NBC’s Chuck Todd amuses me; I don’t know if it’s his lethargic presence or his pretense at earnest thoughtfulness. Maybe it’s his “sleepy eyes.” Whatever it is, I rarely miss Meet the Press just for the chance to giggle as Todd’s weekly impression of Chandler Bing from Friends (all those oddly-timed pauses and the weird emphasis on random words just cracks me up). Whatever it is, I find it hard to take Todd seriously; he’s such a doofus and that he sees himself as a person of great gravitas just adds to the funny.
When I saw that he had published an article at the Atlantic, I couldn’t click over quickly enough. Sure, much of his pretentious goofiness needs to be seen and heard to be appreciated, but he’s such a sloppy thinker that I just had to know what he had written.
Sure enough, Todd’s “It’s Time for the Press to Stop Complaining—And to Start Fighting Back” is an eye-rolling chuckle-fest starting with the excerpt prominently featured under that laughable title: “A nearly 50-year campaign of vilification, inspired by Fox News’s Roger Ailes, has left many Americans distrustful of media outlets. Now, journalists need to speak up for their work.”
Yep, you got it from just that much info. According to Todd, the late Roger Ailes is personally responsible for the public’s lack of trust in the media. Whinging on for a whopping 30 paragraphs, Todd explains that Ailes and his deplorable Fox News (not founded until 1996, by the way), are to blame for all the media’s ills . . . and even for the election of President Trump. You can’t make this stuff up. Well, I guess you can. Todd did.
He begins by attempting to establish himself as a serious person (all I hear as I read is that jarring rapid-fire teleprompter read and those weird pauses of his and his strange emphasis on random words as he stares into the camera like a deer caught in the headlights [emphasis mine to illustrate]:
I’ve devoted [weird pause] much of my professional life to the study of political campaigns, not as a historian or an academic but as a reporter and an analyst. I thought I’d seen [weird pause] it all, from the bizarre upset that handed a professional wrestler the governorship of Minnesota to the California [weird pause] recall that gave us the Governator to candidates who die but stay on the ballot and win.
But there’s a new [weird pause] kind of campaign underway, one that most of my colleagues [weird pause] and I have never publicly [weird pause] reported on, never fully analyzed, and never fully acknowledged: the campaign to destroy the legitimacy of the American news media.
So, Todd, a serious “reporter and analyst” is just now, after a “50-year” assault on the news media, getting around to recognizing it? Ace reporting and analyzing there.
The hilarity doesn’t stop there (and no, I’m not going to keep Chandler-izing the excerpts, you get the picture): Todd then explains how and why Ailes is personally and apparently solely responsible for the recent precipitous decline in public trust in media, a decline so stark even the media has to acknowledge it. Todd acknowledges it without any self-reflection.
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.
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.
Every reporter sadly knows the same misrepresentation of the president’s actual words reporters keep reporting as fact. Trump called “The FAKE NEWS media” not his enemy but “the enemy of the American people” [emphasis not mine]. The only way the media can claim to be among those Trump terms the enemy of the people is if they acknowledge they serve up fake news. Catch-22.
As to the wealth-shaming, let’s hear how destitute Rachel Maddow is, how near poverty Joe and Mika are, what a pauper Todd himself is. The claim that Hannity and Tucker have more power is also questionable because Todd doesn’t explain what he means by “power” or how the host of Meet the Press is less powerful than Laura’s new show on Fox News. If power is counted by viewers, he’s spot-on.
My guess is that the Fox hosts are more credible to larger segments of the American public (as born out in ratings). Again, though, Todd doesn’t reflect on this; he doesn’t wonder what the mainstream media is getting wrong. Instead, he hammers Ailes and Fox News . . . and, implicitly, those of us who no longer (or never did) trust the media.
Ailes, you see, was busily stirring up distrust in media during and after Watergate, and that somehow transmitted to all Americans, was dormant for nearly half a century, and exploded on the scene in the past few years. Because Ailes. Oh, and because Trump.
The modern campaign against the American press corps has its roots in the Nixon era. President Richard Nixon’s angry foot soldiers continued his fight against the media even after he left office.
Roger Ailes, who went on to help found Fox News, was the most important of those figures. His sustained assault on the press created the conditions that would allow a president to surround himself with aides who argue for “alternative facts,” and announce that “truth isn’t truth.” Without Ailes, a man of Trump’s background and character could never have won. Roger Ailes was the godfather of the Trump presidency.
Take a poll of all Americans and ask them “who is Roger Ailes?”, and you’ll get a bunch of blank stares, don’t knows, and “shrug, I dunno, the guy who invented cotton candy?” Todd, like too many “journalists,” lives in a bubble. He knows about Ailes, all the bestest progressives do, so everyone else must, too. To be fair, we do this on the right, too. We think everyone knows who George Soros is and why he’s dangerous to our republic.. The truth, though? Most Americans can’t name the Vice President, even one Supreme Court Justice, or the Speaker of the House. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if most Americans can’t name the three branches of government.
From there, Todd teeters off into bizarro world, where everything that is real is fake and everything that is right is wrong.
From the very beginning, Ailes signaled that Fox News would offer an alternative voice, splitting with the conventions of television journalism. 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 asks, “how does one balance facts?”. It’s a good question, but not one that has been seriously considered by him or by a mainstream media that repeatedly ignored Obama’s mistakes, missteps, and scandals. How did they “balance” the facts of Solyndra, Benghazi, the IRS targeting scandal, the Syrian “red line,” the “hero” Bowe Bergdahl and his subsequent swap for the Taliban Five, the New Black Panther voter intimidation case, ObamaCare, Fast and Furious, the VA scandals, attempting to establish their own Obama White House press corps, and a whole host of other facts?
The Todd types want to “balance facts” by ignoring them when it suits their regressive agenda and playing them up when it doesn’t. Imagine President Trump going on an America-bashing apology tour, eating dog and saying it’s yummy, claiming that “Austrian” is a language, stating that Canada has a president, saying he’s visited 57 states, getting caught on mic telling Russia that after his re-election he’ll be more flexible, saying he sees fallen soldiers in the audience, repeatedly saying “corpseman” instead of “corpsman,” and a zillion other things that Trump would be mocked, ridiculed, and all but drawn-and-quartered over.
The difference? When it was Obama, it was normal Americans—like me and most of you—pushing back; when it’s Trump, the full force behind the “balanced facts” consists of the media, Hollywood, universities, and whatever violent loons they can find to bash heads . . . while conservative and pro-Trump voices are banned from social media.
If an American ambassador were killed under Trump’s watch, there would be hell to pay . . . all day, every day. Trump tweets, and they freak out. Imagine if his administration decided that a great way to earn support for gun control was arming foreign drug cartels so that a rash of murders at the border sparked sufficient public outrage to ban—or severely restrict—guns. Or that blaming the Benghazi attack on a movie and subsequently locking up said movie-maker while burning tax-payer money in Libya to brag that the culprit had been jailed.
Yet the media did nothing about any of this. They yawned and looked the other way as actual journalists like Sharyl Attkisson were out of a job and hounded by the Obama government. Obama’s DOJ named journalist James Rosen not only a flight risk but “an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator.” The Obama White House set up and staged its own pressers with its own journalists and photographers. Where was the outrage? Todd’s vaunted “balance of facts”?
Most of the stories above can clearly be found (I’ve linked them), but what’s different now is that any one or all of these would be front and center 24/7 if it were Trump. Every media outlet from CNN to HuffPo to NBC to Slate would be hammering this stuff like it was the end of the world.
Todd has to know this (I’m not sure he does; he’s doesn’t seem very bright). If he doesn’t, though, others are more than aware, Rachel Maddow is no fool; she’s getting rich in just the way Todd accuses Fox personalities of doing. And she’s doing it by following her network’s regressive agenda. I don’t see anything wrong with this. People want to watch that crap, and if Maddow can get paid millions to give it them, I don’t really care.
What I do care about is the way that Todd and his ilk demonize and attempt to silence our voices, our values, our worldview. And make no mistake, his idea of the press “fighting back” has nothing to do with reporting actual news, even at the propagandistic levels that have driven viewers from CNN and other outlets to Fox. The reason? People watching Fox News are not the same type of zombies that gobble up the fake news of CNN, MSNBC, and other leftstream outlets.
We aren’t blank slate zombies, and we don’t need to be told what to think, of course. But Todd is all Alinsky, all the way:
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.
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.
As long-time LI readers know, I’m of the mind that much of the left’s vitriol and the majority of their accusations are rooted in projection. It’s an “if I’m doing it, they must be, too” mentality that came to prominence with Hillary Clinton’s first accusation about a “vast right-wing conspiracy.”
What the left can’t explain is how I (as an example) managed to have conservative values and principles before the launch of Fox News in 1996. According to this bizarre (and so humorous) piece, I must have been influenced by the 50-years of Ailes’ influence, the start of which pre-dates Fox News.
Todd ends his piece with the most ridiculous nonsense yet:
I’m not advocating for a more activist press in the political sense, but for a more aggressive one. That means having a lower tolerance for talking points, and a greater willingness to speak plain truths. It means not allowing ourselves to be spun, and not giving guests or sources a platform to spin our readers and viewers, even if that angers them. Access isn’t journalism’s holy grail—facts are.
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.
I don’t think Todd understands the concept behind “who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”. If my lying eyes are telling me that I see media bias not only for Obama and against Trump but against the Second Amendment, against faith and family values, against a host of other principles that I hold dear, I’m believing them.
When I ask myself why Todd is so determined to convince me to ignore the facts, to buy into the idea that any single person is responsible for the shoddy, grossly-partisan drivel the media attempts to force down our throats, my answer is pretty simple: he’s scared. They’re all scared. They just don’t know why they are afraid, so they seek to pin the blame on the regressive left’s handful of boogeymen, in this case on Roger Ailes.
All this does is highlight the vast and growing divide between the fringe regressive #Resistance attempting a coup and normal Americans who don’t give a thought to the SJW madness, to the anti-Trump derangement, to the “everything’s Armageddon and everyone’s Hitler” alarmists.
Trump represents something to us that they are miles from grasping: American values, principles, and morals aren’t learned from the media. Never have been. Trump is here today and gone tomorrow (or hopefully not until 2025), but he’s not America. We are.
Indeed, we are, by a most marvelous gift from our nation’s Founding Fathers, protected by a revolving door at the White House. We aren’t stuck with a monarchy; we have no kings and queens, our country’s leadership is chosen and permitted by the people, not inherited or taken by force or intimidation.
Todd not only doesn’t consider the role the media has played in its new lows in public trust, but he doesn’t consider we, the people as sentient beings. To him, we are empty vessels waiting to be filled with either the glory of leftist SJW propaganda or to be programmed by the evil Ailes.
The truth is much easier to recognize but harder for Todd and his ilk to understand: we aren’t programmed; we aren’t nameless, faceless citizens designated by a number to function within the state, we don’t read the newspaper, watch television programs, or surf the net to find out who we are or to learn what we should think and believe.
The solution to the crisis of confidence in American media is easy: stop lying, stop being partisan hacks, stop the constant bashing of our president . . . just stop. Start reporting facts, just facts, all of them on every story. Don’t bury this story because it hurts a Democrat, and don’t ignore rampant corruption and actual attacks on the free press. And perhaps most importantly, stop whining. Stop pointing the finger and start thinking about what the word “trust” means, then meet the public’s trust. It really is that simple.DONATE
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