It’s like that old quip from the Marx Brothers’ classic comedy Duck Soup in 1933 … “Who are you going to believe, me, or your own eyes?” Only in today’s case of being caught in an obvious lie, it’s ears instead.
During a live television interview with NASCAR driver Brandon Brown about his win at Talladega, NBC reporter Kelli Stavast gaslit the country. She said, “As you can hear the chants from the crowd …” and then paused for natural sound. Anyone listening to the video can easily recognize the popular, albeit profane slogan directed at President Joe Biden now sweeping stadiums across America. Yet she resumed with deadpan delivery … “Let’s Go Brandon!”
With this kind of behavior it’s no surprise that polls show an erosion of trust in the media.
A Gallup poll from July about trust in public institutions showed Americans with a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in newspapers fell over three years from an already low 23% to 21%. For television it fell from 18% to 16%.
A Pew Research poll from August shows a growing partisan divide since 2016. Republicans and Lean Republicans who have “a lot or some” trust in national news organizations have dipped from 70% to 35% while Democrats/Lean Democrats only fell from 83% to 78%.
That wide gap in perceptions is easy to trace. The preponderance of hoaxes, lies, half-truths and disinformation spun in the media tend to come from the political left — which generally protects Democrats while attacking Republicans and their voter base.
Russiagate Hoax: Corporate media were essential in the Democrat hoax that President Donald Trump and his associates conspired with Russia to steal the 2016 election. The New York Times and Washington Post even won team Pulitzer Prizes in 2018 for their breathless coverage which amounted to a web of criminal leaks, rumor mongering and character assassination. They derailed a presidency and targeted countless innocent people. And they call 1/6 an insurrection?
COVID Hysteria: Despite the relatively low case-to-fatality rate of 1.6% in the U.S., mostly those over 75 with comorbidities, corporate media pushed for total lockdowns which crushed tens of millions who found themselves out of work and in despair. Meanwhile, giant retailers with pharmacies like Walmart and Target stayed open while 1 out 4 businesses permanently closed in 2020. Amazon, FedEx and UPS made a killing as home deliveries soared, netting increases in company value of 79%, 38% and 38% respectively. America’s 600-plus billionaires reportedly increased their wealth by over $900 billion. Speaking of whom, Jeff Bezos, who owns both Amazon and The Washington Post, appears to have increased his wealth by $90 billion.
Border Patrol “Whips”: A viral photo of a horse mounted Border Patrol agent chasing a Haitian immigrant at the Rio Grande last month showed a strap which corporate media wrongly dubbed a “whip,” leading leftist politicians to equate it with slavery. After a false narrative was set, the strap was confirmed to be split reins, a type commonly found in trail riding. The Biden administration still used the media firestorm to stop mounted patrols, further weakening America’s ability to protect the already porous border.
Hands Up, Don’t Shoot: It’s the lie that led to violent protests nationwide in 2014 and the creation of Black Lives Matter, a group which has hammered America from within ever since. Riots in Ferguson, Missouri, and later Oakland and San Francisco stemmed from the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year old who robbed a store and then tried to wrest a gun away from a police officer named Darryl Wilson. Brown’s accomplice allegedly coined the phrase. Yet despite lack of evidence to back his claim, NFL players and four Members of Congress invoked the gesture on the field and on the House floor.
While there are hundreds of other recent examples, the industry has a history of shady behavior.
Media tycoon William Randolph Hearst famously told an illustrator covering 1890s unrest in Cuba, “you furnish the pictures, I’ll furnish the war.” The Spanish-American War soon followed.
Walter Duranty, Moscow Bureau Chief of the New York Times in the 1920s and 1930s cozied up to Joseph Stalin and glossed over the man-made famine which starved millions of Ukrainians to death during the Holodomor. In 2003, the Pulitzer Prize Board announced it would not revoke Duranty’s prize awarded in 1932, despite external pressure.
So Americans are right to distrust corporate media and robustly question their narratives.
While a vibrant, free and fair press forms an essential part of a healthy democracy, a dishonest and corrupt one like the Soviet Union’s Pravda is just as useful to prop up authoritarian regimes which target basic human rights. Americans must pay close attention to distinguish between the two. Our freedom hangs in the balance.
J.D. Gordon is a former National Security & Foreign Policy Advisor to Republican leaders Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee and Herman Cain. Previously, he served as a Pentagon spokesman during the George W. Bush Administration and is a retired Navy Commander.