The media reporting on the Covington kids/Lincoln Memorial story was disgraceful, to the point where the story ultimately became not what actually happened that day -- there is, after all, no intrinsic newsworthiness in a teenager supposedly "smirking" at a nutjob banging a drum -- but how the media eagerly constructed and then tried to impose a thoroughly fake narrative upon the American public.
Any explanation for the fiasco must begin with the following factors:
• Ideology: Too many in our prestige media now see themselves as "woke" social justice warriors rather than journalists. They consequently glom on to whatever story appears to serve that cause, however trivial, and then jump to preferred conclusions, omit relevant facts and take others out of context accordingly.
In the Lincoln Memorial incident all we needed to know was that there were some white Christian males from Kentucky wearing MAGA hats (even if they were just teenagers). Roll script, fill in the blanks, paint by numbers, even if it's false.
As Andrew Sullivan, hardly a champion of "white male privilege," succinctly put it, "This is the orthodoxy of elite media, and it is increasingly the job of journalists to fit the facts to the narrative and to avoid any facts that undermine it."
Those who spewed propaganda for Pravda saw their task much the same way.
• Indoctrination: Most of the "woke" social justice warriors of the elite media to which Sullivan refers come from supposedly elite colleges and universities where, outside of STEM fields, education has been largely supplanted by radical left indoctrination. They thus arrive at their positions with their heads filled with social-justice intersectionality mumbo-jumbo and see only those things that they think support it.
In the words of Victor Davis Hanson, "Fake news -- whether the latest BuzzFeed myth or the Covington charade -- is simply a word for thirtysomethings who believe they have a duty to promote race, class, and gender agendas that they were spoon-fed in college. They too often define accuracy as the higher Truth that transcends the fossilized idea of truth predicated on obsolete ideas such as evidence, facts, and empiricism."
• Ignorance: The other problem with indoctrination at institutions of higher education is that it invariably crowds out the "education" part, evidence for which seems to be the appalling lack of knowledge of history, political theory, and economics that characterizes the typical social justice warrior, including media specimens thereof.
But when it comes to the media the problem goes deeper than just historical and cultural illiteracy to include a profound ignorance of the nation and its people that they are supposed to be reporting on and to, of the habits and culture and values of all those "deplorables" that live between Washington/New York on one coast and San Francisco/Los Angeles on the other.
Lack of understanding leads to ignorance then to contempt for "flyover country." And it doesn't get any more "flyover" in the minds of would-be media sophisticates than Covington, Ky.
• Insularity, resulting from newsrooms filled with like-minded, superficial people who seldom challenge their own views or have them challenged by others or have even the faintest awareness of the fact that they operate in echo chambers.
The linkage here is difficult to deny: the ideological echo chambers that are elite college campuses turn out media elites who then continue to function in ideological echo chambers at CNN, The Washington Post and The New York Times.
Again, in Hanson's words, "We are also reaping the fruits of the new university run by hard-core leftists who have indoctrinated a generation with progressive envy and anger, while offering them little education. The resulting ignorance and arrogance make a lethal combination."
• Laziness, defined as the increasing tendency of journalists and pundits to rely upon Twitter to determine what constitutes news significance and to then misinterpret the nutty opinions therein as representative of those of the public as a whole.
The "story" thus becomes the Twitter version of the story, however trivial or inaccurately presented, with all too many journalists simply reporting on how Twitter "reacts" or "erupts" to this or that. The real work of reporting, the things we were taught to do way back in journalism school, the hard work of collecting facts and trying to find out what really happened, is increasingly left out of the job description.
• Simple dishonesty, flowing from an embrace by too many media outlets of an "end justifies the means" mentality, with the "end" getting rid of the ogre Donald Trump and the "means" consisting of whatever facilitates that end, even biased reporting and fake stories.
The claim is made that Trump must be removed because of the damage he has done to venerable American institutions, yet the campaign by the media against him has resulted in unprecedented, self-inflicted damage to the Fourth Estate as an institution as well, in large part because of the kind of abandonment of professional standards and commitment to accuracy and objectivity so obvious in the Covington story.
The claim of "fake news" increasingly resonates because, in their ill-disguised zeal to get rid of a president they don't like, our puffed-up media elites are providing us with so many examples of it.
Freelance columnist Bradley R. Gitz, who lives and teaches in Batesville, received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois.Editorial on 02/04/2019
Print Headline: Why the media blew it