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January 03, 2017

This Is How the Media Dies: Not With a Bang But a Whine

Some really good pieces today. I suggest you read the whole thing for each, but here's just a little to get you going.

Mollie Hemingway appeared on Howard Kurtz yesterday to say bad things about the media, and the video's worth watching.

But her article about it is better and more detailed. She offers advice to media liberals about how to not be such unhinged ninnies about Trump. Here's a bit:

It’s been nearly two months since Donald Trump won the 2016 election for president of the United States but somehow that’s not been enough time for the reality to sink in for many political liberals. Yes, presidential elections have been emotional for some time. I can vouch for how sad if not depressed many conservatives were when Mitt Romney lost his bid to unseat President Obama in 2012. If you didn't already know that, it's probably just because you don’t know many conservatives. The media never for a moment considered how heartbreaking that loss was for many Americans worried about the direction of the country.

Because humans don't really care how non-humans feel.

But as the media overwhelmingly tend to the political left and chose not obscure their bias so much this round, we've been given daily examples of the difficulty folks on that side of the political divide are having with the reality of Donald Trump. The crying, the protests, the riots, the subway art installations, the artist boycotts, the recount efforts, the organized and funded push to have the Electoral College do... something, the media-fed conspiracy theories about Russian vote hacking. Pundits on TV shake their head at everything Trump says and does, and journalists on Twitter react like rabid Pavlovian dogs to every utterance the president-elect makes.


Folks on the Right, regardless of how they feel about Trump, have been enjoying this meltdown. It's funny! The hubris leading up the election only makes it more so! The more kindhearted keep encouraging the rest of us not to take so much delight in the tremendous difficulty the Left is having. And we all keep wondering just how long the Left is going to have this break with reality, this refusal to come to terms with life as it is....


4) Don't Follow the Media's or Social Media's Lead

It should go without saying that the media had the wrong idea about the 2016 race from top to bottom. They were focused on personality at the expense of policy. They took a man well known for his sexual impropriety and tried to make his sexual impropriety the major story of the race. They avoided truly discussing his foreign policy, immigration, and economic policy. They pretended that Hillary Clinton was a far better and stronger candidate than she was. They protected her in ways that blew up in their face (e.g. by claiming, prior to her collapse on 9/11, that discussion of her health was a conspiracy theory).

Social media was just as bad. To give an example from the Right, nearly everyone on Twitter believed strongly that Trump's primary opponents should renounce him and pledge not to support him if he won the nomination. Among Republicans off social media, there was almost no support for such an approach. Typical Republicans wanted the candidates to support whoever got the nomination.

There's always a disconnect between a navel-gazing media establishment based in New York City and Washington DC and the rest of the country, but it's gotten far worse in the last year. Disregard the false narratives being pushed by many in the media and get out and talk to a Trump-supporting neighbor. You'll learn far more. And you'll feel a lot better when you realize they’re not the monster they’ve been portrayed as.

Yup. And I've gotta say, 2016 was an eye-opener for me, when I learned how truly dogmatic, cultish, sheep-like, and heretic-hunting the online right was.

I can't say I'll ever be part of the movement again, not really, not after seeing what it was really all about.

Michael Walsh just spits molten nails at the media, and it's glorious.

Riffing off Ross Douthat's infamous tweet of Sept. 2015 -- "The entire commentariat is going to feel a little silly when Marco Rubio wins every Republican primary" -- writer Zach Schonfeld notes:
At best, it's just a dopey prediction -- we've all made some of those. At worst, it's an enduring avatar of the cartoonish arrogance and mass-scale humiliation that overtook the pundit class in 2016. It's a microcosm of the biggest media trend of the year: total humiliation.

It was not just Douthat. For lots of high-profile media personalities, from Nate Silver to Nick Denton, 2016 dealt an enormous reckoning....


It was the year we realized that a lot of Very Important People who get paid a lot of money to know about U.S. politics have little more insight to dispense than the cab drivers they quote in their columns... For Trump fans, it is thrillingly apt that the candidate whose rise to power blindsided the media is the same candidate who staked his entire campaign on bald contempt for journalists. Trump’s bone-deep loathing of the “dishonest media” might be his only coherent ideology.

Well, as they say: it's a start...

He then talks about all the job-losses in the media sector.

This is what happens when reporters become blind partisans, and when their grasp of larger cultural issues is subsumed by the horse race. And yet, despite their horrendous failure -- why, indeed, should anyone even believe them again when they tout a sure thing like Hillary Clinton? -- you can bet that, four years from now, they'll happily do it all over again.

Those who survive, that is.

If you didn't know -- I didn't -- today James Taranto wrote his very last Best of the Web column. Sad! He's being promoted to op-ed page editor, but his gain is our loss.

For his last column, he really brings the stuff.

If you've ever wondered why the media seems to be taking this so damn personally, well, it's because it is very personal indeed. Sure, they're upset that Hillary lost-- but that's only part of it.

The bigger part is that they lost something personally -- prestige.

It was a lot like after 9/11 when reporters were butthurt that soldiers and cops and firefighters and EMTs were treated as the real heroes, rather than, as everyone of good sense and taste prefers, reporters being treated as the real heroes.

They felt meh about the felling of the Towers. What really burned their asses was the diminishment of their position in the pecking order.

And so too now after Trump:

[New York Times media beat reporter Jim] Rutenberg's list of mainstream-media missteps is serviceable as an answer to the question of how journalists blew it, but he doesn't even attempt to grapple with the question of why. Partisan and ideological bias is part of the answer, but it isn’t sufficient. After all, no one is more biased than 99th-percentile Michael Moore [who predicted Trump's victory -- ace]. Nor is it very interesting. To those of us who are aware of media bias, it is so familiar that we find the subject almost as tiresome as do those who are suffused with, and therefore oblivious to, it.

It seems to us that partisan and ideological bias is a symptom of a deeper disorder that afflicts journalism (among other institutions). Without meaning to, Rutenburg points toward a diagnosis. Here is how he describes his year in retrospect:

Starting a weekly column about the nexus between media, technology, culture and politics in the middle of the 2016 presidential campaign was like parachuting into a hail of machine-gun crossfire.

Dense smoke was everywhere as the candidates and their supporters unloaded on one another and, frequently, the news media, which more than occasionally was drawn into the fighting.

The territory that was at stake was the realm of the true, and how all sides would define it in the hyperpartisan debate to come under a new president.


Fact check: "The realm of the true" is not a real place. It is even more notional than "the Clinton Archipelago" [i.e, the Clinton Bubble -- ace], though it does occur to us to wonder if the two places are coterminous in Rutenberg's mind.

OK, that was facetious. We respect Rutenberg enough to take him seriously and not literally; and obviously "the realm of the true" is a metaphor. But a metaphor for what?

As it happens, we answered that question in a 2013 column:

...

Territorial animals fiercely defend their turf: "When a territory holder is challenged by a rival, the owner almost always wins the contest--usually within a matter of seconds," observes biologist John Alcock in "Animal Behavior: An Evolutionary Approach." We'd say the same instinct is at work when the great apes who call themselves Homo sapiens defend their authority. When it is challenged, they can become vicious, prone to risky and unscrupulous behavior.

That, it seems to us, is the central story of our time. The left-liberal elite that attained cultural dominance between the 1960s and the 1980s--and that since 2008 has seen itself as being on the cusp of political dominance as well--is undergoing a crisis of authority, and its defenses are increasingly ferocious and unprincipled.

Journalists lie or ignore important but politically uncongenial stories. Scientists suppress alternative hypotheses. Political organizations bully apolitical charities. The Internal Revenue Service persecutes dissenters. And campus censorship goes on still.

By "the realm of the true," Rutenberg means the authority to issue pronouncements about what is true -- an authority, he seems to believe, that rightly belongs to journalists and the sources they deem trustworthy. Elsewhere in the Dec. 26 column he describes the news media's role as "to do its part in maintaining a fact-based national debate." And this supposed authority extends beyond matters of fact to judgments of morality and taste...

Read the whole thing -- like I said, he jammed an awful lot into his goodbye column.

And he's of course definitely right. The media are acting viciously and defensively precisely because they are defending the territory they've claimed for themselves by pissing all over the outskirts of it. They will not abide a challenge nor a chastening; they intend to "win" the argument they've been having for 40 years with 300 million Americans.

They won't, but no one accepts a downward change in status gracefully and without embarrassing spectacle.


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posted by Ace at 06:48 PM

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