Sunday, April 17, 2022

Distorting the Truth to Serve a Supposedly Greater Good Destroys the Credibility of Journalists, and Threatens the Future of Democracy

In Media Bias and Hunter's Laptop, Holman Jenkins makes important points not just about the Hunter Biden laptop story but also about the larger issue of media bias. After pointing out that some media organizations are belatedly acknowledging that the original Hunter Biden laptop story did not appear out of thin air, was not based on Russian disinformation, and was in fact a well-sourced New York Post article, Jenkins explores why the Washington Post and so many other media outlets preferred to bury the story instead of investigate it:

The job of "newspapers of record" is to establish the truth or falsity of important matters in the public sphere, and whether the laptop was real or not certainly qualified. But instead of doing its job, the press preferred to line up behind 50 former U.S. intelligence officials who (without evidence, even they admitted) claimed the story was Russian disinformation.

...The media did so because the laptop story was plainly a threat to Joe Biden's election. They'd seen this movie before--with James Comey's late intervention in 2016--and "knew" Donald Trump's re-election would be a disaster for the country...

My own prayer is Mr. Trump won't run and that somebody half-decent will, but I don't lie to myself that the survival of the republic depends on my preferences being fulfilled. History has its own mind. Hard to describe as anything but neurotic is a press that preferred an unsupported assertion about a Russian plot to the self-evident facts of the laptop case--or, for that matter, believed a badly typed collection of anonymous claims about Donald Trump and Russia (aka the Steele dossier) was the secret record of the greatest political conspiracy in history.

What seems closer to certain is that the rule of law and our democratic system are in greater danger when elite institutions work to discredit their outcomes than when self-proclaimed "deplorables" do. Out national press cowards, though, aren't about to admit how much they strengthened Mr. Trump, almost re-elected him and made "stop the steal" credible to millions of Americans because, starting in 2016-17, they chose to oppose him with lies instead of the truth.

The phrase "chose to oppose him with lies instead of the truth" cuts to the heart of the matter, and not just regarding Donald Trump but also pertaining to a wide range of issues. Media outlets have a disturbing tendency of disregarding facts/truth in favor of what they perceive to be the "greater good" or "larger truth." In other words, once they decided that Donald Trump's re-election posed a serious threat to democracy they were willing to do anything--including lie, and bury newsworthy stories--in pursuit of what they perceive to be the "greater good." However, that is not their decision to make, or their job to do. Their job is to investigate, and then report the truth; it is the job of the voters to decide what the "greater good" is. Many media members consistently demonstrate their disdain for the public, and demonstrate that they do not believe that the public is capable of making correct decisions; that is why media outlets suppress some stories while elevating others. Unfortunately, once the media corrupts itself we move perilously close to becoming a society that has a free and independent press in name only. If the media only serves one side of the political spectrum in the interest of what media members determine to be the "greater good," we run the risk of that side gaining absolute control not only of media narratives but of the government itself. As Jenkins indicates, it is possible to both deplore Donald Trump's conduct while also recognizing the threat posed by the way that many media outlets are shirking their responsibilities.

The declining--if not completely collapsed and corrupted--standards of conduct by various media members and media outlets is a subject about which I have often written. Here are just a few such articles:

Don't Trust Media Outlets That Fail to Distinguish Between Terrorists and Victims of Terror (April 10, 2022)

Newspaper Headline Downplays Terrorist Attack Against Jews While Focusing on the Death of the Terrorist (November 29, 2021) 

The Reality About Arab Rock Throwers in Israel (November 5, 2021)

The Media's Agenda-Driven COVID-19 Coverage is Symptomatic of a Larger Problem (March 9, 2021) 

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