The last few days have been absolutely terrible for the reputation of the badly named “mainstream media.”
The myth that they tried to build for themselves after the 2016 election — that the American people were too prone to misinformation from malignant (and often foreign) actors in social media and needed a sober, factually meticulous “news” media to put the Facts First — utterly collapsed under the weight of the BuzzFeed fiasco and the smear-athon of Covington Catholic High School kids.
The reality is this: In the Trump era, no one in the “old media” feels the need to wait for the facts. And whatever goes viral on left-wing social media channels is quickly defined as “news.” The media do not mediate as much as they magnify. So a pack of lies can quickly take flight and dominate the national conversation.
The common thread in these two stories is that they indulged the worst tendencies of Trump-hating journalists. Their emotional investment in pushing impeachment and finding racism under every MAGA hat gets way ahead of what they actually prove.
BuzzFeed reported that President Trump had directed his lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress. The entire sound of the media’s reports on the story last Friday — their saying “we have not independently confirmed” the story and then insisting that “if true,” it’s curtains for President Trump — made the actual facts a sad afterthought. The media wished and hoped this was “it,” the “beginning of the end” of President Trump and “the walls closing in,” as they have claimed month after month.
The story collapsed when the office of special counsel Robert Mueller — whom all the Trump-hating journalists adore and trust deeply as their savior, the hero who will get Trump — said the BuzzFeed story is “not accurate.” BuzzFeed essentially published raw sewage — just as it published the entire Hillary Clinton-funded dossier of unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, like the alleged “pee tape” of Trump watching prostitutes urinate on each other in a Moscow hotel room in 2013.
Then, on Saturday night, the smearing of Covington Catholic High School boys at the Lincoln Memorial began, based on one 30-second video clip and the testimony of left-wing Native American activist Nathan Phillips, who’s now exposed as a shameless liar. Much longer videos quickly demonstrated that Phillips was not surrounded by a mob of “beastly” teenagers with the gleeful faces of a lynch mob, as he’d claimed. This disingenuous radical marched right into these unsuspecting teenagers’ midst, banging a drum in their faces. He told reporters that he fought in Vietnam, which is a lie. But the liberal media indulged him. It was too good to check.
Isn’t this the “fake news” that professional journalists and social media barons alike are supposed to curtail and not allow be spread like a virus — or even magnified?
These Catholic boys rode a bus 500 miles from Kentucky to participate in the March for Life, a pro-life event that liberal journalists usually pretend never happened. ABC, CBS and NBC gave Friday’s march just 58 seconds, but by Monday morning, they’d devoted over 19 minutes to the allegedly racist aftermath. Everyone knows that if these teens hadn’t worn MAGA hats, this viral video cesspool (complete with hate speech and death threats) would never have been created. That’s not the teens’ fault. It’s the knee-jerk media’s fault. It’s the jerks in the press at fault.
A new poll from the Pew Research Center found that “58 percent of U.S. adults feel the news media do not understand people like them, while 40 percent feel they are understood.” And 73 percent of Republicans say the media don’t understand them. These colossal new blunders only make that alienated feeling even stronger.
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L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center. Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org. To find out more about Brent Bozell III and Tim Graham and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.