Media bias in 2019 is more flagrant and destructive than ever before, but its opponents are often mocked or otherwise dismissed because they fail to call out the most simple and glaring aspects of that bias.
The common refrain from a journalist, cable news host, or other anti-Trump propagandist masquerading as an impartial news professional:
“Show me one fact I got wrong. Show me one story I lied about.”
And so the dance begins, and you pull up something they got wrong. But God forbid it’s something they actually corrected and/or apologized for, because that’s all the evidence they need to show you how crazy you’re being.
“We apologized for and/or corrected that. Thank you for highlighting how responsible and great we are!”
Right? We’ve all seen it a million times. Or if it’s an item they won’t correct it, then you end up in a frustrating game of semantics over something they simply refuse to concede is far more subjective than they’re claiming.
But more often media bias is easier to spot and harder to articulate. And that’s where opponents of that bias run into problems. If Resistance Jake Tapper got 5 minutes with every Trump supporter who knows he’s a biased hack, fully 95% of us would end up right about here:
“I know you’re biased. I can just feel it. And we all know it! You don’t like Trump. It’s obvious. And why don’t you report on the good stuff like the economy!?”
That’s fine. It’s all true. But it’s easy for Resistance Jake and his anti-Trump peers at CNN and all across the media to refute. It may be dishonest, but here’s the response you’ll get:
“My personal feelings about Trump don’t matter. I’m just reporting the facts. If you don’t like the facts, take it up with Trump. And we do report on the good stuff. There’s just a lot more bad stuff and we have to report on that too.”
Right? I mean is everyone with me here?
It’s gaslighting. It’s trying to make a perfectly sane person with a valid gripe look crazy because you don’t like them and/or their gripe.
And that’s how it goes every time: We call out their bias, they ask us to prove it, we do our best, and it’s not enough to let them or others know that we really have them dead to rights.
We need to fix that.
DEFINING MEDIA BIAS & “FAKE NEWS”
The first thing media critics must get better at is defining media bias and fake news. And it’s not about the factual durability of any one story, because debates about the veracity of any single story don’t even scratch the surface of the real issue.
The real issue is how the news is characterized.
Even if Resistance Jake is getting the facts right in his story, it’s his characterizing of the story that reflects his and CNN’s egregious bias. Because they only tell one side of the story. They only see the news from a decidedly anti-Trump, pro-Resistance perspective.
The real news ends where the partisan characterizing begins. When Resistance Jake reports factually that (for example) someone in Trump world lied about their contacts with Russia, he does so with scary images of Trump and Putin in the backdrop while leaning heavily and exclusively into the most nefarious possible implications and giving zero deference to the possibility that Trump’s foes might have ulterior motives and/or Trump might not be a Russian spy.
That’s the real example of the media’s most persistent bias in 2019.
There’s simply no way that every person Resistance Jake interviews who supports President Trump deserves to be mocked and treated like a criminal, while every person he interviews who opposes President Trump deserves softball questions and to be treated like a hero. It’s just not possible that in every situation, for every story, that’s the appropriate approach and/or demonstrates objective and impartial journalism.
It’s the fomenting of “fake news,” because what you get when you watch CNN has less to do with the actual facts and more to do with how they want to package and deliver those facts.
The grim reality: Not only can they get 100% of the facts right and still demonstrate flagrant media bias based solely on how they package and present those facts, but most of the time that’s how it occurs.
HOW THEY DO IT
The next thing critics of media bias need to improve on is calling out specifically how the media asserts their bias. And again, I’m not talking about any one story. I’m looking at the broader media landscape, and the bad behavior more broadly of the entire US political news community.
For almost three years now every story, all day, every day, without fail, has been somehow terrible for Trump.
For the past 960 days or so, and counting.
Specifically they push one of these four narratives…
He’s a racist.
He’s a rapist.
He’s a Russian spy.
He’s literally insane.
And that’s it.
For nearly 1,000 days the media has cherry-picked facts that they can use to paint President Trump in one of those four darknesses. The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway once described the media’s “obstruction loop.” Those four stops — racist, rapist, Russian spy, and/or literally insane — are the four stops on that loop.
HOW MEDIA CRITICS SHOULD RESPOND
Yes the media also outright lie, and I’ve written about that plenty. So of course I’m not saying we shouldn’t call them out when they lie. But the vast majority of time all you’ll get for doing that is a fruitless tit for tat, or an unceremonious admission that doesn’t get nearly the oxygen it would need to make a greater impact on the badly-behaving media as a whole.
What media critics need to start better articulating is that we don’t have to catch the media lying to call out their bias. In fact, the most damaging aspect of bias to both our nation and the media’s credibility, is that it’s so prominent even when they’re not getting the facts wrong.
Here’s a question I emailed to a CNN regular who claims to be an impartial journalist…
I’ve seen you on CNN several times and had a question…
Are you aware that every time you’re on (literally, every time) you assert with certainty that whatever the news of the day is (literally, whatever the news of the day is) it translates — according to you — to absolutely terrible things for President Trump?
I’m just curious if you have the self-awareness to view yourself as an anti-Trump, pro-resistance propagandist…or if you dishonestly claim to be an impartial journalist.
Thanks for any insight you can provide.
They’ll often say, “Well we’re just holding the powerful accountable.” The implication being that they’re brave, and people who don’t like it are just pathetic sheep.
Well Chuck Schumer is pretty powerful. Nancy Pelosi is no slouch. Yet every day, all day, Resistance Jake Tapper and the rest characterize the news of the day in a way that supports Chuck and Nancy — while attacking President Trump. (And whenever humanly possible, his supporters.)
Media bias in 2019 isn’t about absence of fact. It’s about the prominence of partisan characterization. Allegedly impartial hosts like Resistance Jake Tapper spend 2% of their time reporting the facts, and the remaining 98% characterizing those facts to fit their anti-Trump narrative. And that’s where “fake news” kicks in: The real news ends where the partisan characterizing (aka fake news) begins. And what are the anti-Trump narratives? All day, every day, without fail, the media are pushing one of these four angles: Trump is a racist, a rapist, a Russian spy, and/or literally insane.
We need critics of media bias getting more comfortable and better at calling that out because if you have the platform to actually hold the media accountable for their divisive, destructive partisanship — then you better be prepared with a lot more than “That one story that one time had an important fact wrong! And so did another one! And another!” The jury in the court of public opinion won’t be swayed by a handful of specific examples because it’s too granular and too easy for the media to weasel out of with a simple admission that they’re doing their best. It’s the entire atmosphere; the overall theme every day in newsrooms and television studios that people sense but can’t necessarily put into words. And if the media ever is forced to actually take a step back and endure a long overdue reckoning to address their bias, the public’s awareness of the thread that connects them all — their uniformly partisan characterizing of the news so it persistently generates only negative headlines that only attack one person/party — will be largely responsible for forcing that reckoning.
What say you, Resistance Jake? Are you aware that all day, every day, without fail, every story you do is told from a decidedly anti-Trump, pro-Resistance perspective? You can’t possibly conduct yourself that way and call yourself an impartial journalist. It’s time you either stop coloring your reporting with partisan leanings that question only one side while championing the other, or start being honest about what you are. You’re a commentator who discusses news items. You’re certainly not an impartial journalist, and you discredit the entire Fourth Estate by claiming otherwise.
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