Rachel Maddow’s absurd bust of a would-be scoop March 14 would just be yet another instance of the Fake News cigar blowing up in the American news media’s collective face if it weren’t such a fine and hilarious example of an even larger phenomenon.
As every wag in the Twitterverse knows, the leftist MSNBC commentator tweeted with breathless excitement around 7:30 EST that evening that “we’ve got Trump’s tax returns. (seriously).” The breathlessness rose to levels rarely seen outside the bedroom when Maddow’s show began at 9:00. Fluttering her hands in front of her face, she told the audience, “There’s a little bit of a hullaballoo around here this evening. I apologize for being a little flustered.” She then proceeded to build to the story with meaningless conjecture for somewhere between twenty minutes and what felt like seventeen days. Finally, she produced 2005 IRS documents that proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the president made a ton of somolians twelve years ago and paid a small dumpster load worth of taxes. As Maddow herself was forced to say to Trump: “Mazel tov.”
Now, I like a good laugh as much as the next person whose favored political party currently dominates every level of American government, but really the larger issue is serious. An insulated leftist media — the networks, CNN, the New York Times (a former newspaper), the Washington Post and the rest — have now pied pipered their entire movement into a kind of Fantasy Scandal Wonderland.
The morning after the Maddow disaster, the Times not only reported the story as if it was serious news, but also featured this ridiculous headline about Trump’s Supreme Court pick: Neil Gorsuch Has Web of Ties to Secretive Billionaire. Get that? It’s a “web” — like spies and spiders use. And the billionaire is “secretive.” Spooky, no? The non-story explained that Gorsuch, while a private lawyer, had been hired by Philip Anschutz, the guy who financed the Narnia movies. Completely legal, non-sinister stuff.
All this goes along with the increasingly idiotic story that Russia “hacked the election.” As often as the media have used this phrase, it so far amounts to nothing more than the fact that Clinton campaign manager John Podesta fell for a phishing scheme and gave someone, possibly Russians, his password. The possibly-Russians used this to pilfer some embarrassing emails from the DNC. And then voters elected Donald Trump because they were sick of being out of work while Barack Obama sold out American interests overseas and bullied us about who used our bathrooms here at home. And every investigation has cleared Trump of any involvement.
Recently, respected political wonk Nate Silver wrote a much-noticed piece about the last election called “There Really Was a Liberal Media Bubble.” Supported by stats and facts, Silver explained how associating only with people like yourself leads to GroupThink and confirmation bias. My reaction: No, duh. But, to me, the most interesting line in the article was this: “The best hope for a short-term fix might come from an attitudinal adjustment: Journalists should recalibrate themselves to be more skeptical of the consensus of their peers.”
This is nonsense. The best hope for any fix at all was detailed in an op-ed in 2005, the year Donald Trump made a lot of money and paid a lot of taxes. The op-ed was published in the Los Angeles Times and was written by my single favorite commentator: me. It explained to our news media that if they were going to avoid disappearing down the rabbit hole into a fantasy wonderland, they were going to have to hire some conservatives:
I don’t mean hire a conservative. I don’t mean cover conservatives. I don’t mean allow conservatives to express a minority opinion on your Op-Ed page or argue at the top of their lungs on some yes/no, black/white, point/counterpoint debate program. I mean… a substantial proportion of the reporters who cover stories, and the editors who assign and shape those stories, should be people with conservative beliefs. The rest can continue to be what they are now: left-wingers who live under the delusion that they’re moderates.
On the day our mainstream media news outlets follow that sage advice, they will begin the journey back to respectability. Until that day, they will remain what they are: a joke.
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