It sure took a while, Andrew, but it’s good to have you on board. Every little bit helps.
Andrew Sullivan is writing at substack now, the place where disillusioned former henchmen (and henchwomen, like Bari Weiss) of the biased and partisan mainstream news media have retreated after they sensed that somehow the people they were working for were doing more harm than good. Some, like independent journalist/muckraker Green Greenwald, flipped loyalties completely and declared his disgust with fury, even pointing out the news media’s campaign of lies against Donald Trump. Sullivan has, in contrast and until now, been unwilling to admit what has been obvious for a very long time: American journalism has really become “the enemy of the people.”
Oh, he has gradually picked off other and related examples of progressive ethics rot in our societyof many : check out the first 12 Ethics Alarms essays here, going back to 2014. These all must have been hard for him, for Sullivan is a moderate conservative turned progressive (by the gay marriage issue), and he doubtlessly would like to support his newfound companions. Yet he couldn’t quite bring himself to accept what I, to name just one objective analysts, figured out and have been documenting for more than a decade.
Now he has. Whew! I thought it would never happen.
In “Denial,” the film about the lawsuit by British Holocaust denier and fake historian Richard Irving’s defamation lawsuit against American Deborah Lipstadt, Tom Wilkerson as Lipstadt’s barrister Richard Rampton, in the process of excoriating Irving to the court where the case is being tried, says in a memorable speech,
My lord, during this trial, we have heard from Professor Evans and others of at least 25 major falsifications of history. Well, says Mr. Irving, “all historians make mistakes.” But there is a difference between negligence, which is random in its effect, and a deliberateness, which is far more one-sided. All Mr. Irving’s little fictions, all his tweaks of the evidence all tend in the same direction: the exculpation of Adolf Hitler. 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 Mr. Irving is the dishonest waiter. All his mistakes work in his favor. How far, if at all, Mr. Irving’s Antisemitism is the cause of his Hitler apology, or vice versa, is unimportant. Whether they are taken together or individually, it is clear that they have led him to prostitute his reputation as a serious historian in favor of a bogus rehabilitation of Adolf Hitler and the dissemination of virulent Antisemitic propaganda.
Note the parallels with Sullivan’s description of the mainstream media in his latest newsletter:
The news is a perilous business. It’s perilous because the first draft of history is almost always somewhat wrong, and needs a second draft, and a third, and so on, over time, until the historian can investigate with more perspective and calm. The job of journalists is to do as best they can, day by day, and respond swiftly when they screw up, correct the record, and move forward….
But when the sources of news keep getting things wrong, and all the errors lie in the exact same direction, and they are reluctant to acknowledge error, we have a problem. If you look back at the last few years, the record of errors, small and large, about major stories, is hard to deny. It’s as if the more Donald Trump accused the MSM of being “fake news” the more assiduously they tried to prove him right.
Sullivan can’t bring himself to emphatically charcterize and condemn exactly what the news media is promoting and lying about, though those 12 posts I just linked to are a clue. We have to be sympathetic to Andrew: these are his pals, and what he is doing takes courage, so he can’t resist equivocating with weak rhetoric like “we have a problem.” But then he follows with an admirable list of examples of the news media’s perfidy. He was paying attention all along. Sullivan starts with the Rittenhouse narrative:
And these mass deceptions have consequences. We are seeing this now in the Rittenhouse case — a gruesome story of a reckless teen with a rifle in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha. The impression many got from much of the media was that a far-right vigilante, in the middle of race riots, had gone looking for trouble far from home and injured one man, and killed two, in a shooting spree.
Here’s the NYT on August 26, the morning after the killings: “The authorities were investigating whether the white teenager who was arrested … was part of a vigilante group. His social media accounts appeared to show an intense affinity for guns, law enforcement and President Trump.” Rittenhouse’s race is specified; the race of the men he killed and injured were not (they were also white)….notice how the narrative — embedded in a deeper one that the Blake shooting was just as clear-cut as the Floyd murder, that thousands of black men were being gunned down by cops every year, and that “white supremacy” was rampant in every cranny of America — effectively excluded the possibility that Rittenhouse was a naive, dangerous fool in the midst of indefensible mayhem, who, in the end, shot assailants in self-defense. And so when, this week, one of Rittenhouse’s pursuers, Gaige Grosskreutz, admitted on the stand that Rittenhouse shot him only after Grosskreutz pointed his pistol directly at Rittenhouse’s head a few feet away, it came as a shock….
…Here’s how the NYT first described this a year ago, on August 26: “Video footage from the scene of the shooting appears to show Mr. Rittenhouse running and then firing his gun, striking a man in the head. He then flees and is chased by bystanders before tripping, falling to the ground and shooting another man.”
His fury unleashed, Sullivan eventually moves on from the current media false narrative to others, channeling Captain Obvious by saying, “There’s a media pattern here”:
We found out this week, for example, that a key figure in the emergence of the Steele Dossier, Igor Danchenko, has been indicted for lying to the FBI. He is also charged with asking a Clinton crony, Charles Dolan Jr: “Any thought, rumor, allegation. I am working on a related project against Trump.”
The evidence from another key source for the dossier, Sergei Millian — touted across all media, including the Washington Post — has also been exposed as potentially fake. What has the Post done? …instead of a clear retraction, the Post has just added editors’ notes to previous stories, removed sections and a video, and altered headlines retroactively. This is a bizarre way of correcting the record: “No such case comes immediately or specifically to mind, at least no historical case that stirred lasting controversy,” said W. Joseph Campbell, a professor and journalism historian at American University.
…Trump was right, in the end, about the dodgy dossier; he was right about the duped FBI’s original overreach; and the mass media — Rachel Maddow chief among them — were wrong. And yet the dossier dominated the headlines for three years, and the “corrections” have a fraction of the audience of the errors. Maddow gets promoted. And the man who first published it, Ben Smith, was made the media columnist for the NYT.
…[T]he MSM …viciously defamed the Covington boys. They authoritatively told us that bounties had been placed on US soldiers in Afghanistan by Putin — and Trump’s denials only made them more certain. They told us that the lab-leak theory of Covid was a conspiracy theory with no evidence behind it at all. …Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. The MSM took the ludicrous story of Jussie Smollett seriously because it fit their nutty “white supremacy” narrative. They told us that a woman was brutally gang-raped at UVA (invented), that the Pulse mass shooting was driven by homophobia (untrue) and that the Atlanta spa shooter was motivated by anti-Asian bias (no known evidence for that at all)….they followed up with story after story about white supremacists targeting Asian-Americans, in a new wave of “hate,” even as the assaults were disproportionately by African Americans and the mentally ill.
… [T]he NYT “published an emotionally gut-wrenching but complete fiction that never had any evidence — that Officer Sicknick’s skull was savagely bashed in with a fire extinguisher by a pro-Trump mob until he died.” The media told us that an alleged transgender exposure in the Wi Spa in Los Angeles was an anti-trans hoax (also untrue). They told us that the emails recovered on Hunter Biden’s laptop were Russian disinformation. They did this just before an election and used that claim to stymie the story on social media. But they were not Russian disinformation. They were a valid if minor news story the media consciously kept from its audience for partisan purposes.
More recently, the MSM were telling us for months that inflation is a phantasm. We were told that the “2021 Inflation Scare is another in a series of false alarms going back several decades.” We were assured that “the numbers at least for now are on the side of those expecting the trend to subside and then stabilize at lower levels.” Any concern was “fearmongering politics.” And now we wake up to the highest inflation in 30 years, counter-balancing wage increases. Still, they tell us, all will be well.
…We were told that the migrant surge at the border was just seasonal, and nothing out of the ordinary, even as 1.7 million migrants were illegally trying to get into the country in the last year. We were told that sending migrants back to their home countries was a wicked and unconscionable Trump tactic — even as the Biden administration swiftly copied it with Haitian immigrants — to much success. The cruelty is the point, eh?
We were — and still are! — being told by most of the media that critical race theory isn’t in high schools at all. Meanwhile, a tsunami of evidence is out there showing that it absolutely is — in every subject, and every class, as the central philosophy behind many states’ education policies.
Feel better now, Andrew? You’re a smart guy: I’m sure you could have put this puzzle together long ago if your won bias hadn’t made you stupid (There are still lingering signs of this, like Sullivan’s ridiculous description of the Hunter Biden laptop scandal as a “minor” story).
At least the fog has mostly cleared, so now Sullivan is writing almost exact duplicates of what readers have been seeing here for many years. He concludes his essay (note that Andrew could not resist blaming all of this on Trump, I suppose to try to prove to his friends that he hasn’t completely turned on them them)
And at some point, you wonder: what narrative are they pushing now that is also bullshit? …I still rely on the MSM for so much. I still read the NYT first thing in the morning. I don’t want to feel as if everything I read is basically tilted through wish-fulfillment, narrative-proving, and ideology. But with this kind of record, how can I not?
We need facts and objectivity more than ever.Trump showed that.What we got in the MSM was an over-reaction, a reflexive overreach to make the news fit the broader political fight. This is humanly understandable. It is professionally unacceptable.
And someone has got to stop it.
A lot of us are trying, Andrew. Your assistance is welcome, and when we succeed, it will really be a bright, bright sunshiny day.