It’s my own fault. I’ve written so many essays here since 2009 about the disgraceful descent of the news media into partisan propaganda that I can’t find the relevant post I was looking for on my own blog. That would be the one during the Obama administration in which I pointed out that being assured that no reporters and virtually no pundits would have the guts or integrity to criticize Obama’s performance as President had made him lazy, arrogant, and reckless. If you know anything you do will be extolled whether it deserves praise of not, and any mistakes and blunders will be covered up or spun, why be careful, especially if you’re an arrogant narcissistic like Barack? The same principle operated on President Trump, but in reverse (I honestly don’t recall if I noted this, but I noticed it). If a President is certain that whatever he does will be attacked by the news media, there is no reason for him to consider the press in his policy considerations. Summary: bad journalism makes bad Presidents.
Several commentators are finally waking up to this phenomenon now, as they try to find some other than Joe Biden to blame for Joe Biden’s incompetence. I have now read several pieces opining that the President was certain that the press would have his back no matter what happened in Afghanistan.
That was really foolish on Biden’s part (but then…Biden) for two reasons. First, he is not nearly as popular as Obama, and nobody was going to call a reporter “racist” for criticizing him. Second, and more importantly, journalists destroyed their influence and credibility during their four year campaign of fake news and glorified rumors to bring down Donald Trump. Most of the public doesn’t trust the mainstream media—good!—because it is untrustworthy. The days when it could cover a President’s botches effectively have passed.
One would think that this would spur the news media to be more careful about the lies they present to the public as truth, and one would be tragically wrong. Two recent examples from last week demonstrate that no “Oh-oh, we better start practicing honest journalism!” alarms are ringing yet.
USA Today performed a classic partisan “fact check” looking into the deserved backlash President Biden received for looking at his watch during the solemn transfer ceremony in honor of the 13 U.S. service members who were killed in a terrorist attack outside the Kabul airport as a direct result of Biden’s “Run away!!” misadventure. The same gesture in 1992 during a town hall Presidential debate helped lose George H.W. Bush his reelection quest, when the news media, including USA Today, savaged him for showing that he regarded having to take questions from the public as a waste of his time and attention. Like Bush’s gaffe, Biden’s read loud and clear as, “God, when will this crap be over with so I can take a nap?”
USA Today’s Daniel Funke, a progressive and a Democrat, authored a fact check examining whether or not Biden actually kept checking the time on his wrist as the caskets of the fallen were rolled onto the tarmac at Dover Air Force Base last weekend. He ruled the claim “partly false,” writing that the image of Biden that circulated on social media did not “accurately summarize” what occurred “[Biden] did appear to check his watch during his visit to Dover Air Force Base. But he did so after the dignified transfer ceremony was over,” Funke wrote. “Footage leading up to the moment shows Biden with his hand over his heart for about 30 seconds as vans carry the service members’ remains off the tarmac. After the vans had left, Biden closes his eyes briefly before dropping his arms and glancing down at his watch.”
Sounds convincing…but it wasn’t true. The Gold Star families stated that they saw Biden check his watch multiple times during the ceremony, but what’s wrong with false implying that they were lying when the objective is to protect a Democratic President and the public from “cruel” Republicans?
USA Today was forced to issue a correction the next day, admitting that contrary to the “factcheck” the paper published, Biden had indeed checked his watch multiple times. Funke used Twitter one day later to express his “regret,” while somehow making himself the victim, writing,
“Journalists and fact-checkers are human (yes, even me!) We make mistakes. When we do, we correct them and try to make it right. It’s easy to dunk on journalists when we get things wrong. I get it – to many, we’re just another name on a screen. But behind that screen is a person trying to do their best.”
Sorry, but this doesn’t wash. Journalists like Funke “do their best” to manipulate public opinion to advance their partisan agenda. An unbiased reporter doesn’t make a “mistake” exonerating a politician from doing what he actually did when the facts were easily verified unless the reporter wants the “factcheck” to yield a particular result. He brings to mind a line in the movie “Denial,” when Tom Wilkinson as Barrister Richard Rampton explains why a Holocaust denying historian didn’t just make an honest mistake: “He is, to use an analogy, like the waiter who always gives the wrong change. If he is honest, we may expect sometimes his mistakes to favor the customers, sometimes himself. But [he] is the dishonest waiter. All his mistakes work in his favor.”
That’s not just Funke being described there, it’s the mainstream media itself, the ultimate “dishonest waiter.”
Then we have the other Unethical Media Trick, misrepresenting facts to show how “cruel” and destructive conservatives are. Some Wuhan virus vaccination skeptics have been promoting ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug usually reserved for deworming horses or livestock, as a treatment or preventative for the pandemic. This week, “Rolling Stone” reported that an Oklahoma emergency room doctor, Dr. Jason McElyea, had reported that invectin overdoses were causing backlogs in rural hospitals, leaving both beds and ambulance services scarce.
“The ERs are so backed up that gunshot victims were having hard times getting to facilities where they can get definitive care and be treated,” the magazine quoted the doctor as saying. All of their ambulances are stuck at the hospital waiting for a bed to open so they can take the patient in and they don’t have any, that’s it. If there’s no ambulance to take the call, there’s no ambulance to come to the call.”
None of this was true. Northeastern Hospital System Sequoyah issued a statement debunking the whole report:
“Although Dr. Jason McElyea is not an employee of NHS Sequoyah, he is affiliated with a medical staffing group that provides coverage for our emergency room. With that said, Dr. McElyea has not worked at our Sallisaw location in over 2 months. NHS Sequoyah has not treated any patients due to complications related to taking ivermectin. This includes not treating any patients for ivermectin overdose. All patients who have visited our emergency room have received medical attention as appropriate. Our hospital has not had to turn away any patients seeking emergency care. We want to reassure our community that our staff is working hard to provide quality healthcare to all patients. We appreciate the opportunity to clarify this issue and as always, we value our community’s support.”
But it was so darn tempting to publish a claim that the reporters never bothered to verify since it reflected badly on the (mostly) conservative vaccine resisters, that Rolling Stone went ahead with the fake news.
Nobody should trust these people. Not any of them.