The best little “whorehouses” in America are easily located. Drive by the offices of any TV network or newspaper and there’s a 95 percent chance you’ve found one. One that has publicly opposed or supported any candidate for elective office based on political partisanship or personal likes or dislikes. This includes CNN, which loads its prime-time political panels with Democrats such as Donna Brazile, who repeatedly relayed insider information to Hillary Clinton’s campaign; and ABC, which employs prominent former Clinton administration staffer George Stephanopoulos.
Stephanopoulos’ actress wife said they would move to Australia if Donald Trump won. (Great move!) Of 36 Washington Post opinion writers, not one supported Trump. Most vehemently opposed him, including the handful of touted conservatives.
With the outing of JournoList — the now-defunct secret online forum of some 400 liberal and leftist journalists, academics and political activists — and the recent WikiLeaks trove of emails, there is documentation (if any was needed!) of the warm and fuzzy relationship between journalists and Democrats. There is proof of “narrative” coordination among the JournoList members. The leaked emails show outright fraternizing and collusion with Democrats.
Those news enterprises and their employees have prostituted themselves. They’ve violated the basic concept of freedom of the press granted by the Bill of Rights. The Framers intended that this unique constitutional protection be used for good and not for ill, crafting it as a vital part of the checks and balances against the awesome power of government. Thus, the moniker often used for the press — the Fourth Estate (or branch); the executive, legislative and judicial being the other three. The Framers intended that the press would help insure the government’s integrity and competence, not assist or cover up its failings and demagoguery. The current media practice is to do one or the other depending on party or personal allegiance or opposition.
This impediment nullifies the intended purpose and desired benefit of the constitutional protection of the press function. Alas, this failing has been with us from the beginning of the republic. In the early days, newspapers were started by political parties and leading political figures, even presidents, to get out their messages. With time, the trend became genuine (or pretend) political neutrality. Once again, however, in-your-face partisanship has become the norm.
News organizations and journalists that publicly advocate for the election or defeat of any candidate have forever compromised — in fact and in public perception — their ability to objectively and fairly assess and accurately convey the future performance of that officeholder or his administration. Behold the counterproductive results: eight years of sadistic criticism of the hated George W. Bush; eight years of fluff coverage, distractions and excuse-making for the beloved President Obama; and the fawning (or total lack of) coverage of Clinton and incessant castigation of Trump. Right on cue, the scorched-earth coverage of Trump’s formative administration has already begun.
The disparity in news-media favoritism of one political party/ideology over another has never been greater. Double standards are the rule, not the exception. Surveys in recent years reported the ratio of journalists identifying and/or voting as Democrats versus Republicans as almost 9-to-1. This is in stark contrast to self-identified voter ideology among the general public as 50 percent moderate, 30 percent conservative and 15 percent liberal, as reported in a 2008 book based on analysis of 50 years of historical data. A recent poll showed 75 percent of Americans believed the media wanted Clinton elected; a paltry 8 percent said the media preferred Trump. Another poll showed 45 percent thought the news media was the primary threat to affecting election results, Russian hackers only 10 percent. This disparity and well-earned lack of trust should be sobering to journalists and alarming to all Americans concerned with the quality of our current and future governance.
A word to the wise: Business as usual is not an option. Corrective action is being demanded. Resentment of the media’s grossly biased coverage undoubtedly played a role in Trump’s stunning victory. Voting for Trump was a p-e-a-c-e-f-u-l means of releasing long pent-up anger and frustration over the disproportionate and wholly undesirable influences of the liberal mainstream media (MSM), entertainment industry and academia. Don’t plead innocence or ignorance should that anger and frustration not moderate under Trump’s leadership. Mass protests, civil disobedience and mob mayhem are not exclusively the domain of the radical left.
The less desirable but most likely corrective action is the one threatened by Trump, a statutory change to provide tougher legal recourse against libelous reporting and commentary. The more desirable, but most unlikely, is a voluntary effort with self-policing by the MSM. There’s a diminishing market for old media.
We can now get all the slanted news coverage we crave from certain cable news channels, the internet and social media. The public wants and needs the unfiltered and undoctored truth from MSM reporters and commentators but has very little trust in getting it. Great strides must be made to regain that trust, or the industry will become ever more irrelevant and, finally, expendable. Few tears would be shed at its demise, but our democracy would be the worse for it.
Begin the process by barring news anchors and reporters from social media, talk shows, panel discussions and moderating political debates. In those platforms, their partisan biases are glaringly evident. Journalists should never be involved in making the news.
Sammy McLarty of Waco is a retired veterans benefits claims examiner.