Friday, Nov 26, 2021

The Press that Can’t Shoot Straight and Doesn’t Even Try

The American mainstream media (MSM) continues to hurtle from one embarrassment to another (albeit while manifesting little embarrassment). Writing in the June 14 National Review (“The Fall of Saint Anthony Fauci”), Michael Brendan Dougherty notes that the story of the Wuhan Institute of Virology as the likeliest source of Covid-19 is but the most recent “‘conspiracy theory’ and disinformation campaign to become transformed into the accepted wisdom” in short order.

In late April, the MSM had to walk back its earlier account of how the mob that converged on the Capitol had bludgeoned Officer Brian Sicknick to death with a fire extinguisher when the District of Columbia’s chief medical examiner released his findings: no external or internal evidence that Officer Sicknick had been struck with a blunt instrument.

For a year and a half, the MSM trumpeted the story of how President Trump ordered the U.S. Park Police (USPP) to clear Lafayette Park, near the White House, with teargas to allow a presidential photo-op of him holding up a Bible in front of a church. Democratic politicians from Speaker Nancy Pelosi to then senator Kamala Harris expressed their revulsion at Trump’s “banana republic” tactics in gassing peaceful protestors.

In early June, the Inspector-General of the Interior Department, Mark Lee Greenblatt, an Obama appointee, issued a thorough report on the incident. The conclusion: “The evidence did not support a finding that the U.S. Park Police cleared the park on June 1 2020 so that then President Trump could enter the park. . . [T]he USPP cleared the park to allow a contractor to safely install anti-scale fencing in response to destruction of Federal property and injury to officers that occurred on May 30 and May 31. . . . USPP officials had made those decisions and had begun implementing the operational plan several hours before they knew of a potential presidential visit to the park, which occurred later that day.”

Sometimes, the MSM’s derelictions take the form of studiously avoiding stories that reflect negatively on their political team. Hunter Biden’s laptop provides a classic example. Beyond the videos of the younger Biden engaged in all sorts of illegal and depraved activities, the laptop contained a political bombshell: an email detailing Hunter’s agreement with a Chinese outfit closely connected to the ruling CCP in which 10% of the profits from contemplated deals were set aside for the “big guy.” Even when Tony Bobulinski, Hunter’s business partner, identified the “big guy” as presidential candidate Joe Biden, the MSM could not contain a yawn.

All these stories pale compared to the Trump-Russian collusion story that dominated news coverage for the first two years of Trump’s presidency. Every night, the MSM breathlessly recounted how the “walls were closing in on Donald Trump.” Then the Mueller investigation turned up not a shred of evidence of collusion, even with the most partisan prosecutorial team ever assembled and the expenditure of tens of millions of dollars.

Throughout the ballyhooed investigation, Rep. Adam Schiff, who as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence was privy to most of the information available to Mueller, was the MSM’s go-to guy. He and the senior minority representative on the committee, Rep. Devin Nunes, filed diametrically conflicting reports. And the MSM dutifully reported how the Harvard-law trained Schiff had made a fool of the country-rube.

That was until the report of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, also an Obama appointment, came out and revealed that Nunes had been right on every point of dispute and Schiff not only wrong but a “pathological liar,” in the words of left-wing journalists Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone and Adam Mate of The Nation. Another left-wing journalist, Glenn Reynolds, wrote that Horowitz had “unearthed a scandal of historic magnitude, not only for the FBI but also for the U.S. media.”

The striking thing about the above-mentioned examples is how uniform were the “mistakes” across the MSM, and how little actual journalistic work went into ascertaining the truth of the stories. The MSM’s easy acceptance of the Chinese narrative that the origin of Covid-19 was in the “wet markets” of Wuhan, where the carcasses of many species, including bats, are sold for human consumption, was not altogether implausible. Both SARS1 and MERS were the result of coronaviruses “jumping” to human beings via intermediate species. Such things do happen.

But to label the alternative theory that the virus might have leaked from one of the two virology labs in Wuhan “debunked” and a “conspiracy theory,” as the MSM almost unanimously did, was jumping the gun just as bit. As comic Jon Stewart noted last week, the proximity of the outbreak to a virology institute in which research was being carried out on the enhancement of bat viruses to make them lethal to humans seems a rather unlikely coincidence.

Moreover, the Chinese government’s extreme secretiveness about the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the disappearance of Chinese researchers who had originally pointed to the WIV as a possible source should have raised suspicions. On the same evidence available to all, Jim Geraghty of National Review identified the WIV as the most likely point of origin more than a year ago.

Similarly, Mollie Hemingway in the Federalist managed to get the story of President Trump’s alleged tear-gassing of demonstrators in order to create a photo-op right from the start. How? By acting like an old-fashioned reporter and actually speaking to the relevant decision-makers in the USPP – something no one in the MSM chose to do. The Washington Post’s fact-checker, Phillip Bump, declared the debate closed and mocked Hemingway’s denials of Trump’s guilt.

As soon as the New York Times published on January 8 the story of how Officer Brian Sickwick was bludgeoned to death, the MSM conversation switched to whether President Trump might be criminally liable for the actions of the mob. But Sicknick’s parents had from the first asked that the story of their son being beaten to death not be reported for a simple reason. They knew it was not true. He had called them after the January 6 riot to tell them that he was fine – which presumably was conclusive proof that he had not be bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher. But the narrative of heartless, savagery of the Trump supporters was too good to let go simply because it was false.

Perhaps most implausible of all was the MSM’s studied silence on Hunter’s laptop on the grounds that it bore the markings of Russian disinformation. There was not a scintilla of evidence to support that claim. Not only was the chain of possession of the laptop established, but Hunter Biden never denied the laptop was his or that he had brought it to a Wilmington, Delaware repair shop for repair. Rather, candidate Biden left it to the MSM, in conjunction with the major social media platforms, to suppress the story. In an election ultimately determined by 43,000 votes in three states, the selfie videos of the president’s drug-addled son and, even more important, the emails suggesting that his father was a direct beneficiary of all Hunter’s influence-peddling schemes might well have changed the outcome.

Interestingly, the sharpest criticism of the MSM’s abandonment of truth as a desideratum in reporting has come from a handful of left-wing journalists, most notably Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald. The crucial dividing line in journalism today is not between left and right, but between honest people and fully engaged partisan warriors.

“Information that is true but doesn’t cut the right way politically is now routinely either non-reported or actively misreported,” writes Taibbi. He laments the loss of the liberalism of his youth that “valued the free exchange of ideas among other things because a central part of liberal’s identity was skepticism and doubt.” In “Congratulations, Elitists: Liberals and Conservatives Do Have Common Interests Now,” Taibbi identified that common interest as the preservation of “the traditional liberal approach to the search for truth, which stresses skepticism and free-flowing debate, [and which] is giving way to a reactionary movement.”

At the center of that reactionary movement stands a trinity of “the Democratic Party, its media cheerleaders, and the social media platforms who increasingly act to silence its opponents.”

Glenn Greenwald resigned from The Intercept, an on-line magazine of which he was one of the founders in 2013, just before the 2020 election. The editors refused to publish his criticisms of Joe Biden for partnering in Hunter Biden’s schemes in the Ukraine and China based on the information on Hunter’s laptop. The editors rejected his suggestion that they publish his piece together with others critical of his positions. ”Modern media outlets do not air dissent; they quash it,” he wrote in his resignation letter.

The “pathologies, illiberalism, and repressive mentality” manifest in that censorship “have contaminated virtually every mainstream center-left political organization, academic institution and newsroom,” according to Greenwald. His goal in founding The Intercept, he wrote, was to create a forum for independent, truth-telling journalists like himself “endeavoring to be as honest as possible about what I was seeing, and always curious about the wisdom of seeing things differently.”

His hopes were dashed, as The Intercept morphed into “just another media outlet with mandated ideological and partisan loyalties, a rigid and narrow range of permitted viewpoints . . . always anchored in support for the Democratic Party.” The fear of “alienating the guardians of liberal orthodoxy, especially on Twitter,” and “an overarching need to secure the approval and admiration of the very mainstream media outlets we created The Intercept to oppose, critique and subvert” now characterized the senior editors, Greenwald charged.

The crisis of The Intercept was just one an example of MSM journalism “forced to conform to tribal, groupthink narratives that are often divorced from the truth.” MSM journalists are increasingly pushed “to conform to highly restrictive, artificial cultural narratives and partisan identities.” The result is “a repressive and illiberal environment in which vast swath of news and reporting either do not happen or are presented through the most skewed and reality-detached lens.”

A classic example of how MSM journalists have become mobilized partisans – and one of immediate concern to the Jewish community – was an open letter signed by 500 journalists, including employees of the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, the New Yorker, TIME, NPR, NBC and ABC. Others signed anonymously, listing only their media affiliations, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, and NPR.

The signatories, including NiKole Hannah-Jones, author of the 1619 Project, objected to news stories about the actions of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in firing over 4,000 rockets at Israeli civilians. The entire focus, they urged, should be on Israel’s immense military superiority, employed in the service of an “apartheid state,” which persecutes people in the name of “ethnic supremacy.”

But Israel’s military superiority is only relevant so long as Hamas makes it so by launching hundreds of rockets at Israel. If Hamas stopped firing rockets at Israel, with no political goal other than the killing of Israelis and the creation Palestinian victims for propaganda purposes, Israeli military superiority would be irrelevant because that military would never be employed. Hamas’s rocket attacks are not in pursuit of any political goals.

When truth is no longer the goal, the Jews will always be the first victims.

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