Scholar: Nation’s once ‘objective’ media have come unhinged

by WorldTribune Staff, August 20, 2017

A recent report from the liberal Harvard Kennedy School and Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy noted that 80 percent of news stories in the first 100 days of the Trump administration were critical of the president. For CNN, it was 93 percent negative.

“By the time of 2016 presidential race, the media had lost their credibility as disinterested guardians of objective truth,” wrote Victor Davis Hanson, the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

President Donald Trump ‘Trump represents everything that the media despise.’

“Once the media crossed the Rubicon of partisanship, there was no turning back.”

“Just as journalists saw no negative repercussions in their adoration of Obama, they are now able to denigrate the conservative populist Trump without consequences,” Hanson said.

The point where the media “relinquished pretenses of objectivity” came when Barack Obama announced his candidacy for president in 2007.

“Journalists quickly started worshiping candidate Obama in a manner never quite seen before, not even in the days of the iconic liberal presidents like Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy,’ Hanson wrote.

Evan Thomas, editor of Newsweek, “declared Obama to be a deity (‘Obama’s standing above the country, above the world, he’s sort of God.’)”

While a few journalists “were aware of their cult-like worship, most were hooked and competed to outdo one another with embarrassing hagiographic praise,” Hanson wrote. “Upon election, Obama was summarily declared by one presidential historian and television pundit to be the smartest man with the highest IQ ever to have been president.”

A plethora of scandals and major policy failures were ignored or downplayed in an Obama White House that was “freed from most press scrutiny.”

Hanson noted that “most Obama foreign policy initiatives proved disappointments: reset with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the bombing of Libya resulting in postwar chaos, the withdrawal of all U.S. peacekeepers from Iraq, the faux redlines with Syria, failed “strategic patience” with North Korea, writing off the ISIS terrorist caliphate as ‘Jayvees,’ and the expansion of Chinese bases into the South China Sea.

“At home, Obama was the first president in recent history never to have achieved three percent economic growth, as labor non-participation rose and median family incomes fell. The media largely ignored a series of scandals, as if investigating them might endanger the Obama progressive moment: the politicization of the IRS, FBI, and Justice Department; ICE reduced to de facto irrelevance; fraud at the VA; overreach at EPA; and incompetence at the Secret Service and GSA.”

Former speech writers Jon Favreau and Jon Lovett “joked on television how they had easily deluded the public on the downsides of Obamacare,” Hanson wrote. “Special adviser Jonathan Gruber laughed at the ‘stupidity of the American voter’ who was easily deceived by the administration and media about the nature of Obamacare.”

“Again, the common denominator was an expectation that the press was not a public watchdog but an enabler of the Obama agenda.”

Meanwhile, “Trump represents everything that the media despise: a crude reality-TV billionaire without military or political experience, whose orange skin, combed over dyed blond hair, sharp Queens accent, and confrontational attitude seemed vulgar and crass,” Hanson wrote.

“The nexus between beltway politics and the media, often cemented through marriages and familial relationships, recoiled that an outsider like Trump sought not just to overturn the Obama agenda but to do so unapologetically and with the same executive orders that Obama himself had bragged about in his ‘pen and phone’ ultimata to make laws without the help of the Congress.”

Trump also campaigned “on an us/them, red-state/blue-state dichotomy. He smashed the proverbial Democratic blue wall – a fact that caused great unease to liberal journalists who sensed that half the country found their coastal progressive culture not just foreign but apparently hypocritical and elitist.”

In addition, “the current generation of marquee reporters was schooled at the major journalism schools by veterans of the 1960s, when the ‘new’ journalism saw progressive political activism – opposition to the Vietnam War and the promotion of civil rights, feminism, and environmentalism – as the proper counterweight to traditional and supposedly regressive American values.

“Postmodernism – the theory that there are no absolute facts or eternal truths, only interpretations based on power machinations – seeped out from university English departments into the larger elite culture. Such relativism may explain the epidemic of fake news accounts and plagiarism as alternative ‘narratives’ rather than simple untruths. Buzzfeed, for example, published the infamous fake Steele file, a lurid dossier of oppositional research against the Trump campaign, even though it admitted it could not confirm the veracity of the salacious accusations against Trump. But who was to say that the accusations were any more true or false than any other? In such anything-goes fashion, Politico’s Julia Joffe channeled the vulgarity of television celebrities like Steven Colbert and Bill Maher in suggesting an incestuous relationship between the president and his daughter.”

Trump “was neither shy nor decorous in punching back, ridiculing the appearance of on-air talking heads, relegating them to back of the room slots at press conferences, and going over the head of the media through often crude ad hominem tweets,” Hanson wrote. “Although polls (whose reliability remains questionable after the 2016 election) rarely showed figures higher than forty percent for Trump, the media is held in even less regard, with about two-thirds of those polled expressing their disapproval of journalists.

“If the media became unhinged in the adulatory Obama years through hubris, it might have earned back its respect and professionalism by covering Trump in even-handed fashion.”

But that has not happened, Hanson concluded: “Arrogance plays a role: the media feel that they displayed power in getting Obama elected and now they wager that they can also ensure Trump’s defeat, or at least derail his presidency.”

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