For those who get their political news on a regular basis from the U.S. media, it’s been glaringly obvious for many years now that there are deep, fundamental flaws that have, if anything, been getting worse over time. “Both sidesism” (e.g., see below for the WaPo calling General Mark Milley “polarizing” – WTF???) and false equivalence (e.g., between a pro-democracy, normal, at-most-slightly-left-of-center party on the one hand and an increasingly far-right, outlier, extremist, anti-democracy, anti-science party on the other hand), obviously, are huge problems.
But those aren’t the only problems with the political media in this country, unfortunately; we also need to toss in:
- normalization (by which the media treats wildly abnormal, extremist, bizarre behavior as just run-of-the-mill, normal politics)
- minimalization/erasure (by which the media simply ignores really important stuff, such as a former president and likely 2024 Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, issuing multiple unhinged, anti-Semitic, violent, deranged rants per day…including, as you can see below, apparently threatening the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff with execution)
- politics-as-mindless-horserace-coverage (instead of focusing on the SUBSTANCE, the political media’s still much more obsessed with “who’s up, who’s down,” and with treating politics as all a big game)
- publishing of flat-out lies and trash “takes” in “opinion” sections, simply because they’re so desperate to have right-wing voices to show “balance” that they ignore their own rules about truthfulness and accuracy (e.g., see below for the abysmal Kathleen Parker’s latest drooling idiocy)
- rarely giving credit to a Democratic president for successes, while frequently undermining whatever accomplishments they’ve had by focusing on the negative, adding “but…” to any good news, etc.
- refusing to flat-out call right-wing lies LIES, right in the headline, and of course failing to use the essential “truth sandwich“ (“presenting the truth about a subject before covering misinformation, then ending a story by again presenting truth”)
- treating disgusting, cynical, dishonest, bad-faith behavior as showing political “savvy”…
- acting too often as stenographers and whitewashers, particularly for Republican politicians, such as we saw all throughout 2021 – and also in 2022 and 2023 – with the “mainstream media”‘s coverage of Glenn Youngkin (e.g., see When It Comes to Glenn Youngkin, the Political Media Keeps Failing Us BADLY: Axios Flat-Out Lies About Who Youngkin’s Campaigning For; He’s Not a “Moderate” or “6 Foot 5 Mystery Date.” Nope, THIS Is Glenn Youngkin.; Three Front-Page WaPo Stories on the VA Governor’s Race…and They All SUCK (Hell, They Even Describe Youngkin as a “6 foot 5 Mystery Date” – WTF???), Badly Broken WaPo Out with Another Wildly Irresponsible Piece of Anti-Democratic, Pro-Republican Stenography; The Relentlessly Anti-Progressive WaPo Strikes Again, This Time Falsely Claiming That “Northern Virginia shifts to the left with Democratic primary victories”; In 2021, the WaPo’s “Journalists” Whitewashed Youngkin/Sears/Miyares. This Election, They’re Doing the Same with Republican VA Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant’s Opposition to Women’s Reproductive Freedom?; etc.
So yeah, we could go on all day with this. We could also talk about the fact that the political media in this country has sucked for many years, for instance with their pathetically flawed coverage of the “Tea Party” in 2009, 2010, etc, when they gave a bunch of racist loons dressed in weird costums massive coverage, while consistently failing to make clear that the “Tea Party” was astroturf, racist to its core, etc, while mostly whitewashing said “Tea Party” as actually/in good faith about “too much spending,” when in fact it had NOTHING to do with that! And, obviously, the political media’s coverage of the 2016 presidential election was DISASTROUS, with their massive coverage of Trump (playing a major role in helping him win the Republican nomination), along with their constant “BUT HER EMAILS!”/”CLINTON FOUNDATION!” both-sides bullshit, which somehow managed to present Trump’s hideous racism, misogyny, criminality, etc. as on par with…whatever the f*** the Clintons supposedly did, which was like 0.1% as serious as Trump’s transgressions.
And then this morning, we had the WaPo run with a “poll” (in air quotes), somehow showing Donald Trump up 10 points (WTF???) on Joe Biden, that even THE WAPO ITSELF admits, right in the article, is an “outlier,” yet despite that – as Mark Jacob (“Ex-editor at Chicago Tribune & Sun-Times”) puts it – then “runs 33 paragraphs about it anyways and plays it prominently on its website.” Total insanity. And as Professor Jeff Jarvis (see below) puts it: “The Washington Post cannot see that this is not a poll about Biden but instead a poll about journalism and its failures to inform the public. Polls are their self-fulfilling prophesies. They are damaging to public discourse.” Also, as Professor Larry Sabato says, “Ignore the Washington Post – ABC poll. It’s a ridiculous outlier (Trump up 10 over Biden—laughable). My question: How could you even publish a poll so absurd on its face? Will be a lingering embarrassment for you.” A few more comments on today’s multiple debascles at the WaPo include:
- Norm Ornstein: “If I were running this poll, and I got these results I would stop the presses, not publish the poll, and go back to figure out what went wrong. Check the sample numbers. Look at the question wording and order. If all that checked out, redo the survey.”
- Mark Jacob: “The Washington Post calls Gen. Milley “polarizing” because he tried to prevent Trump and his fascist gang from endangering our national security. What a bunch of both-sides bullshit.”
- Victoria Brownworth: “There’s so much wrong with this column, starting with dismissing Trump as a ‘little autocrat.’ If after 40yrs reporting news you come up with ‘wear suits!’ as an issue, it’s time to retire. @kathleenparker is old enough to remember when women still had to wear skirts. Stop this.”
- Dan Froomkin: “The Washington Post poll should be an alarm bell for the newsroom telling them both that their polling is broken and that the country is in terrible danger. But they will continue with business as usual.”
- Brett Meiselas: “Sure Trump is a dictator, but have you seen the way he looks in a suit! – The Washington Post”
- Lindy Li: “Washington Post called General Milley—the patriot who stopped Trump from firing nukes & reassured foreign nations after J6—“polarizing” It also ran a poll showing Trump beating Biden by 10 pts despite admitting it’s likely BS Press is carrying water for Trump Here we go again”
- Dean Obeidallah: “Washington Post headline today claims General Mark Milley was ‘polarizing.’ In reality he stood up to Trump’s efforts to end our Republic. Only corporate media would call that ‘polarizing.'”
Ugh, what a nauseating nightmare. So yeah, the bottom line is that the political media in this country is fundamentally, fatally flawed, and it’s leading us towards disaster – the end of our democracy and the rise of fascism, among other things. Yet, even today, how many Americans – even ones who are “up” on the news – are even aware of how bad the political media is? Maddening.