I am not the first to notice that, just in the past week, there’s been a crescendo of disgust at the nakedly disingenuous behavior of the mainstream press.
Some of my more politically-astute sources have been throwing up their hands at the apparent unwillingness of the press — purportedly a pillar of democracy — to protect us from the slow-motion insurrection being mounted, in real time, by right-wing vandals.
There’s plenty to be disgusted with:
There’s the endless both-siderism, most obviously the obsessive weighing of Joe Biden’s age against Trump’s four criminal indictments, as if to ask which is worse.
There’s the accumulation of Democrats-in-disarray stories that appear almost daily, in which “insiders” express panic at the Democratic party’s stubborn unwillingness to give credence to open seditionists and nihilistic buffoons.
There are the stories about the economy, where any good news — of which there’s been plenty — must be tempered by dire warnings from “experts” about the imminent recession, which has been imminent for two years now, ever since Biden took office, which is not a coincidence.
More recently, there’s the deification of Rupert Murdoch, even now being hailed in retirement as a “media visionary” — which he surely is, though as visions go, the sabotage of liberal democracy is not one I’d want to be known for.
But for many, the last straw was Kristen Welker’s appalling pander to Trump on her debut as host of Meet The Press. A bad idea gone horribly wrong, you can’t help but wonder what NBC was thinking. It’s not like there wasn’t a precedent for disaster — CNN is still reeling from its grotesquely stupid Trump town hall back in May.
But the very idea that a major TV network would air a world-class serial liar —and leave a blizzard of world-class lies unchallenged — underscores just how untrustworthy our trusted news sources have become.
I’ve virtually given up on television news, and again I’m not alone. Even MSNBC, once a comforting presence in a hostile world, has taken on the conservative tinge of its parent companies, NBC and Comcast. It has devolved into a cavalcade of has-been pundits, too many of whom started out as Republicans, and too few of whom have anything meaningful to say.
Mostly, it seems to be MSNBC’s job, as a company, to make sure their viewers stay petrified of Trump and skeptical of Biden. This is quite clearly a corporate strategy, and the likes of Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell are loudly silent about it.
But the co-opting of MSNBC is just the tip of the iceberg. Among most of the mainstream media, the nation’s headlong slide into fascist theocracy is still not a subject for polite conversation.
So there is much to hate in the way The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, and the other “major” news outlets have basically abandoned their journalistic principles in the interest of manufactured controversy.
Claiming to seek “balance,” “fairness,” and “objectivity,” they’ll cynically make a two-sided conflict out of anything, even if it means amplifying — and therefore legitimizing — right-wing propaganda.
To see how this works, look no further than the “Joe Biden is too old” narrative.
This particular mind-virus was concocted by right-wing media — Fox, Breitbart, Newsmax, the usual suspects — who have long been desperate to slime Joe Biden with anything they can make stick.
To them, Biden is infuriatingly bland. Nothing about him offers the slightest whiff of scandal or bad faith. With so little to work with, they make stuff up — Hunter’s laptop, House investigations, immigrant invasions, bogus impeachment, government shutdown — but nothing gets much traction. They relentlessly paint Biden as a ghoulish criminal mastermind who feasts on dead babies, which plays well with their zombie base, but poorly with real humans.
But the “Biden’s age” story is different. It’s based on objective reality, a rare thing in their world. Biden is indeed old, after all. And while it isn’t much to work with, propagandistically speaking, they’ll flog it anyway. They’ve done much more with much less in the past — think Hillary’s emails.
So they cook up the “argument” that Biden is a doddering, senile old fool who drools in his oatmeal, and is obviously just pretending to be a ghoulish criminal mastermind who feasts on dead babies. Their audience easily accommodates both narratives.
But one of the things right-wing media is distressingly good at is spreading its slime beyond its immediate audience of nitwits and nutjobs. The mainstream press is fully complicit in this, whether they acknowledge it or not.
The media and social media ecospheres are constantly being seeded with dishonest stories looking for “legs.” These slimy stories bubble up from the ooze and ripple outward, lapping against the mainstream, which is always on the lookout for Democrats-in-disarray stories.
Inevitably, the slime sloshes onto Twitter and Facebook, where it gets noticed even by Democrats, who always need things about Biden to worry about. It bubbles up to the Sunday talk shows, where the apparent need to attack, or defend, Biden’s age gives the whole topic far more oxygen than it deserves.
By the time it bubbles up to CNN — or to any other outlet that normalizes Republican propaganda — Biden’s age is now solemnly proclaimed an “issue,” in the presidential race, something “everyone’s talking about.”
But it’s not finished bubbling. Now we’re seeing the “serious” columns on the op-ed pages of the Times and WaPo, each bringing sober and reasoned perspectives to the “controversy.” And OMG, Joe Scarborough is very concerned, Mika too.
So what started as a small piece of actuarial reality is now a nationwide virus, spreading mind to mind, and being amplified by supposedly trustworthy media.
This “issue” will keep bubbling through the next election. It will be accompanied by none-too-subtle racism and misogyny directed at the black woman who’s a mere “heartbeat away” from the presidency. And now that it’s gone mainstream, Biden’s age will be fair game for any clown to weigh in on. At the expense of real issues.
We need better from the press. These are treacherous times, and the people who are supposed to be pointing out the treachery think it’s good business to pretend it’s not there.
There are indeed two sides here — democracy or fascism — and the press needs to choose one. If anything, it would be nice to know where we stand.