Jonah Goldberg gets it:
One need not paint with an overly broad brush or accuse the entire press corps of being part of a knowing conspiracy to manipulate the public. Many mainstream journalists sincerely believe they are operating in good faith and doing their job to the best of their abilities. At the same time, it seems patently obvious that the “objective” press is in the business of subjectively shaping attitudes rather than simply reporting facts.
Consider the hot topic of the moment: illegal immigration. The syndicate that distributes the column you are reading follows the AP stylebook, which says that I am not allowed to refer to “illegal immigrants” (i.e., people who migrate illegally), but I can refer to illegal immigration (i.e., the act of migrating illegally). Kathleen Carroll, then the senior vice president and executive editor of the Associated Press, explained that the change was part of the AP’s policy against “labeling people.”
Many news outlets followed suit, using such terms as “unauthorized” or “undocumented” to describe immigrants formerly known as illegal.
The move was hailed by left-wing immigration activists as a great leap forward. And for good reason: It is part of their agenda to blur the distinctions between legal and illegal immigration, and to make it sound as if objecting to the former is morally equivalent to objecting to the latter. But as a matter of fact and logic, the difference between an “unauthorized immigrant” and an “illegal immigrant” is nonexistent.
The media play these kinds of linguistic games all the time. Economics professor Tim Groseclose walks readers through countless examples in his book Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind. Partial-birth abortion virtually never appears without a “so-called” before it, and the procedure is virtually never described clearly. The word “kill” is almost never used to describe any abortion, despite the fact that this is what happens. Whenever some great sweeping piece of liberal social legislation is passed by Democrats, it’s a “step forward.” Whenever a law is repealed, Republicans are “turning back the clock.”
The language games are part of a larger tendency of journalists to follow certain scripts that conform to how coastal elites see the country.
Jonah Goldberg’s criticism of the mainstream media is all self-evidently justified, but as America’s premier news outlets rend their garments and weep about being unfairly demonised it is worth noting that hardly any of them have shown the slightest bit of introspection as to their role in becoming so widely despised and distrusted by a large segment of the American population, let alone contrition or a desire to do better, to reflect the objective truth or the concerns of the other half of the country.
Beltway journalists will neither acknowledge to their readers that their deliberate manipulation of language and skewed story selection might possibly have played a part in fuelling conservative distrust of prestige newspapers and television networks, nor promise to stop doing so in the future. Now, is this as bad as creating a brand new fake news website and churning out sensationalist nonsense about Barack Obama raising an army to take back Washington D.C. in a military coup? No, of course not. But the fact that the mainstream media’s crimes are of a lesser severity does not excuse their dereliction of journalistic duty.
As I wrote the other day, we must keep two competing thoughts in our minds as we navigate the Age of Trump: yes, the president is often worryingly unstable and his administration troubling across a whole host of areas, but the people tasked with reporting on Trump, holding his administration to account and keeping the American people informed are no angels, either.
And part of me would rather deal with Trump’s lies, which at least tend to be huge emblazened whoppers which are obviously false and easily disproven, over the media’s deliberate and cynical attempts to slowly reshape public opinion in a leftward direction under the false flag of objectivity.
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