One of the nation’s biggest challenges right now – the assault on democracy and truth itself by Donald Trump and Company – results to a significant extent from corporate media norms and behaviors.
- Seeking to “find middle ground” enables the migration of our national dialogue to views once considered outside the pale, as one party – the Republican Party – moves increasingly towards radical extremism.
- Think telling parents that their children are being taken for showers and not giving them even the opportunity to hug and kiss them as they are being taken away indefinitely … and then putting those children in cages in shut-down Walmarts.
- “Access journalism” naturally (and, I’d argue, unethically) mutes willingness to describe accurately powerful politicians if that description might not be welcomed.
- “Relativism” (as per “middle ground”/”both sides-ism”) leads to misperception.
- If someone is attacked as not Trump-ian enough (not a full-fledged member of the Cult of Personality), the attack itself creates an impression of “moderate centrism” no matter actual (such as voting record) reality.
Washington Post reporting on Virginia’s 10th Congressional District provides a textbook example of this problem.
Reporting on the election results in Virginia’s 10th District, Jenna Portnoy’s June 13 article (“Wexton wins primary to challenge Comstock“) inappropriately framed Barbara Comstock as a Trump opponent by citing two votes “against” the Trump agenda.
In the Republican primary, Comstock …. risked losing Republican voters by breaking with President Trump on health-care legislation and his desire for a government shutdown.
Comstock’s big “break” on health-care legislation came after she had voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act time after time after time … and then she was allowed to vote no on the House GOP party-line vote to repeal after passage was assured. Thus, on electioneering motives. And, well, what a major break from Trump for a DC-area member of Congress not to join in action to shut down basic government services (as a negotiating tactic to fund a wall with Mexico that candidate Trump promised Mexico and Mexicans would pay for).
Later in the article, Portnoy quotes a Republican on Comstock as “middle of the road.”
“She’s sort of a middle-of-the-road type Republican,” said Bruce Goddard, a 70-year-old retiree from Great Falls.
What is, in today’s world, a “middle-of-the-road type Republican” other than someone (far) to the right of Republican hero Ronald Reagan.
“She’s not on the wacky right and she’s not on the wacky left”
What a ‘both sides are lunatics’ framing ever so loved by journalists which was allowed in from a a Republican voter’s voice. “Both sides” is a long discredited journalistic technique which seeks ‘balance’ by presenting ‘both sides’ — such as discussing space missions by having a former astronaut (on one side) balanced by quotes from a Flat Earth Society member (on the other side).
While Comstock might not be as blatantly a radical extremist of the ilk of white-supremacist (sympathizer) Virginia Republican Senate nominee Corey Stewart, painting extremist Comstock as “moderate” in the American political spectrum and within the 10th District is utterly misleading. A simple statistic from a top polling and tracking group, FiveThirtyEight.com, makes this clear:
- Rep. Comstock votes over 97 percent of the time for the Trump Agenda.
- This voting record is a massive 52-percentage-point swing away from her constituents toward Trump — the second-highest disconnect in the nation between voter preferences and Congressional voting record.*
* The highest gap is Rep. Valleo (R-CA-21) at a 63.7% swing to Trump.
– Portnoy’s reporting on Comstock’s dirty tricks attacks on her primary opponent, Shak Hill, provides another example of “moderating” the reality of Comstock’s extremism. In reporting on Hill’s strident cries that Comstock wasn’t Trump-ian enough, Portnoy wrote, “Comstock has voted with her party most of the time.” Clearly, over 97 percent fall within the technical definition of “most of the time” but describing the near-universal 97% with the soft language “most” understates Comstock’s devoted allegiance to the extremist Republican agenda.