It’s not an easy time to be a fan of journalism in pro-Trump circles.
Fake News. Enemy of the people.
It’s not just the President using these words. Many of my staid, sober-minded friends have embraced this rhetoric too. The anger is palpable.
Harvard Law School professor Adrian Vermeule recently compared the media to the meth industry, tweeting: “Layoffs at BuzzFeed and HuffPo strike me as roughly equivalent to a downturn in the methamphetamine industry, and I have no more sympathy for the participants.”
Rhetoric aside, I understand the frustration. Our political media is so skewed left, so brazen with narrative manipulation, so obsessed with resisting Trump … while presenting and perceiving itself as even-handed arbiters of truth.
The Covington Catholic episode crystalized these flaws. Journalists at some of the best-known outlets rushed to judgement, spread mistruths, and doxed high school students. Some fantasized about mass shootings. Why? Because white kids wearing MAGA hats were smirking as a Native American activist approached them. It was confirmation bias writ large.
Even now, as Nathan Phillip’s credibility falls apart and more complete video footage has come out, a number of journalists are doubling down. They’re writing puff pieces on Black Israelites (the real foul-mouths of the situation), writing thought pieces on hats and smirks as symbols of white entitlement, and re-litigating every behavior of 16-year-olds on a field trip.
We all know media trust is at an all-time low. What many may not appreciate is how deep the partisan divide is. According to Edelman’s Trust Barometer, 85% of Trump voters say they don’t trust the news media, compared to less than half of Clinton voters.
Pew Research found a similar divide.
It is true that Trump and foreign adversaries are stoking some of this anger. But there’s a reason it resonates: media mistrust. This mistrust was here before the 2016 election.
We should be honest that today’s media is, in effect, an arm of the DNC. A study of partisan donations among journalists found that 93% were directed to Hillary. $382,000 went to Clinton, just $14,000 to Trump.
It’s also the structure of the industry. This morning I tweeted about the impact of digital media valuations on the political landscape.
BuzzFeed. HuffPo. Vox. Mic. NowThis News. Vice. Etc.
They all raised buckets of VC money at astronomical valuations. Can anyone name one rightwing media outlet that raised similar levels of VC funds?
If you compare dollar-for-dollar investment in leftwing versus rightwing media, the lopsidedness is just astounding. Any wonder people are not feeling represented? Or that there’s no countervailing force to the left-bias of today’s media?
The few voices that do exist, like Tucker Carlson and Breitbart, are subjected to bans, boycotts, and algorithmic manipulations. The result is as predictable as it is dismaying: Many on the right see scorched earth as the only option.
And seek to deconstruct the legitimacy of existing media.
This isn’t healthy!
Democracy needs good journalism. It needs balanced journalism that’s not overwhelmingly from one side of the political spectrum.
The media’s partisan imbalance is now a crisis. The anger I’m seeing is unprecedented, at least in my lifetime. It’s becoming a national security issue. We have no “immune system” to mitigate foreign information warfare.
The health of our nation depends on resolving this. The first step: admitting we have a crisis.