager who went to the riots in Kenosha with his rifle. Many journalists didn’t bother with the presumption of innocence and quickly portrayed him as a demon, as a murderous white supremacist vigilante. And last week prosecution witnesses undercut the prosecution’s own case with their testimony. Rittenhouse could be acquitted on self-defense grounds within days.
Corporate legacy media pushed the now-discredited Russia Collusion hoax day after day for years, arguing that former President Donald Trump was a willing stooge of the Russians, it has collapsed. Once it became clear that their precious narrative was a hoax, the corporate Beltway media avoided obligation to trace it all back and expose the liars and schemers among their sources.
Most media is of the left and did not like Trump. I get it. Not liking a politician isn’t a crime. Half the country considered Trump unlikeable. Many who voted for him considered him unlikeable, too, but they liked his policies and the direction of the country.
The issue isn’t about likes. The issue is that the Russia Collusion hoax was perhaps the greatest political dirty trick in American history, crafted by Democrats loyal to Hillary Clinton to destabilize the government, with corporate legacy media carrying the fetid water, and now strenuously avoids telling their readers and viewers how it happened.
There is no economic incentive for corporate media to confess its sins. Their economic models don’t demand accountability. And for all their precious slogans like “democracy dies in darkness,” what is truly dark is selling the nation on a hoax to make a profit.
Ultimately, diseased plants are unable to bear fruit. The plant dies.
And all this rot could have been dealt with years ago, if only editors and publishers and TV network executives were committed to cut it out, to enforce standards against blatant partisanship in what they presented as objective straight news reporting. But they did not act as their newsrooms became woke, and as dissident voices came under siege and were driven off.
The Russia Collusion narrative has all been exposed as a fraud through a series of indictments issued by federal prosecutor John Durham, widely respected and considered by many to be apolitical as he pursues his case. His latest indictment, of the Russian Igor Danchenko makes the media fall complete.
Christopher Steele, the so-called British intelligence officer who developed the infamous dossier was doing political opposition research on behalf of the Clintons and the Democrats. And, as the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel notes, if anyone was in bed with the Russians it wasn’t Trump as much as it was others.
“The media absolutely ate it up and they threw their credibility into the toilet to do it,” said Tom Bevan, co-founder and president of Real Clear Politics, a guest on The Chicago Way podcast.
“I think that was sort of the fundamental breaking point when they went from fawning over [former President Barack] Obama to become actively involved in trying to tear down a president with Donald Trump…I think they’re broken. I don’t think media is fixable at this point,” Bevan said.
I’ve provided a link our talk on the podcast because I hope you’ll take the time to listen to Bevan. Real Clear Politics publishes analysis and opinion from the left, right, and what’s left of the center. What frosts him is the obnoxious sanctimony of many journalistic actors now that their Russia hoax has been revealed. It frosts me, too.
When Americans think of the phrase “corporate legacy media,” they think of major news organizations, such as The New York Times and the Washington Post, and the major TV news networks like NBC and CBS and ABC, and the chinstrokers who show up on the Sunday talk shows. Most, if not all are clearly left of center.
The New York Times and the Washington Post were awarded Pulitzer Prizes for their reporting on the now discredited Steele Dossier. They haven’t yet returned their awards. What’s worse, they’ve balked at walking back the cat to expose corrupt political actors and corrupt sources in the FBI and CIA.
Three years ago, when I worked at “the paper,” I wrote a column asking if the Washington Democratic Media Complex would ever expose the liars who spun the Trump-Russia hoax. I’m still waiting for an answer.
In Chicago, if a political source turns out to be a liar who played you and your readers for fools, you don’t sit in their laps for hugs and kisses and absolve their sins. Instead, you burn them down, publicly as liars and manipulators.
For years, most of the condemnation of the Russia hoax has come from the right. And those who follow me know I’m conservative.
Years ago, I was sickened and ashamed when I bit on the bait tossed by the Republican establishment and those pro-Bush neo-conservative “intelligence experts” about Iraq. They claimed America had to invade Iraq to stop the proliferation of those “weapons of mass destruction.”
But there were no WMDs. It was all a lie.
I’ve apologized many times for supporting Bush’s on Iraq. The other day was Veterans Day and on TV there were news clips of American war fighters who were ruined in Iraq. They lost limbs and faces and lives. I can’t forgive myself.
What amazes me the Washington establishment journos who understood the corruption of information that led to Iraq. But they also bit on the Russia hoax, and now refuse to expose the intriguers. Why? Were they duped, or were they willing participants?
Not all critics of the Russia Collusion narrative are conservatives. Independent journalists of the left have also been warning about the story. One is Matt Taibbi.
“Russia gate is already a sizable boil on the face of American journalism,” Taibbi writes, “but the indictment of Danchenko has the potential to grow the profession’s embarrassment to fantastic dimensions.”
Glenn Greenwald, another journalist of the left–and a Pulitzer Prize recipient back when the award mattered, is also disgusted.
“There was just no evidence being presented for so long,” Greenwald said in an interview on “Breaking Points.”
“First for the claim that it was Russia that did it, but then much more so for the claim that the Trump organization or campaign participated in things like the hacking of the DNC and Podesta emails, they were just the kinds of leaks from the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, that come anonymously, that anyone with any journalistic ethos should instantly regard as suspicious, absent evidence being presented. For a very long time, all we were getting was evidence-free anonymous leaks coming from the intelligence community.”
“I guess I just don’t understand why it took this, Greenwald said. “We all lived, most of us as adults, through a very similar experience that should have already taught us the lesson that the lies that led to the invasion of Iraq. It was not FOX News that convinced most liberals and Democrats like Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, etc., to support that invasion. It was The New York Times and NBC News and The New Yorker and The Atlantic.”
Back before the invasion of Iraq, when I worked at “the paper,” a few of us would be invited to Washington for the big journalism dinners, formal black tie and white tie affairs. Establishment news organizations would compete with one another to invite Hollywood celebrity guests for their tables.
Reporters from papers across the country would put on musical comedy skits that they’d practiced for months. They’d sing and dance about the news. The elite Washington establishment political figures in attendance would applaud.
At the white tie dinner, you could see some men wearing bright satin sashes, with medals, as if they were time-traveling European nobles from the Land of the Mouse that Roared. Or was it Freedonia?
I loathed those dinners, where establishment journos preening before the political lords became little more than palace guardians of the regime. I mocked it in my column and was relieved not to be invited again.
But over the past few days, as the Washington Media Complex avoids the collapse of the Russia collusion narrative, I’ve been thinking of those dinners and all those grand toasts to journalism, our glasses held high in our white ties and tails. I’m hit with nausea.
On my podcast, the Chicago Way, Bevan nailed it:
“The only thing you need to know to illuminate the media’s role in all of this and what their objectives have been, compare how they handled this unverified [Steele] dossier—with all information which they absolutely printed, anonymous sourcing, they just absolutely opened the floodgates to publish all this junk, and then absolutely went silent on the Hunter Biden laptop scandal right before the election.”
Have you forgotten? Legacy corporate media hopes you’ve forgotten. Big Tech suppressed sharing The New York Post’s stories on Hunter Biden’s laptop and the incriminating emails. Editors, publishers, network executives in the main ignored it, but they rushed to tell us that “intelligence professionals” believed the emails were part of some Russian disinformation campaign.
That wasn’t true. But the “intelligence professionals” gave them the excuse they wanted to suppress and ignore the Hunter Biden story as unreliable even as they pushed the Russia story.
“Oh, we can’t print that!” Bevan said, using a mocking tone to sound like all those editors and network news executives avoiding the Hunter Biden story. The emails turned out to be legitimate. “We can’t verify any of these things. We’re not even going to look into them.
“You compare those two stories and that’s all you need to know about these folks who consider themselves objective journalists and how they acted and operate,” Bevan said. “It’s just astonishing. They have no credibility in my mind, it’s no wonder that the public has tuned them out and now views them with such disdain.”
You’ve probably heard the saying that a fish rots from the head. It doesn’t take all that long for a fish to turn. Your nose tells you.
But for years, corporate legacy establishment media has been rotting from the roots, the decay long suspected but beneath the surface.
And now, it’s obvious. The roots are gone.
(Copyright 2021 John Kass)