An amazing number of truly fascinating – or horrifying – stories are gaining traction just now. I could spend the whole day just enumerating them, but...well, I have other duties to which I must attend. However, one is of supreme importance and must not be ignored. It’s about the news media themselves.
Just yesterday, our president-elect had a meeting with representatives of the major media organizations. Media luminaries aren’t terribly happy about that meeting, for reasons that should be obvious. Yet from what I’ve read about it, Trump was fully justified in castigating them as he did. Their “coverage” of his campaign set a new standard for partisan bias.
However, the campaign is over and done, the Left’s fantasies about overturning the result notwithstanding. While there’s a certain satisfaction value for conservatives in Trump’s take-no-prisoners approach to the media, the larger problem remains unsolved. It might be insoluble.
A large part of the Web is aflame over what’s being styled “PizzaGate:” the possible existence of a child-porn / pedophilia ring in which some of the most highly placed persons in American politics are allegedly participants. The origin of the story is in emails released by Wikileaks, whose senders and receivers include major Democrat Party luminary John Podesta.
A Google search will turn up many, many stories and speculations about this set of allegations. The evidence is of several kinds. All of it is at least potentially disputable. Yet it exhibits a queasy consistency, both internally and with what’s known about child porn and pedophilia practices, jargon, and symbology. Certainly there’s substance enough for America’s major news media to mount an investigation in depth...but that’s not happening.
Why would the barons of the media refrain from looking into a story this big – a story that could rock the political elite, possibly destroying the lives and careers of some of the biggest names in national politics? Well, one possibility is the involvement of some of those media barons, though at this point no media moguls’ names have been associated with PizzaGate. Another is that the political figures involved have somehow persuaded their allies in the media to ignore the story, or to dismiss it as nonsense. A third is that the media, aware of their interest in maintaining “good working relations” with the elite, have decided to ignore the story on their own.
Whatever the reason, the major media are not covering this story.
Despite the rise of alternative channels of information distribution, the major media retain a position of importance to the American who wants to be well informed. In many cases they no longer “break the story” – remember, the Clinton / Lewinsky scandal came to us via the National Enquirer – but we expect them to provide confirmations and refutations of stories broken by others. They have the staffs and the resources with which to “go deep” into matters which less resource-rich outlets can only skim.
However, it’s become ever more obvious that they who direct the major media have an agenda that’s not congruent with journalism as it was once practiced: i.e., covering and reporting on events of interest and importance. Many commentators have chided the media for arrogating the privilege of deciding what we should and shouldn’t be told. Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds, alert to the press’s habit of favoring one major political party over the other, often refers to reporters as “Democrat operatives with bylines.” Web wit David “Iowahawk” Burge characterized contemporary journalism as “covering important stories. With a pillow. Until they stop moving.” The conviction that the media prefer promoting favored figures and causes to objective reporting is widespread.
Yet a great many of us, perhaps an overwhelming majority, continue to want those confirmations and refutations. Our ears prick up at the announcements of the alternative media, but we don’t invest deeply in a story until the New York Times or the Washington Post should dig into it.
The result is a fog of uncertainty that enshrouds some of the most consequential events of our time. What really happened? Must we trust the often nakedly partisan sources we find on the Internet? If the major media won’t involve themselves, whom are we to believe?
Actually, it’s worse. Even when the major media do get involved, we’re left wondering. Are we getting the straight news, the facts, all the facts, and only the facts? Or have biased editorial staffs have decreed a particular slant, to protect some favored organization or friend?
I seek to be well informed. I feel a personal need to know what’s going on and who’s involved. I suspect that I’m fairly representative of millions of others in wanting these things. I’ve long believed as long as I’m provided with the facts of the matter, I can puzzle out the causes for myself – and I suspect that millions of others feel the same.
For decades we’ve trusted that the major media would gather those facts and present them to us, without fear or favor. That editors have their own preferences and prejudices, we’ve known all along. Nevertheless we’ve reposed our confidence in the front-line reporter, the workingman of journalism. We’ve chosen to believe that the ethic of objective reporting would prevail over the biases of the top media brass. Even when the major media have lagged behind the alternative organs in covering some story, we’ve expected that they’d catch up in time, and would eventually bring us a fuller, better contextualized, more trustworthy report than isolated citizen journalists can manage.
And it looks as if we must disabuse ourselves of all of it.
Where do we go from here?