You know what they say about people who constantly accuse others of lying and cheating? They make accusations because lying and cheating are within their own repertoire, and their worldview imputes those strategies to others.
Most people don’t lie as a matter of course. Most people don’t cheat easily.
Do you know who thinks everyone lies and cheats all the time? Yep, liars and cheaters.
Liars and cheaters see everything through a lens of lying and cheating. That’s how they get through life. To do things the way the rest of us live – through trying to be honest, maintain our integrity, etc., you know, the stuff your mom and dad and Sunday School teachers taught you – that’s simply foreign to the liar and the cheat. The fact that you live your life without constantly lying and cheating isn’t just odd, it simply doesn’t even occur to a born liar or cheater.
Now, what do you think the odds are that NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, the Washington Post, and the New York Times are completely fabricating the same stories and leads from thin air?
Is it possible that they are biased? Yep. Hell, it’s likely, in fact. It takes education to become a journalist. It takes exposure to people and places outside of your provincial little world to write good copy. I can almost guarantee you that “the media” leans left. Education and liberalism are strongly positively correlated. Having a passport is likewise positively correlated with identifying as a liberal (and to having higher income, higher education, working in a knowledge-based job, living in a diverse area, and believe it or not, being happy!).
I lean left, too, but that doesn’t prevent me from being honest with the numbers I report in my job. Just like you might be conservative but you still do your own job with integrity.
But what if my job was to ask you questions and report your answers to my readers?
I can ask biased questions, sure. I can dig on topics you think are irrelevant. I can frame questions with assumptions that make you look bad, in theory. I can bring up topics in my questions that you have zero desire to discuss.
As George Orwell said, “Journalism is printing what somebody else does not want printed – everything else is public relations.”
In fact, a journalist who doesn’t ask questions that make the target squirm a little simply isn’t doing his or her job. Just like a doctor ordering a cholesterol test on an obese person, both the doctor and the patient often already have a good sense of the answer. But the doctor knows that facts speak 10x louder than guesses and implications. And she knows that she’d be in malpractice if she didn’t order the test.
So when it comes to light that the Russians were caught hacking into the DNC’s computers, and multiple sources state that the intention of Russia was to help elevate Donald Trump to power, and then we find out that there were likely proactive conversations between Trump’s campaign staff and senior Russian intelligence officers at that same time…
How exactly is asking for clarification on the topic a bad thing?
In fact, wouldn’t it be unethical as a journalist to avoid the topic?
Fox News’s Shepard Smith called Mr. Trump out on this very topic, and received fierce backlash from Trump supporters. Smith’s years of “fair & balanced” blatantly pro-right coverage of politics didn’t matter, once he dared to demand actual answers for shady things happening right before his eyes.
Mr. Trump tweets often on the topic of fake news, and his supporters eat it up. This one where the President said the media was the “enemy of the American people,” was retweeted 49k times and liked 157k times. This tweet cited radio host Rush Limbaugh (who often reminds others that he’s “an entertainer, not a journalist”) to defend the success of his recent news conference against the “fake media” reports to the contrary. 21k retweets, 119k likes.
Hang on, kids. I just want to repeat something for emphasis.
The President of the United States of America, the leader of the free world, the man who holds the office of George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry S Truman, and Ronald Reagan, the Chief Executive Officer of the greatest experiment in self-governance in history, the Commander in Chief of the strongest military force ever assembled…gets on his (unsecured Android) phone and regularly insults the professional ethics of the enshrined and protected Fourth Estate by calling those who dare ask him hard questions “fake news.”
Conservatives: do you really want to reduce our Shining City on a Hill to a place where only questions about pre-approved, pro-leader fluff are acceptable?
Would you rather the journalists ask easy questions, or the President of the United States be well read and informed enough to give great answers no matter what the question?
Would you rather the White House Press Corps be filled with bloggers and sycophants, or educated, trained professionals who keep asking questions on your behalf until the answers we all deserve come to light?
The answer isn’t to make the test easier, friends. That would be a disservice to us all.
The answer is to make the student smarter and more prepared for the test.
And if the student refuses to learn (or get intel briefings, or read, or think beyond his own confirmation bias), the answer then becomes to fail the student, and move on for the sake of the rest of the class.
This isn’t about conservative or liberal. This is about shining a light on the goings-on of the people who make decisions on OUR behalf.
The truth ends all lines of questioning. Deflection or attempts to intimidate or delegitimize the questioner only serve to deepen the suspicion as to why the question can’t simply be answered with truth.
Until that truth is told, expect ethical, professional journalists to keep pulling back the curtains and flipping on light switches.
And if you’re an American before you’re a Republican or Democrat, encourage those journalists to keep doing their job.
As Justice Louis Brandeis said, “Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.”