Item 1, from last January 21, a classic example of how “smart” and perceptive our media mandarins are:
Now Kamala Harris Is a 2020 Candidate, Trump Has No Chance at Winning Another Election
By Julie Allen
Kamala Harris just ruined Donald Trump’s day. With her much anticipated declaration today, she immediately installed herself as a front-runner in the race to be the Democrat intent on taking down the president in 2020.
“Let’s do this together: For ourselves, for our children, for our country,” she said. And with those carefully chosen words, Trump’s chances of reelection entered a death spiral. She is everything he is not. . .
There is no doubt, even among her opponents, about her strength of character, her will to succeed, and her ability to fight. The only question for her now is can she whip up crowds, generating the kind of fervour that Sanders did in the 2016 primaries? On the evidence so far she almost certainly can. She has a clear message, the CV for the job, and the X-factor that Hillary Clinton did not. . .
Energetic, charismatic, eminently electable, appealing to a wide cross-section of America, and scandal-free Harris is a dream Democratic candidate.
Okay, if you’ve stopped enjoying a good laugh over this fine example of media sagacity, move on to Item #2: Margaret Sullivan, the “media columnist” for the Washington Post, worried yesterday that gosh darn it, the impeachment hearings just aren’t breaking through and “moving the needle” of public opinion. What can the media do? Answer: take sides even more openly.
Sullivan doesn’t directly put it that way, but her entire article is a splendid example of “ventriloquist journalism,” citing supposedly “neutral” experts such as Nate Silver urging the media to be more explicit in its anti-Trump, pro-impeachment coverage:
How should journalists respond to the stalemate, other than to keep doing exactly what they’ve been doing? . . .
Columbia University journalism professor Bill Grueskin suggests the movie-trailer approach. In a message, he explains: “Studios spend a $1 million or more on a trailer, because they know it’s essential to boil down the essentials of the film — explaining but not giving away the plot, providing a quick but intense insight into the characters, setting the scene with vivid imagery — to entice people to come back to the theatre a month later for the full movie.”
Similarly, most people (especially the less convinced or more persuadable) will never watch seven hours in a row of congressional testimony, but, as he notes, “many of them would be open to a targeted, well-informed ‘trailer’ approach that is cogently told.”
In other words, go straight to propaganda and slick “messaging.”
But this is the really revealing part, where Sullivan unwittingly urges the media to be even more partisan while denying their partisanship:
I would also very much like to see one other major change: a moratorium on the reflexive use of the word “partisan.” Mainstream journalists love that word, because it lets them off the hook: We aren’t taking sides, not us! The country is divided, and we can’t help it. Just uttering the word “partisan” is media Prozac: It soothes journalists’ angst about not being perceived as inoffensively neutral.
It’s too easy, and too often an easy coverup for, yes, epistemological nihilism: The notion that there are no facts, so let’s not bother to try establishing them. But here’s the thing: There are facts. There is truth. We do live in a country that abides by laws and a Constitution, and nobody ought to be above them.
Despite the hardened positions, some members of the public are still uncertain. Some are persuadable, and yes, it matters. Maybe, just maybe, it’s the job of American journalism in this moment to get serious about trying to reach these citizens.
Notice that Sullivan simply assumes that the “fact” of a Trump phone call is indisputable cause for impeachment and conviction, and how could any sensible person think anything different?
I suppose we should actually praise Sullivan for recommending that the media drop the pretense of objectivity, which doesn’t fool many people these days anyway. I wonder if Sullivan and other major media figures ever reflect on why public trust in the media has fallen to the same level as used-car salespeople. Likely not. I’m sure they think their declining impact is because of all the stupid deplorables out here in the land.
PAUL ADDS: I am hereby declaring a moratorium on the use of “partisan” to describe Margaret Sullivan. “Hyper-partisan” is the appropriate term. Also “cheerleader” for the Democrats.
We have had occasion to comment on Sullivan’s shoddy work. She is the worst kind of hack, seemingly incapable of making an argument.
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