It took many years and hard experience for me to understand this simple biblical passage:
3) And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
4) Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
5) Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
I sometimes videotape my teaching, because I know I cannot possibly recognize everything I might be doing wrong, or perhaps what I might do more effectively. Being human, I m fatally infected with hubris, a failing against which I struggle. But at least I know about it, and appreciate the necessity of suppressing it. Not so Chuck Todd of NBC News, writing in The Atlantic:
…there’s a new kind of campaign underway, one that most of my colleagues and I have never publicly reported on, never fully analyzed, and never fully acknowledged: the campaign to destroy the legitimacy of the American news media.
Bashing the media for political gain isn’t new, and neither is manipulating the media to support or oppose a cause. These practices are at least as old as the Gutenberg press. But antipathy toward the media right now has risen to a level I’ve never personally experienced before. The closest parallel in recent American history is the hostility to reporters in the segregated South in the 1950s and ’60s.
Hmmm. Todd is correct about a very high level of “antipathy toward the media.” He’s as wrong as it is possible for a human being—even a reporter—to be about “the campaign to destroy the legitimacy of the American new media,” unless he’s referring to self-inflicted damage. I’ve heard reporters and pundits squealing about this daily, but hey, Todd is a reporter, so whatever he says must be true. After all, they have layers and layers of editors and fact checkers. And Todd wouldn’t be trying to play a race card, would he?
Some of the wealthiest members of the media are not reporters from mainstream outlets. Figures such as Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, and the trio of Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and Laura Ingraham have attained wealth and power by exploiting the fears of older white people. They are thriving financially by exploiting the very same free-press umbrella they seem determined to undermine.
Is it possible that this exploitation of fears is, rather, informing the public of the news Todd and his colleagues refuse to cover? News that might tend to make Democrats look bad? Perhaps their financial success is due to hard work, and providing a much more balanced perspective—reporting all the facts–than the legacy media is willing to do? Todd also seems to mistake legitimate criticism with undermining, though the media’s own blatant and arrogant leftist bias is a self-undermining carousel.
Much of the current hand-wringing about this rise in press bashing and delegitimization has been focused on the president, who—as every reporter in America sadly knows—has declared the press the ‘enemy of the people.’ But, like much else in the Trump era, Donald Trump didn’t start this fire; he’s only spread it to a potentially more dangerous place.
And what, pray tell, is this danger? Is Mr. Trump doing anything to abolish the First Amendment, or merely pushing back against a media that relentlessly attacks him? I know the Constitution does not restrain the President from criticizing the media, but I was unaware the Constitution protected reporters from the criticism they so gleefully dish out to others, or such criticism is, in and of itself, dangerous.
And who, apart from President Trump, is responsible for the unfair and dangerous campaign against the noble public servants of the media? Why, Fox News, of course!
In the early ’90s, while he was president of CNBC, [Roger] Ailes had a hunch that an evening lineup catering to a culturally conservative audience would thrive. He wanted to give his theory a chance, but he was passed over for the leadership of the network’s new channel, MSNBC. Enter Rupert Murdoch. The mogul bought into Ailes’s theory, and in 1996 they launched Fox News with the slogan ‘Fair and balanced.’
From the very beginning, Ailes signaled that Fox News would offer an alternative voice, splitting with the conventions of television journalism.
Yes. They would report all the news.
Take the word balanced. It sounded harmless enough. But how does one balance facts? A reporting-driven news organization might promise to be accurate, or honest, or comprehensive, or to report stories for an underserved community. But Ailes wasn’t building a reporting-driven news organization. The promise to be ‘balanced’ was a coded pledge to offer alternative explanations, putting commentary ahead of reporting; it was an attack on the integrity of the rest of the media. Fox intended to build its brand the same way Ailes had built the brands of political candidates: by making the public hate the other choice more.
Todd cannot see the beam in his own eye. The “balance” of Fox News consists not of balancing facts, but of presenting news Todd and his ilk refuse to present. And what is this “integrity” of which Todd speaks? Where in the legacy media might something ephemeral and elusive be found? Perhaps whatever hatred of the legacy media has accrued is a result of an audience that finds Fox News far more credible and accurate.
There are some great journalists at Fox, including Chris Wallace, Bret Baier, and Shep Smith, but it’s not an organization that emphasizes journalism. Instead, Ailes created an organization that focuses on attacking the ‘liberal media’ whose ‘liberal bias”’ was ruining America. Almost any big story that was potentially devastating to a conservative was ‘balanced’ with some form of whataboutism.
These attacks about which Todd writes are, again, merely reporting the stories—the facts–he won’t report. Not falling into lockstep with progressive reporters is an attack? Todd thoughtfully provides an example:
… I often get mail from viewers who say: Now that you’ve focused on all of President Trump’s misdeeds, you are biased if you don’t dedicate the same amount of time to Hillary Clinton’s misdeeds. It seems completely lost on this segment of the population that one person is the leader of the free world, and the other is a retiree living in the suburbs of New York City.
Hillary Clinton is just some little old lady,utterly meaningless, other than her millions, her books, the fact she has been and remains a political player at the highest levels, and the media’s willingness to give her airtime whenever she attacks President Trump, or any other progressively disfavored person or cause. Other than that, she’s just like everyone’s grandmother. A grandmother, that is, who has to date gotten away with multiple federal felonies, the coverups of which continue to destroy public confidence in the Department of Justice and the FBI–what little remains.
But Ailes exploited the public’s lack of knowledge of journalistic conventions, portraying reports about social change as advocacy for such change. He played up cultural fears, creating the mythology of a biased press.
There go those deplorables again. They just don’t understand journalistic conventions, such as telling the whole truth, presenting all the facts, and not blurring the line between reporting and opinion. Oh wait, I’m explaining what reporters don’t know. Sorry.
At the other extreme, critics may be accusing journalists of having deliberately and consciously shaped their reporting to serve some political end. That sort of overt bias is far rarer. Ironically, the best example of this kind of bias airs regularly in prime time on Fox News.
“That kind of bias is far rarer”?! Here Todd has an entire lumberyard in his eye. One need only reflect on legacy media coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign to understand Todd’s delusion. In an unprecedented manner, Todd and those like him advocated, every day and in every way, for Hillary Clinton, and who can forget their shock, horror, revulsion, and even tears, on election eve when it became obvious Donald Trump would win? Who can forget their breathless reporting since on every attempt to undermine or depose the Trump presidency, at a 90%/10% negative to positive story clip?
Todd goes on to argue that he and his colleagues, pure as the driven snow and ethical to a fault, have done nothing to counter the evil of Fox News:
We did nothing, because we were trained to say nothing. Good reporters know that they have to let the chips fall where they may, and that criticism comes with the gig. We know that the loudest squealers are usually the ones we’ve exposed doing something untoward—and that eventually they’ll get theirs. [skip]
The American press corps finds itself on the ropes because it allowed a nearly 50-year campaign of attacks inspired by the chair of Fox News to go unanswered.
Todd’s arrogance and lack of ability to perceive reality is as common as it is stunning.
If you hear something over and over again, you start to believe it, particularly if the charge is unrebutted. The Trump team now keeps pounding this message, compounding the challenge. And the president faces little penalty with his voters, no matter how disparagingly he talks about the press corps; it’s precisely what Ailes conditioned them to believe.
Something like Russian collusion, and “Trump is about to be impeached any second”? Is that the “something,” Mr. Todd?
But forget the personal animus or safety issues reporters now face. American democracy requires a functioning press that informs voters and creates a shared set of facts. If journalists are going to defend the integrity of their work, and the role it plays in sustaining democracy, we’re going to need to start fighting back.
Threats of violence are, of course, unconscionable. However, the criticism aimed at the legacy media exists because they are not “a functioning press that informs voters,” but a public relations arm of the Democrat Party, democrat operatives with bylines. To be sure, the media does not always misinform the public, but when they do, it is virtually exclusively to the benefit of Democrats. Witness Todd’s nobility:
Instead of attacking rivals, or assailing critics—going negative, in the parlance of political campaigns—reporters need to showcase and defend our reporting. Every day, we need to do our job, check our facts, strive to be transparent, and say what we’re seeing. That’s what I’ve tried to do here. I’ve seen a nearly 50-year campaign to delegitimize the press, and I’m saying so. For years, I didn’t say a word about this publicly…
Of course. The legacy media never goes negative. They always check their facts, except like CNN when they get caught with a completely false report (Lanny Davis, cough, cough) and refuse to retract it, and in the best Dan Ratherish tradition, proclaim it “fake but accurate.” And they’re completely transparent, except in reporting about President Trump, or just about any other Republican. And Todd and his colleagues have never, not for 50 years, said a word about any of this, except pretty much daily.
The truth is that most journalists, in newsrooms large and small across the country, are doing their best each day to be fair, honest, and direct. These values are what Americans demand of one another, and it should be what they demand of their media. The challenge for viewers and readers is this: Ask yourself why someone is so determined to convince you not to believe your lying eyes.
Todd’s brazen attempts to do just that would be hilarious were it not so damaging. By all means, gentle readers, take the link and read Todd’s entire skewed missive. It is of a piece with reporters who wail that any criticism of them is an attempt to destroy the first Amendment, nay, the Republic itself. Projection, thy name is reporter.