By Kyle Smith
November 20, 2016 | 3:31am
It’s contrary to the laws of nature for a tabloid writer to tell the gentry media not to go berserk. It’s like a cat telling his owner to stop coughing up hairballs or Iron Man asking Captain America to be less arrogant. Here at The Post, our mission statement does not include understatement. We provide journalistic Red Bull, not Sominex.
Nevertheless, a word of neighborly advice to our more genteel media friends, the ones who sit at the high table in their pristine white dinner jackets and ball gowns. You’ve been barfing all over yourselves for a week and a half, and it’s revolting to watch.
For your own sake, and that of the republic for which you allegedly work, wipe off your chins and regain your composure. I didn’t vote for him either, but Trump won. Pull yourselves together and deal with it, if you ever want to be taken seriously again.
What kind of president will Trump be? It’s a tad too early to say, isn’t it? The media are supposed to tell us what happened, not speculate on the future. But its incessant scaremongering, the utter lack of proportionality and the shameless use of double standards are an embarrassment, one that is demeaning the value of the institution. The press’ frantic need to keep the outrage meter dialed up to 11 at all times creates the risk that a desensitized populace will simply shrug off any genuine White House scandals that may lie in the future (or may not).
Hysteria is causing leading media organizations to mix up their news reporting with their editorializing like never before, but instead of mingling like chocolate and peanut butter the two are creating a taste that’s like brushing your teeth after drinking orange juice.
Look at the bonkers reaction to every move made by Trump’s transition team. “Firings and Discord Put Trump Team in a State of Disarray,” ran a shrill New York Times headline, though it took President-elect Obama three weeks to name his first Cabinet pick. “Trump Transition Shakeup Part of ‘Stalinesque Purge’ of Christie Loyalists,” screamed NBC News.
Hysteria is causing leading media organizations to mix up their news reporting with their editorializing like never before.
The Huffington Post noted “Donald Trump’s Transition Team, Or Lack Thereof, Is Causing Real Panic.” “ ‘Knife Fight’ as Trump Builds an Unconventional National Security Cabinet,” said CNN. “Trump Transition: ‘Stalled . . . Scrambling . . . On Pause,’ ” said CBS News.
OK, so Trump was evidently surprised he won — possibly because he was too credulous toward The New York Times, which gave him a 15 percent chance of doing so. Still, he has a couple of months to assemble his team. If Trump rushed to make his picks more quickly than Obama did, The Times would be yowling that he’s careless and impetuous.
After reports of discord and disarray dominated the news for a day, later stories suggested that disgruntled lobbyists who couldn’t get past the doorman at Trump Tower were leaking the information, meaning that, as Trump tried to drain the swamp in Washington, the media were taking the side of the swamp. (Note that reporters swooned when President Obama promised to bar lobbyists from his circle, then shrugged when Obama reneged.)
After Trump gave the media the slip Tuesday night and went out for a steak, NBC harrumphed, “With his Tuesday night actions, the Trump administration is shaping up to be the least accessible to the public and the press in modern history.” Quite a leap there, especially considering the wall of opacity erected by the current administration, which has been stonewalling Freedom Of Information Act requests for years.
REALLY! LEAST ACCESSIBLE! OMG.
Once, hard-nosed city editors told cub reporters, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” Nowadays, all that really matters is whether your mother advances what longtime New York Times editor Michael Cieply, a 12-year veteran of that institution, called “the narrative” — the predetermined party line that Times reporters are expected to rigorously adhere to and find evidence for. It’s what social scientists call “confirmation bias,” and if the Times actually cared about being seen as impartial, it would have fired executive editor Dean Baquet in the wake of Cieply’s revelations on Nov. 10. It didn’t.
The media are reaping what they’ve sown, and there’s no law that says President Trump has to hold press conferences. Trump’s behavior toward the media has been at times scary (such as when he publicly vilified NBC reporter Katy Tur in front of a restive crowd) and at times ridiculous (when he sends out dumb-ass tweets about the “failed New York Times,” which is actually profitable and has gained 41,000 subscribers since Election Day.)
If anyone should be looking at the man in the mirror, it’s the media. The media’s approval rating hit an all-time low of 32 percent this cycle, according to a Gallup poll in September, meaning the fourth estate are even less loved than Trump, their favorite punching bag — who, by the way, has 51 percent of Americans feeling more confident, against 40 percent feeling less confident, about him than they did before the election. The past week of post-election media hysteria is apparently being heavily discounted by the public.
Instapundit blogger Glenn Reynolds’ characterization of reporters as “Democratic operatives with bylines” is taking root in the American mind. Among independents, according to Gallup in September, the media had an approval rating of 30 percent; among Republicans 14. Almost everyone but Democrats think the media are biased, and support for that view goes way back.
In November 2008, Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell said readers who complained about shallow coverage and pro-Obama bias were “right on both counts,” publishing tallies that proved the paper had been far more critical of Obama’s opponent Sen. John McCain than of Obama. A few weeks later, “Game Change” co-author Mark Halperin said the media showed “extreme pro-Obama coverage” in a “disgusting failure.”
In 2012, The New York Times’ public editor Arthur Brisbane said the paper “basked a bit in the warm glow of Mr. Obama’s election in 2008” and cited a study that showed the Times’ coverage had been far more approving of Obama than it had been of President Reagan and both Presidents Bush.
In January 2008, NBC’s Brian Williams was honest enough to point out that the network’s reporter covering Obama had said, “It’s hard to be objective covering this guy.” Williams immediately demanded the reporter be fired for admitting to being unable to do his job.
The media should wait for something to actually happen before it declares the end of the world.
Just kidding: Williams praised the reporter, calling him “courageous.”
In 2016, the media didn’t even pretend it wasn’t working in Hillary Clinton’s interests. The blue whale of information, The New York Times, virtually signaled to the journalistic universe that it was time to abandon all pretense of objectivity in a now-notorious front-page column on Aug. 8 that advised journalists “you have to throw out the textbook American journalism has been using for the better part of the past half-century” and “move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional.” If that result “may not always seem fair to Mr. Trump or his supporters,” tough tiddly-winks, Times columnist Jim Rutenberg concluded.
In October, Baquet said Rutenberg’s column “nailed it” and all but boasted of his paper’s hostility to Trump, in the process making a gobsmacking claim that the lesson he learned from the media’s heavily slanted coverage of the 2004 campaign was that they had been unfair to John Kerry.
In fact the media were so obviously cheering for Kerry that Newsweek assistant managing editor Evan Thomas said the coverage was probably worth a 5-point boost in the polls for the Democrat’s campaign.
This fall WikiLeaks confirmed everything conservatives have been saying about the media for more than 20 years. CNN, you have been busted. You allowed Democratic Party operative Donna Brazile to get hold of town-hall questions in advance and help Hillary Clinton prep with them.
Note that this is not a Donna Brazile scandal. Brazile did what every party hack is paid to do: She tried to help her side win. This is all on you, CNN. You should have fired yourselves, not Brazile.
John Harwood, New York Times/CNBC reporter and Republican debate moderator, you have been busted. You asked John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chair, for questions you could pose to Jeb Bush in an interview.
Dana Milbank, Washington Post columnist and longtime phony “nonpartisan” political reporter, you have been busted. You reached out to DNC flack Eric Walker and asked for help putting together a “Passover-themed 10 plagues of Trump” story.
Not only are you evidently an undercover Democratic Party operative who should be drawing checks from the DNC instead of from The WaPo, you’re a tired hack who can’t even come up with his own column ideas without assistance.
Should the media be antagonistic to Trump? Yes, they should be antagonistic to all public officials. Their job is to expose bad judgment and wrongdoing, not to fawn and mewl.
That the media chose to be blasé about Obama overriding the Constitution and making law via fiat was reprehensible. It doesn’t mean the media are under any obligation whatsoever to show deference to Trump should he do the same.
For the good of us all, though, and in the interest of rebuilding the wreckage of its reputation, the media should go back to having gradations of outrage. Switching transition chairmen isn’t the Saturday Night Massacre, and going out for a steak without telling the hacks isn’t on a par with, say, deleting 33,000 e-mails.
The Trump Era hasn’t even started yet. The media should wait for something to actually happen before it declares the end of the world.