Fmr Obama Admin Official Argues ‘Democracy Dies Behind Paywalls’ In Column He Wrote Behind Paywall

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Robert McGreevy Contributor
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Former Obama administration official Richard Stengel wrote a scathing Sunday rebuke of journalism that media outlets place behind paywalls … behind a paywall.

The first three and a half paragraphs of his article in “The Atlantic,” titled “Democracy Dies Behind Paywalls,” are free. But scroll any further and you’ll be prompted to sign up for “The Atlantic” at a whopping $80 per year.

In the article, Stengel, the former U.S. undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs under Obama, claims “paywalls get in the way of informing the public, which is the mission of journalism.” He calls for publications to suspend all paywalls for any 2024 election-related coverage.

The sad fact is that Stengel actually raises some excellent questions about the funding model behind modern media and how exploitable the click-based economy is. Unfortunately, he completely overshadows any semblance of a legitimate theory he may have had with a piece so lacking in self-awareness that the stars of “Love On The Spectrum” would laugh at it.

Stengel raises one point, though, that I will have to strongly disagree with. He blames paywalls for America’s record-low trust in the media. “Part of the reason they think media are biased is that most fair, accurate, and unbiased news sits behind a wall,” Stengel writes.

A cursory search of some of the media’s most pernicious lies in recent years would show you that’s not the case. When former intelligence chiefs John Brennan and James Clapper demanded the public ignore the Hunter Biden laptop as “Russian disinformation,” leftist media stenographers repeated their claims uncritically. Politico’s 2020 piece that originally signal boosted the now-largely-debunked claim is still available, free of charge.

People don’t have faith in the media because the “respectable” publications that do charge for content lie repeatedly, on both sides of the paywall. (RELATED: ‘I Don’t Have Any Regrets’: Former CIA Director Defends Letter Calling Hunter Biden Laptop Russian Disinformation)

The conversation surrounding future models of monetization in media is one worth having. The impending rise in AI technologies, as Stengel points out, is going to fundamentally reshape the media landscape. But the people making the arguments should be a little less tone deaf than this dope.

Stengel does acknowledge “the irony of putting this plea behind The Atlantic’s own paywall,” but justifies it. “If you’re reading this, you’ve probably paid to support journalism that you think matters in the world,” he writes.

If the group of people who care about access to free and fair access to accurate information is limited exclusively to “The Atlantic” subscribers then BOY are we all in big big trouble.