November 22, 2016

MEDIA MOGULS COMPLAIN ABOUT MEETING WITH TRUMP, GET SPANKED BY . . . GLENN GREENWALD? Media Stars Agree to Off-The-Record Meeting with Trump, Break Agreement, Whine About Mistreatment.

They all agreed that the discussions would be “off-the-record”: meaning they would conceal from their viewers what they discussed. Shortly after the meeting ended, several of the stars violated the agreement they made, running to The New York Post and David Remnick of the New Yorker to whine about Trump’s mean behavior. “The participants all shook Trump’s hand at the start of the session and congratulated him,” Remnick reported, “but things went south from there.” It’s difficult to identify the shabbiest and sorriest aspect of this spectacle, but let’s nonetheless try, as it sheds important light on our nation’s beloved media corps and their posture heading into a Trump presidency.

To begin with, why would journalistic organizations agree to keep their meeting with Donald Trump off-the-record? If you’re a journalist, what is the point of speaking with a powerful politician if you agree in advance that it’s all going to be kept secret? Do they not care what appearance this creates: the most powerful media organizations meeting high atop Trump Tower with the country’s most powerful political official, with everyone agreeing to keep it all a big secret from the public? Whether or not it actually is collusion, whether or not it actually is subservient ring-kissing in exchange for access, it certainly appears to be that. As the Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone put it: “By agreeing to such conditions, journalists expected to deliver the news to the public must withhold details of a newsworthy meeting with the president-elect.” . . .

More to the point, nobody really believes that a discussion that takes place in a room filled with a couple dozen TV stars and their media bosses is going to be kept private, so the “off-the-record” agreement does not actually foster candor. It’s instead designed to achieve nothing other than creating a cozy atmosphere where – just as they do at the sleazy, Versailles-like White House Correspondents’ Dinner and on so many other occasions – media stars get to feel like they’re colleagues and friends with the President rather than his adversaries.

And, as was completely predictable, some of the TV stars immediately breached the off-the-record commitment they made – not by bravely reporting what occurred but by slinking around in the dark to anonymously whisper and gossip about what Trump said to them. Which is worse: agreeing to an off-the-record meeting with Trump, or then unethically violating the agreement by disclosing exactly what you promised in advance you would not disclose? (This is not the first time journalists have dubiously promised Trump off-the-record privileges and then violated their own commitments.)

As I said earlier, in the post-World War II era, the press has enjoyed certain institutional privileges based on two assumptions: (1) That it’s very powerful; and (2) That it will exercise that power responsibly, for the most part. Both assumptions have been proven false in this election cycle. Like many of the postwar institutional accommodations, this one will be renegotiated under Trump, who yesterday showed what he thought about the correlation of forces by publishing his transition progress report on YouTube.