No one is listening to reporters these days. Their approval rating sits at an all-time low, their worst nightmares are unfolding before them, and despite their most dire warnings, the American populace is largely unmoved. Why? Panicked clamors instead of measured reporting, shrill cries disguised as honest evaluations, and a level of hyperbole that is simply astonishing.
One would think reporters would have realized this by now, but not even their self-proclaimed truth-sayer, Bill Maher, could get around his own head. In an ironic broadcast the Friday before the election, Maher dramatically apologized for calling “honorable men” like Gov. Mitt Romney and President George Bush “the end of the world,” admitting that “we cried wolf and that was wrong.” Then, in a strange twist, he added, “But this is real. This is going to be way different.” Trump, he assured us, was an actual fascist. Or a Josef Stalin; take your pick. (RELATED: Media Is Consolidating Power After A Disastrous Election)
This past week, media figures reported that Vice President-elect Mike Pence firing lobbyists and Gov. Chris Christie supporters was “a Stalin-esque purge.” The off-the-record quote by a Rep. Mike Rogers ally topped stories on the firings around the country. Schools do not teach history as thoroughly as they should, but most readers know that telling someone to write a letter of resignation and return to their lucrative career is not comparable to shooting them in a basement or killing them in a Siberian labor camp. And so the public did not listen. (RELATED: CNN Pushes Narrative Of Trump-Inspired Anti-Muslim Crimewave)
The New York Times Review of Books disguised the same point as a review of a Hitler biography; in September alone, The Washington Post made a number of Trump-Hitler comparisons; CNN got in on the game; and of course, so did NBC and MSNBC. The idea that enforcing immigration laws, re-evaluating trade agreements and emphasizing law and order are the same things as Adolf Hitler’s Germany or Benito Mussolini’s Italy are, on their faces, laughable. And the public did not listen. (CONFIRMED: Politico Ran Laughably Fake Story On Alt-Right Voter Suppression)
But enough about Europe. How about here, at home? Well, the week after the election, during those dark “Stalin-esque purge” days, Trump committed another offense: He sneaked out to a steak dinner with his family after telling the traveling press pool that he was in for the night. Reporters are fine being angry — even if they weren’t publicly so when President Barack Obama did the same — but in their typically self-important fashion, they called the incident an assault on “solemn” tradition and a danger to national security. (RELATED: The Media Is Furious That Trump Ditched Them To Go Eat A Steak Last Night)
But in a time when the president-elect reaches millions with a tweet from his cell phone, it really isn’t, and in spite of reporters’ insistence on their dinner-time importance to the national security apparatus, the public did not listen. (RELATED: Hillary’s Health Was Fair Game For The Washington Post Before She Ran Against Trump)
And this kind hyperbole is a far-greater threat to the credibility of the media than Trump ditching his press pool for dinner. Take Sen. Jeff Sessions, a 19-year senator from Alabama who Trump has picked as his future attorney general. Sessions has a hardline view on drug laws out of step with both libertarians and liberals, plus an economic worldview that differs from Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Obama. But instead of debating these, his opponents in the media have implied that he is connected to fringe Nazi website Stormfront and called him a racist.
During his career in Alabama, Sessions desegregated schools and achieved the death penalty for a Klansman, and under cross-examination, a prominent critic at the Rollcall newspaper couldn’t name a single instance of discrimination by the senator in his nearly two decades in Congress. Understandably, the public is not listening.
In a Saturday essay in The Intercept, the left-wing reporter and founder, Glenn Greenwald, writes,
The self-exonerating mentality of Democrats is particularly remarkable in light of how comprehensive their failures have been. After the 2012 election, the GOP immersed itself in unflinching self-critique even though it still held a majority in the House and dominated governorships and state houses. By rather stark contrast, the Democrats have now been crushed at all levels of electoral politics, yet appear more self-righteously impressed with themselves, more vindicated in their messaging and strategic choices, than ever before.
Thus far, he is entirely correct, and while he’s talking about Democrats here, it can just as well apply to the media that, largely, supported them.
Readers and viewers deserve reporting they can rely on to make decisions. A media that publicly claims it cannot cover Trump objectively, that wonders if he will destroy DC’s culture, that compares him and his appointees to Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, the mafia — the list goes on — simply cannot be taken seriously, and resigns itself to irrelevance to at least half the country.
But if they won’t change, so be it.