Roger L. Simon

BuzzFeed, Acosta, and the Non-Existence of Journalism

CNN "journalist" Jim Acosta holds a press conference at the White House after a federal judge ordered the White House to reinstate his press credentials. (Patsy Lynch/MediaPunch /IPX)

On Thursday — just before BuzzFeed was revealed to be a millennial version of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth — the redoubtable Jim Acosta accused Sebastian Gorka of not being “a journalist” when the CNN fave spied the Trump supporter hanging around a White House briefing. A verbal fight between the two gentlemen ensued with Gorka calling Acosta a “dickhead.”

In this instance, both were right. About Acosta, the less said the better. But Gorka is definitely not a journalist (doubt he ever claimed to be). Neither, for that matter, is Acosta.

There’s a simple reason: nobody is. Journalism, as a profession, does not exist. We know generally or specifically what qualifies one to be a cardiologist or an astrophysicist or even, heaven help us, a lawyer. But a journalist?

What possible credential makes one a journalist? A degree from the Columbia School of Journalism? Well, that proves your parents can afford a hundred grand. Either that or you’re heavily in debt. Anyone can be a journalist. All you have to do is start typing.

And as for journalists we know, whether they write it or speak it and wherever they do it, they’re all basically pundits, whether they admit it or not. Beneath the verbiage and the proofs, the quoted experts and anonymous sources, deny it though they might, everyone’s got a narrative.

I know — the rap is that a real journalist is someone who fairly and impartially reports the truth, the proverbial chips falling how they may. (Stop laughing.) How does that fit with what just went down with BuzzFeed? Perhaps a better definition would be: a gullible idiot with an ax to grind. You don’t have to go to J-school for that. All you have to be — like BuzzFeed’s Jason Leopold — is another self-promoter willing (or, more exactly, eager) to believe it when someone tells you Donald Trump was dumb enough to tell Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about something that was  perfectly legal in the first place — to wit, building a hotel in Moscow.

Of course, BuzzFeed, as juvenile as they are, is not alone at this. In a quick response, the Daily Caller assembled a list of eleven similar lies — “bombshells that didn’t go off” — about Trump by putatively respected organizations like NBC and ABC. There are undoubtedly many, probably tons, more. Even the Wall Street Journal appears to be part of the “get Trump” competition that makes up whatever one calls journalism today. “Fake news” is actually a misnomer. It’s far more deliberate than that. It’s straight-out good old-fashioned disinformation.

But let’s go back to the issue of “journalism” as a trade. It wasn’t always this way. Back before the New York Times, et al., got pretentious with the “All the News That’s Fit to Print” nonsense and Woodward and Bernstein got turned into movie stars because they could answer the phone,  people knew journalists — more properly reporters — were working stiffs trying to make a living, not culture heroes. And  I think we liked them better too then, even though, like all human beings, they were biased.

Bias is as American as apple pie. We’re all biased, especially those who claim they’re not. They’re the ones we should be most afraid of. Indeed, language itself was invented to express our bias, that is, our need for things at the dawn of our species — food, water, clothing, shelter, nurture, sleep, sex, safety from saber tooth tigers, etc. Maybe even transcendence. We had to have those words to get what we wanted and to get it before the other guy, girl, or tribe did. To say otherwise is simply a flat-out lie that only someone as thick as Jim Acosta could believe.

An example of how far the bias has gone in our time is, as someone noted on Twitter, that not a single media outlet dared to question the BuzzFeed report until the Mueller investigation itself spoke up. All of them were too engaged in the Get-Trump Derby to do, well, a little investigating.

One of the good things that comes from events like the exposure of BuzzFeed and, to a lesser opera bouffe degree, Acosta’s brainless attack on Gorka, is that they highlight the utter dishonesty cum absurdity of it all. We know — oh, how we know — not to trust any so-called information coming out these days. Trust but verify is no longer operative. Verify first. Then do it again. And again. And again. Ad nauseam. And only then, if you must, trust.

Roger L Simon—co-founder and CEO Emeritus of PJ Media—is currently procrastinating from his new novel.