Let’s take one last look back at the controversy surrounding the Fox News debate, and consider the left’s reaction to it. The reaction can best be described as gleeful.
The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple relished the spectacle, celebrating it with over-the-top imagry:
The right-wing penchant for nonstop media criticism is swerving across the median, zigzagging around the road, about to wrap itself around that oak tree around the curve. Like other planks of the conservative canon — e.g., foreign-policy hawkishness — it has been invoked and ultimately abused by Trump. Such that it can no longer stand on its own.
A few days earlier, leftist media critic Jay Rosen of NYU had tweeted, in response to National Review being barred by the RNC from co-hosting a February debate: “Right wing critique of media bias starts to consume itself. Hilariously: The RNC has lost its mind on GOP debates.”
I can’t deny that there’s some irony associated with Fox News, the conservative response to media pro-left bias, and National Review being attacked for bias by the GOP frontrunner. But the irony isn’t profound. In the case of Fox, Donald Trump’s accusations of bias were directed at just one Fox journalist, Megyn Kelly. At the height of the dispute, Trump appeared with Bill O’Reilly. In the case of National Review, the anti-Trump bias is undeniable.
What really stands out for me is the media’s lack of standing with huge segments of the U.S. electorate. Most Republicans don’t trust the mainstream media because they consider it partial to Democrats and liberals. The Trumpists, a faction that cuts across ideological and party lines, trust neither the mainstream media nor, arguably, Fox News.
The “right wing” critique of media bias isn’t “consuming itself”; nor is it unable to “stand on its own.” Rather, it is helping to fuel two distinct, albeit overlapping, movements that taken together probably encompass a majority of the electorate.
We already knew how widespread acceptance of the media bias critique is. In September, Gallup reported that “Americans’ trust in media remains at historical low.” It based this conclusion on a poll in which only four in 10 of those surveyed said they have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust and confidence in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately and fairly.
If Fox News has been “consumed,” or even adversely impacted, by Trump’s media bias critique, there’s a good chance that trust in the media is even lower than 40 percent today.
As it should be.