“The Bulwark’s” Contorted, Self-Indicting Defense Of The Mainstream Media

One reason Ethics Alarms highlighted Andrew Sullivan’s late-to-the-party sounding of his own alarm against the near total corruption of the mainstream media with Left-leaning bias—it was a bit like shouting “Fire!” in a theater that was already burned to the ground—was that I was curious to see if the mainstream media’s defenders would try to counter it. It can’t be countered honestly, you see. At this point, it’s like denying that the Earth moves around the Sun, yet denials are still the reflex norm both among journalists and those who appreciate news reporting working so hard to accomplish their obviously virtuous political agendas.

I did not expect “The Bulwark,” of all places, to defend the mainstream media against Sullivan’s statement of the obvious, but upon reflection, I should have. The Bulwark is the retreat site of poor Bill Kristol after he snapped like a a dry twig in a harsh wind and blew up his credibility, reputation and “The Weekly Standard” in a tantrum over am unmannerly and crude commoner like Donald Trump daring to get elected to the Presidency. Supposedly a man of principle and a true believer in conservative principles, neocom Bill declared that he would rather see those who oppose and would liquidate all of those principles to gain power than to tolerate someone so unworthy accomplishing policy objectives that Kristol would have endorsed a short time ago.

This elitist bit of bigotry (duplicated by other NeverTrumpers like George Will) deserves an eventual clinical analysis. Something similar to one was just focused on one-time conservative pundit for the Washington Post Jennifer Rubin over at “The American Thinker,” where Thomas Lifson writes that Rubin “stands out as possibly the most extreme case of Trump Derangement Syndrome among the former conservatives…Her hatred of Trump and the party that now is dominated by him and his supporters is so extreme that she wants the media to stop treating it as a legitimate representative of the roughly half the populace that votes for it.” Kristol’s agents’ at “The Bulwark” hatred is so extreme that it will defend the mainstream media’s constantly distorting the news to make conservatives and Republicans seem illegitimate. Which is worse? A Leftist media deliberately deceiving the public to warp the democratic process, or a conservative publication enabling it because they share a fanatic hatred? It’s a tough call.

“The Bulwark’s” editor, Jonathan V. Last, authored his network’s embarrassing attack on Sullivan‘s awakening, and thus provesthat nothing overseen by someone so devoid of critical thinking skills (or willing to chuck them for a paycheck—Last was the Last editor of Kristol’s “Weekly Standard” until its founder sent it to Hell with his Trump Deranged snit) can be taken seriously. Read it, and make notes of all the rationalizations, logical fallacies and Jumbo moments (“Media bias? What media bias?”) you find. It could be a parlor game.

Here’s just a few to get you started:

  • Last adopts the frequent (and infuriating) tactic of progressives when they falsely  accuse conservatives  of doing exactly what they are doing right in the open for all to see:

“What and/or who is “the mainstream media”? Is it the New York Times and the Washington Post? The AP? NBC News and CNN? Ryan Lizza’s Twitter feed? The Los Angeles Times? BuzzFeed? Axios? NPR? Maggie Haberman’s book? The “mainstream media”—I’m going to stop putting that in quotes, but keep imagining that I’m saying it sarcastically—is probably made up of several thousand individuals and then a three-figure number of institutions. At any given moment, on any given story, some number of these people and institutions will communicate facts that are eventually understood to be misleading or incorrect. …The point is that the MSM universe is so large that you’re always going to be able to cherry-pick examples to support the notion that “they” are feeding “us” false narratives.

Ah! Since all of the mainstream media doesn’t necessarily distort all stories all the time, that means it isn’t biased. Here Last is deliberately refusing to acknowledge Sullivan’s correct use of the “dishonest waiter” argument. How often have any of those examples of the mainstream media that Last cites been ‘misleading or incorrect” in a direction that opposes progressive objectives?

  • Then, in a mind-melting triple-twist somersault flip-fop, Last attacks Sullivan’s analysis because he claims it is poisoned by Sullivan;s Trump Derangement, which is the life’s blood of “the Bulwark” and the only reason it exists. So Last cites other examples of leftist media bias before Trump, going all the way back to the Rosenbergs and Alger Hiss, in order to deny that there is mainstream media bias!
  • I really enjoyed Last’s shotgun blast at other disillusioned pundits like Sullivan, like Glenn Greenwald. In the course of it, Last sneers at all of the conservative media—“The Bulwark’s” competitors (a coincidence, I’m sure)—with this head-scratcher:

“Ask yourself this: If Glenn Greenwald is so concerned about accuracy, then why does he go on Fox News to complain about the media when Fox formally testifies that it traffics in “exaggeration” and “non-literal commentary”?

I did ask myself that. “Jack, why does Greenwald go on Fox News to complain about the media when Fox has admitted that it engages in “exaggeration” and “non-literal commentary”? And my answer to myself was, “He goes on Fox because none of the other mainstream media networks will have him, because they are devoted to delivering Democratic party propaganda, you idiot! Why would you even have to ask? And Fox has from its beginning announced that it slants its coverage to the Right, because it is a counterweight to that very mainstream media bias that Sullivan accurately indicts. The fact that Fox News admits its bias shows that it at least has more integrity than its far more numerous competitors on the other side of the divide. Boy, Jack, are you slow.”

Then, after more fallacies, rationalizations, and bad arguments, Last gives us this screaming proof of his Trump Derangement:

“We are on the cusp of a media crisis that no one is talking about. As we move toward 2024, the big concern should be how the media would cover an openly anti-democratic presidential candidate. Would they treat said candidate as a danger to America? Or would they attempt to remain neutral and pretend that he was just another generic politician doing normal political things?”

Yes, Jonathan, Trump is the danger to democracy, not the aspiring totalitarians he and Republicans oppose (but not effectively enough) and not the enemies of the people that Sullivan finally recognized and you defend, because you are one of them.

Sure. I just posted on this bizarre delusion a few days ago, and forgive me for repeating myself (again), but…

Why and how do people keep saying this? I’ve read it in op-eds and heard it on MSNBC, but nobody has ever offered anything close to an answer with any substance. It is, of course, just the holdover, Big Lie #3: “Trump Is A Fascist/Hitler/Dictator/Monster.” The only thing that has changed since Ethics Alarms formulated it is the freak-out over the January 6 riot at the Capitol, because if there’s one way a mad fascist will try to take over the government, it’s with a mob of 300 idiots wearing funny hats and wielding bear spray. (As of yesterday, incidentally, CNN was still calling this “the insurrection.”

I want to have someone get on the comments board and explain what President Trump did in four years that constituted a threat to democracy, or that suggests that he will be a threat to democracy if he wins another term. The closest might be refusing to accept the legitimacy of the 2020 election, but the Democrats spent his four years denying the legitimacy of his election, so I don’t see how that makes Trump a unique threat.

By any substantive and objective measure, the Biden Administration has been threatening democracy more in ten months than Trump did in his entire time in office. The Fifth Circuit just slammed the vaccination mandate as unconstitutional and an over-reach of government power. What did Trump attempt of that magnitude? Nothing. The Democrats tried to undo as much of an election as possible using historically invalid grounds for impeachment. Did Trump use the IRS to shut down opposition during an election? No, that was Obama. Did his Education Department push colleges and universities to abandon due process in sexual harassment and sexual assault cases? No, THAT was the Obama DOE. Did Trump use corporate allies in Big Tech and Social media to muzzle the speech of political adversaries? No, that would be the Democrats. Did he push to eliminate the filibuster, a measure designed to protect against “tyranny of the majority”? Did he agitate to pack the Supreme Court? To make “hate speech” an exception to free speech guarantees? To undercut the Second Amendment, which protects the rest? Did Trump lock up and prosecute political rioters that supported his adversaries while allowing rioters who supported his party to run amuck and go free? Was Trump bolstered and protected by a news media overwhelmingly behaving as a state propaganda network? Did Trump’s Attorney General sic the FBI on parents who strongly protest school policies and teaching on gender and race?

I know the answer, to that “Why?,” frankly. Jonathan Last and “The Bulwark,” like Jennifer Rubin, the NeverTrumpers and the mainstream media, believe that Donald Trump is “anti-democratic” because he had the rudeness and audacity to get elected, and if someone they find so unmannerly, low-class and icky can do that, then democracy isn’t working right. Andrew Sullivan is almost as deranged, but at least he can overcome his bias, as all ethical people must, sufficiently to see what the same bias has done to his colleagues, and what they are doing to the nation.

9 thoughts on ““The Bulwark’s” Contorted, Self-Indicting Defense Of The Mainstream Media

  1. If Trump is such a threat to democracy, then why did he not use his massive fortune to raise armed legions and cross the Potomac?

    • Can you imagine the howling if Trump had issued a vaccine mandate? He’d be accused of genocide, never mind threatening democracy.

  2. Great post.

    “This elitist bit of bigotry (duplicated by other NeverTrumpers like George Will) deserves an eventual clinical analysis.” Man, I can’t wait to read THAT. Do you suppose it all boils down to class snobbery? I’m beginning to think so.

    • A lot does. A lot of the initial GOP revulsion at Clinton was class-based as well. You would think the log cabin tradition in the U.S. Presidency would have provided a bit of protection for a nouveau riche family boor like Trump; Kennedy came from origins just as grubby. Clinton. Obama. But none of those POTUS’s refused to play the role: like LBJ, Trump enjoyed being himself, and was willing to pay the price, if part because his enemies reacted by exposing just how snobbish, emotional and ugly they were.

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