Media’s heart and soul is partisanship. When journalists appeal to principle, they are faking a moral identity for the sake of their political agenda.
Consider The Daily Beast’s attack last weekend upon a private citizen. They investigated and shamed him just because he shared a slowed-down video excerpt of Democratic Party leader Nancy Pelosi (which you can slow down yourself). The journalist who attacked this private citizen is a known felon.
Bad faith underlies much news reporting, not just occasional abuses like this one. For example, the media’s attitude toward government accountability hinges upon the current president’s party affiliation. Specifically, contrast media’s present opposition to investigating intelligence agencies for spying on Americans versus their decades-long persecution of intelligence agencies for interrogating foreign terrorists.
Today, media weep crocodile tears for intelligence agencies. They accuse the attorney general of politicizing intelligence. They bemoan agency morale. They say lives are at stake. They claim it is an abuse of power and a threat to national security for the president to declassify public records about intelligence agencies spying on Americans. They call the investigation a corrupt propaganda exercise and “an escalation of the president’s yearslong assault on the intelligence community.”
Yet media are the undisputed champions of corrupt propaganda and of waging such “yearslong assaults.” For most of this century, they demonized American intelligence agents for waterboarding foreign terrorists in pursuit of information. Media called them “torturers” and compared them to Japanese war criminals. They urged President Obama to criminally prosecute elected officials, civil servants, lawyers, and even medical doctors at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Few accused President Obama of threatening national security when the president declassified top-secret documents about CIA interrogation methods. And few mourned agency morale when the president imprisoned a CIA whistle-blower who hadn’t even done the waterboarding.
Why was the news media unconcerned about intelligence workers’ morale under Presidents Bush and Obama? And why is the news media more upset about intelligence agents abusing foreign terrorists than about intelligence agents abusing American citizens?
The difference, of course, is partisan. These media supported President Obama, a Democrat, even when the president condemned intelligence agencies over their treatment of foreign terrorists. And they attack President Trump, a Republican, even when the president investigates the intelligence agencies over its treatment of Americans.
Likewise, under President Bush, a Republican, media hated the CIA’s interrogation program, while under President Obama, media were nonchalant about the president’s “kill list.” The president bombed foreign terrorists and their families—even targeting a U.S. citizen teenager—instead of merely capturing and interrogating them.
To be sure, President Obama was correct to kill terrorists in defense of the United States. Accordingly, President Obama should not have chastised Americans who interrogated these same people for that same purpose under President Bush. It is absurd to support bombing suspected terrorists off a “kill list” but object to waterboarding suspected terrorists in pursuit of information.
U.S. intelligence agents risked their lives and freedom to capture and interrogate terrorists. We owe these agents our gratitude. And we owe nothing to al-Qaeda terrorists our government has killed or interrogated: not even a word of apology or regret, however insincere.
But, of course, the American people deserve to know what’s being done in their name. Hence the value of the whistle-blower who confirmed that the CIA waterboarded foreign terrorists in pursuit of information. President Obama thanked this whistle-blower by throwing him in jail; President Trump should pardon him, instead.
Punishing intelligence agents for protecting America from actual foreign terrorists, and for informing Americans about it, is peak ingratitude. It’s also dangerous. When intelligence agents choose to bomb terrorists, or merely interview them instead of capturing and exhaustively interrogating them, then it becomes slightly easier for terrorists to compartmentalize their most valuable information: the information they might only forfeit at their wits’ end, if at all. Information gathered under the CIA’s interrogation programs even contributed to the intelligence that led the United States to Osama bin Laden.
Intelligence agencies’ worst misconduct under this interrogation program was to spy on the Democrats in Congress who were investigating it. CIA agents read Senate emails. The CIA used a fake identity to gain access to Senate computers. CIA agents also sent false information to the Justice Department, hoping that it would result in criminal indictments. CIA Director John Brennan falsely denied the affair.
Regardless, since such spying happened under President Obama, few called for Brennan’s resignation—let alone for impeaching the president. After all, it wasn’t a partisan issue, but merely an ethical one, so it was easy to ignore.
The fruits of that ignorance are obvious. Before spying on Congress, President Obama’s administration had first gotten away with targeting grassroots activists through the Internal Revenue Service. After jailing the CIA whistleblower, the Obama administration also scapegoated and imprisoned a YouTuber, punishing his free speech. Then the White House spied on Congress again, targeting opponents of its nuclear giveaway to Iran, and spying on American supporters of Israel more generally.
Eventually the Obama administration spied on the Republican presidential campaign under fake pretenses while excusing actual criminality by the Democratic candidate. Weaponizing the government against its political opponents had become a yearslong habit. And when Obama’s FBI failed to rig the 2016 presidential election, their “insurance policy“ targeted the new president-elect and his transition team instead, fishing for an impeachment referral.
We do not have a constitutional republic if federal police censor, surveil, entrap, and imprison dissenters, then insubordinate themselves to successive presidents. But not everyone wants a constitutional republic. Hence the media’s apparent yearning for a one-party system of government and its penchant for punishing thought crime among private citizens. Although we cannot force the media to genuinely appreciate civil liberties or attempt objectivity in news reporting, we can at least call them out when they fake it.