Monday, March 19, 2018

Journalistic Integrity...and Other Myths

Friends, there are few subjects on which I am more passionate than the pure loathsomeness of the mainstream media.  The lack of balance and breadth in their coverage, the plain ignorance of many reporters and editors, and the blatant partisanship and runaway Trump-hatred is enough to drive any decent American batty...and quite a few have already succumbed.  Our excellent President has an approval rating in the 40s.  Russia's President Vladimir Putin has an approval rating closer to 80%.  What's the difference between them?  There are plenty, but from a public opinion standpoint the principal distinction is that Putin controls the Russian media, which fawns over him, while the American media works in overdrive to undermine our elected President.  One simply cannot discount how important this is, since constant toxic media coverage destroys confidence with spectacular effectiveness.  True, there are now alternative media outlets from which Americans can, and sometimes do, get high quality news and analysis, but most alternative media sources are even worse, and less professional, than the mainstream crowd.  Fake news flourishes in the alternative media, and the big networks, newspapers, and popular websites are, to a large degree, throwing journalistic standards out the window simply to stay competitive with the no-holds-barred muckrakers that dominate talk radio, social media, and other popular forums.  The point is this: our country's cynicism, quarrelsomeness, and self-hatred will never be healed until we obtain a more responsible press.  Bad and biased reporting is killing our democracy, I firmly believe, and time may be running out to reverse the downward spiral.  After all, we're already in a situation where most Americans assume the amorality of our political elite, and they take for granted that, if their chosen candidate didn't win an election, then his/her opponent must have cheated.  You simply can't sustain democratic institutions for long under these circumstances.  We need to change course! 

You can read all about it in my latest article:

Burying the Lead: The Media Ignores Trump's Victories

It's no secret that the mainstream media loathes President Trump. The coverage of the Trump administration has broken all records in terms of consistent, vitriolic negativity. (One study found that the coverage on the ABC, CBS, and NBC evening newscasts was critical 90% of the time.) This leads the media to devote ample column inches and airtime to arguably trivial smears, like the alleged Russian ties of low-level campaign aides and volunteers, the dirty laundry (real and imagined) of the President's family members, and unverifiable non-claims of past affairs made by professional strippers. Essentially, the media has long since been weaponized in the war on Trump.

The other side of this sordid coin, however, is the media's indifference to important, positive stories far more worthy of the public's attention. In particular, journalists eschew any mention of President Trump's successes and breakthroughs. The list of these political victories is a long one, although you won't read about them in the Post or the Times.

Lest we forget, the economy is booming. All indicators, including economic growth rates, unemployment rates, manufacturing growth, and stock market gains, are pointing to a level of dynamism unknown in the Obama years. The relaxation of bureaucratic regulations and the achievement of a historic tax reform package certainly have played a role in this economic renaissance. Whether President Trump deserves the credit for all of this good news is debatable, but the simple fact is that, if he were a Democrat, the media would be crediting him much more often than it is.

Recently, thanks to President Trump's unapologetically aggressive policy towards North Korea, including harsh rhetoric and biting sanctions, Kim Jong-un expressed a willingness to consider denuclearization, and the U.S. announced an upcoming summit between Kim and President Trump. Had President Obama achieved a diplomatic breakthrough of this magnitude, his (second) Nobel Peace Prize surely would have arrived by priority mail the very next day. Trump's hard-won progress, though, is ignored and slighted.

Likewise, the administration's successes in protecting U.S. technological and industrial preeminence, by preventing the foreign acquisition of critical American technology companies, and by shielding our steel and aluminum industries from unfair overseas competition, is ignored, or worse, undercut with wild speculation about possible retaliation. In both cases, Trump's actions have clear precedents in the moves of previous administrations, including that of Barack Obama, but the media always frames Trump's actions as entirely novel and abjectly foolish. The inconvenient truth is that real, tangible American jobs, and American workers, are safeguarded by these actions, but those stories are simply never told.

In yet another example of the media's selective coverage, the Trump administration's unprecedented success in reducing illegal immigration, which every administration since that of President Eisenhower has at least claimed that it wanted to achieve, is completely subsumed by the media's focus on anecdotal accounts of allegedly virtuous illegal immigrants facing deportation. The media could, of course, tell the story of the crimes committed by the many thousands of violent illegal immigrants who no longer prowl America's streets, thanks to President Trump. It won't, naturally. It literally can't, since any reporter who spoke of those crimes would be besieged with charges of “racism!”

The list of Trumpian achievements goes on: a stronger military, improved services for veterans and the firing of many incompetent VA employees, ISIS on its last legs, reams of useless regulations obliterated, an increasing realization among our allies that they must solve their own problems and provide and pay for their own defense, dozens of sterling conservatives appointed to our nation's courts, etc. And the media's attitude to these triumphs is invariably the same: denial, dismissal, obfuscation.

When it comes to all things Trump, the media is hopelessly blinkered. Unfortunately, their acidic commentary on the Trump presidency has had a cumulative effect on public attitudes, and it is almost certainly responsible for Trump's artificially low approval numbers, which make no sense given the basic strength of America itself.

Years ago, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared to his fellow Americans that they “had nothing to fear but fear itself.” What he meant is that perception is critically important, and it can even create, by its own power, new political realities. 

I would argue that the media, with its relentless and intentional efforts to undermine the Trump administration, is actually reducing confidence in America itself and its political institutions. The negativity has reached such a crescendo that the stability of our democracy is under threat.

President Trump has his faults, yes, but the irresponsibility and lack of professionalism in our media knows no bounds. It is time to turn off the mainstream media and start over. Alternatively, it is time to reconsider our libel laws in order to hold the worst journalists accountable for their fabrications.

Information is the lifeblood of democracy, and, sad to say, our country has never been so ill-informed.

Dr. Nicholas L. Waddy is an Associate Professor of History at SUNY Alfred and blogs at:

You can also find the article here, on the TownHall website:


  1. What victories? Trump couldn't get Obamacare eliminated. He hasn't built the wall. He helped pass a tax cut that is helping out his friends in perpetuity, while having limited short term effects for everyone else. He is exploding the deficit -- the increase in the federal deficit in February was the highest on record! He is proposing tariffs that will do nothing but result in a trade war that will make goods more costly to American consumers. Trump takes credit for Neil Gorsuch, but McConnell got him that opportunity. Trump is a disaster in terms of moral leadership. He lies constantly, and has a long record of sexual harassment and affairs with porn stars. No, the news is not covering his "achievements" because there are none.

  2. Dr. Waddy: Leftist bias in the MSM has been around for so long that we conservatives, to whom it has long been obvious, may take it for granted. You have called welcome attention to the necessity for seeing it for all that it is: an integral and perhaps indispensable part of the left's continuing crusade to destroy our country and replace it with a Marxist dictatorship. Fox News, Rush, the defeat of Hillary despite the MSM going to the wall for her and President Trump's open contempt for them have gone some way toward neutralizing these profoundly unprofessional partisans. But they remain a still harrowing part of the left's destructive effort. I think fire fighters are taught that there are three essential elements necessary for combustion: heat, fuel and oxygen. Elimination of any one of them stops combustion. Determining the essential elements of leftist treason and neutralizing one of them might have an analogous consequence. We cannot outlaw the MSM in a free country but continued and constant resistance (as it were)to it and assault upon it may result in its relegation to Hillary status (i.e. here but finished).

  3. Rod, thank you for the comment, and we welcome you to this den of iniquity! Not a single achievement in Trump's first year, eh? I suppose you refuse to believe in the reality of your 401k statement, then? Consistency is a virtue. Keep it up. :)

    Jack, as usual you cut to the quick: the MSM stinks, but what are we to do about it? Can we rely on American universities to churn out a new generation of superior journalists? Hardly. Those universities (and the public school system that feeds them) insist on further politicization of information. The only hope may be ratings. Many a leftist rag has disappeared simply because no one buys them anymore. Ratings are also down for many tv, radio, and internet news outlets (including CNN). Culling the herd may be the best we can hope for.

  4. Dr. Waddy: The Universities, are, perhaps, not as important a factor as the MSM though probably permanently leftist university journalism schools and peer pressure may ensure enforced political correctness in the MSM for the foreseeable future. Astronomical costs may well cut down on college enrollment (at least in the liberal arts in which the radical left is most influential); that could mean fewer leftists and increasing social isolation for those remaining. No doubt Bernie and Elizabeth want free college because it means far more recruits for radical boot camp. If we can reduce the MSM to a degree of incredibility similar to that of professional wrestling then we may marginalize it, a potentially catastrophic blow to the leftist dictatorial designs. We have to keep attacking it and discrediting it with political defeat of its darlings. More and more Americans may be catching on to its dishonesty(?) In the potentially unlimited information marketplace which is at hand, the truth will out and the left cannot survive unfettered scrutiny. A ludicrous and comic remnant of the MSM may survive, to the edification of insomniacs only.

  5. Well said, Jack! You're right -- our only real salvation lies in delegitimizing the mainstream media, and we are making excellent progress in that regard. The problem, though, is that we are pretty effectively delegitimizing EVERYTHING. That worries me.

  6. Dr. Waddy: I agree in that it is apparent that cynicism is rife. EG. The Hillary hopers are terribly disaffected. I think if President Trump were to go back on his promises it would increase generalized ennui by spreading it to his supporters but he shows no sign of doing so, other than, perhaps, in his budget. The early Enlightenment, with its emphasis on the questioning of all intellectual authority may be a case study of the consequences of iconoclasm. Democracy, the scientific method, separation of government powers, the inherent worth of the individual - good. Rousseau, Marx, the French and Russian Revolutions - bad. Tentative conclusion - fasten our seatbelts; we probably have yet a rough ride ahead.

  7. A very apt diagnosis. The veil of modern cynicism can indeed be laid at the feet of the philosophes. We should always be careful in obliterating traditional values, since more often than not a good replacement is hard to come by... Just a generation ago Americans had infinitely more confidence in our vital institutions. The fall from grace has been astoundingly swift.

  8. Dr. Waddy: And, I think, completely to be expected. Encouraged by Marxist nihilists who welcomed their naive adulation in the '60's (I was right in the middle of it) the boomer horde was blithe to reject the concept of tradition, the possibility that it institutionalized painfully accumulated wisdom and the caution that they were inviting chaos itself on a nation which had shown them transcendent benevolence in their frivolous youth. Father Time, as he sweeps the boomers into his maw, may be our country's savior

  9. Ah, I'd like to believe that, Jack, but I'm not so sure that Gen X or the Millennials will prove any wiser, or less corrupted by toxic leftist propaganda. Election results suggest that, the younger you are, the LESS likely you are to vote against the exponents of leftism. That's not a comforting thought.