Reliable Sources, a CNN news show emblematic of the mainstream media’s charade of objectivity, has a recurring motif: telling us what to think while pretending to seek honest answers to persistent questions. The show’s host, Brian Stelter, uses this trope to vilify President Donald Trump, along with any competing media outlet that doesn’t toe the impeachment line.
During a particularly egregious display last month, Stelter enlisted CNN’s senior media reporter, Oliver Darcy, who bemoaned that many news outlets were qualifying accusations against former Vice President Joe Biden and his wayward son as “unsubstantiated,” instead of simply calling them conspiracy theories outright. Any fact or detail inconvenient to the narrative is instantly dismissed as fake news—an accusation CNN casts at the President each time he criticizes their reporting.
The mainstream media is playing a dangerous game in trying to redefine what “truth” is.
Despite the fact that the evidence against Biden is mounting, and more scrupulous journalists are questioning why a Ukrainian natural gas company would covet the services of a man with no discernible expertise relevant to the energy sector of any country, CNN remains tight lipped and unapologetic. And why would they apologize? Admitting they were wrong would require them to concede ground in the war for truth. Instead of conceding, CNN pushes ever outward—aggressively, and with the kind of authority that only those with an agenda can have.
To Darcy, merely calling the accusations “unsubstantiated” is tantamount to “promoting a conspiracy theory based on a bunch of lies dredged up on the web. I wonder if news outlets are meeting the moment well enough by saying he’s saying it without evidence.”
He goes on to say that, “The media need to drill this into their audience that this stuff is untethered from reality, that this stuff comes from the internet fever swamps and the president repeats it, and that does not make it an unsubstantiated allegation necessarily, it just means it’s a distorted—it’s really poison, is the best way to describe it.”
CNN and the mainstream media’s treatment of the impeachment affair surfaces a key realization that has shaped conservatism for the past four years: instead of recognizing the media environment for what it is—competing, partisan outlets in a marketplace of ideas—the mainstream media is playing a dangerous game in trying to redefine what “truth” is.
CNN’s CLEAR MARKET STRATEGY: CLAIM A MONOPOLY ON TRUTH WHILE CALLING EVERYONE ELSE “BIASED”
Recently on Reliable Sources, a panel of journalists sat down to systematically lambaste Fox News for its supposed lack of “accuracy.”
Conservative viewers did not miss the irony. For while Fox News has a clear editorial stance, it tends to acknowledge its biases; conversely, the liberal media offers a smorgasbord of opinion and conjecture while suggesting that they are merely reporting the news.
In the narrative, the liberal media has a monopoly on the truth, while Fox News and its counterparts in the conservative and independent media claw at it from the outside.
For CNN to admit that, like Fox News, it has a bias, would be to surrender ground it already holds. In the narrative, the liberal media has a monopoly on the truth, while Fox News and its counterparts in the conservative and independent media claw at it from the outside. In the words of late night show host Stephen Colbert, “reality has a liberal bias,” while “truthiness” is the only thing conservatives are pursuing.
For much of America’s early history, peaking in the year just before the Civil War, newspapers advertised their political biases on the masthead of their dailies; “Republican” or “Democrat” preceded such titles as “Star,” “World,” “Sentinel,” or “Record.” Today, even if a newspaper is explicit about its bias, it does so in a detached, muted sort of way—treating its affiliation with some sort of journalistic shame. In fact, partisanship has been treated as a kind of corruption in media.
Things look quite different during the “24/7 news cycle”—especially given how new media’s prominence has amplified amidst social media. This practice of news being constantly dredged up and recycled, which ironically began with the advent of CNN in the early 1980s, marks a shift in which the mainstream media has moved from reporting the news to anticipating and interpreting the news.
Despite this, the mainstream media loves to acclaim each other’s supposed commitment to objectivity. Why else would the New York Press Club honor CNN’s Jim Acosta with the “Truth to Power” award? This is the same Acosta who certainly enjoys speaking his truth to Republican power but rarely rocked the boat during the Obama administration.
POT, KETTLE, AND THE DANGEROUS “UNBIASED” BIAS OF CNN
CNN is fond of accusing Fox of offering nothing but “opinion.” But the evening Fox roster of Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham will admit that they are more commentators than journalists. The folks at CNN want it both ways.
Those media outlets that have demonstrated a profound interest in and unwavering devotion to the ascendancy of the Democratic Party should at least declare their partisan credentials in relatively straight manner—given that “objective” coverage is often the last thing the mainstream media ever succeeds in delivering.
One of CNN’s evening stars who is supposedly a paragon of hard news is the combative Don Lemon, who has never demonstrated more subjectivity and blind subservience to Democratic talking points than throughout the latest impeachment crisis.
In a recent routine that should have left even the most devoted of CNN fans in disbelief, Lemon accused NeverTrumper John Kasich of being “part of the problem” and one of the “apologists” for the president. Lemon suggested that “anybody with half a brain who read that transcript knows what the president was saying.” Perhaps that’s what Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) when he decided to fabricate what Trump said in the transcript of his conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, surely the most analyzed long-distance call in history.
Remember that Lemon is the same newsman who compared Trump to Adolf Hitler, suggested white men constitute “the biggest terror threat in this country,” and, during a Democratic presidential debate, asked the candidates how they respond to Republicans who “prioritize the economy over the president’s bigotry.”
As the Washington Post recently put it, “a news story can be narrowly factual but plenty unfair.”
Perhaps there has never been a more succinct justification for making the news fit your perspective. For CNN and its ilk, this means refusing to let the uncomfortable facts interfere with the comfort of a Democratic presidential contender.
We live in perilous political times and in a divided nation. At the very least, those media outlets that have demonstrated a profound interest in and unwavering devotion to the ascendancy of the Democratic Party should at least declare their partisan credentials in relatively straight manner—given that “objective” coverage is often the last thing the mainstream media ever succeeds in delivering.