2016: The Year the Media Got What Was Coming to It
In movies, it's called the "cheer moment" -- that wonderfully satisfying part of the motion picture when the bully/bad guy finally gets his richly deserved comeuppance: Rocky flooring Apollo Creed in the first Rocky; John McClane sending Hans Gruber to hell off a high floor of Nakatomi Plaza. And in 2016, nobody's demise was cheered more vociferously than the mainstream media's. But don't take it from me, take it from a tattered remnant of what was once one of the seven pillars of the MSM (along with the New York Times, the Washington Post, NBC, CBS, ABC, and Time magazine), Newsweek.
Riffing off Ross Douthat's infamous tweet of Sept. 2015 -- "The entire commentariat is going to feel a little silly when Marco Rubio wins every Republican primary" -- writer Zach Schonfeld notes:
At best, it’s just a dopey prediction—we’ve all made some of those. At worst, it’s an enduring avatar of the cartoonish arrogance and mass-scale humiliation that overtook the pundit class in 2016. It’s a microcosm of the biggest media trend of the year: total humiliation.
It was not just Douthat. For lots of high-profile media personalities, from Nate Silver to Nick Denton, 2016 dealt an enormous reckoning. Michael Moore made some startling predictions, but few other liberal commentators saw what was happening. Much of the pundit industrial complex spent the calendar year standing athwart history, yelling “It can’t happen here” or “Trump is going to pivot any day now.” Clinton lost. Pundits ate crow, took the L—choose your preferred cliché. One columnist ate his newspaper column, as he had promised to do if Trump became the GOP nominee. Some who got it wrong showed a capacity for self-reflection. Others, like Kevin Drum of Mother Jones, doubled down on their myopic pontificating or continued howling into their social media echo chamber of choice.
It was the year we realized that a lot of Very Important People who get paid a lot of money to know about U.S. politics have little more insight to dispense than the cab drivers they quote in their columns... For Trump fans, it is thrillingly apt that the candidate whose rise to power blindsided the media is the same candidate who staked his entire campaign on bald contempt for journalists. Trump’s bone-deep loathing of the “dishonest media” might be his only coherent ideology.
Well, as they say: it's a start.
With all due modesty, let me here note that I, along with Salena Zito, was one of the few MSM writers who did get it right, as a quick perusal of my Sunday New York Post columns from Dec. 2015 to Oct. 2016 will easily show. Here's one from April 2016:
The media has consistently underestimated Trump’s genuine appeal to the white working class, which is tired of being the one group in America it’s OK to scorn.