Media bias is an old constant. It has never and will never go away. A reporter or host can use all the proper, sanitized words he wants, but behind the scenes lie the decisions that went into which stories to pursue and which to drop; where to pull back and where to push forward; who to interview, who to skip; what is most important versus what can be buried or even cut.
And then, of course, there’s the cool kids’ club. True, it more strongly resembles grown and embittered theater kids who never quite made it, but it’s Washington, so things are not very real.
This club is a place anti-Trump conspiracies are treated with the upmost seriousness and obviously implausible pronouncements are called conventional wisdom; where Jim Acosta gets high-fives for reporting conspiracy theories and heckling Easter egg rolls; where people can be incorrect again and again to the point of irrelevance yet still maintain columns, airtime, and glowing profiles about their bravery in the face of wrong.
Every bit of this — the grinding and gurgling economy of the legacy media and its temporary darlings — relies on this support structure of peer approval. Doubtful? You can most clearly see it play out live on Twitter, like a Discovery Channel exploration of an ecosystem made up entirely of mosquitoes. And the cool kids’ waterboys are the anti-Trump Republicans.
The Never Trumpers are a joke kept alive by this structure of self-support. They haven’t been correct on a thing in years, yet continue to earn their supper and an invitation to the party by wholeheartedly agreeing with their new patrons. They predicted ruin when the president was nominated and doom when he was elected, all while his poll numbers have continued to tick upward. They prophesied the shattering of the Republican Party all while it has maintained near-historic discipline in the face of a unified Democrat-media assault. They assumed the end of the economy because America reacted to unfair international trade practices, and terrible global disasters because Donald Trump withdrew from the Paris Climate Accords and killed Iran’s terrorist general.
All of their predictions are based on the conventional wisdom and assumptions of an insulted and excluded D.C. intelligentsia, and all are wrong. Indeed, Trump’s above decisions have resulted in the very things the Never-Trump Republicans once called for, including closing America’s sizable income gap and maintaining a strength and deterrence that are independent of entangling foreign powers.
Ineffective and alienated politicians like Sen. Mitt Romney are treated as brave heroes and media stars for buying into Democratic hysteria and hurting their Republican colleagues. Repentant conservatives like Max Boot and Jennifer Rubin are given Washington Post prominence in exchange for reversing all of their previous positions and toeing the line. Steve Schmidt is given ample TV time above a chyron calling him a “Republican political consultant,” despite no longer consulting for Republicans, in exchange for mocking Republican voters and insulting their leaders. And Jonah Goldberg, who was run out of National Review by its readers, and Steve Hayes, who ran The Weekly Standard on its road to ruin, are dubbed the bold new leaders of serious conservatives.
“The Conservatives Trying to Ditch Fake News,” reads an Atlantic article on their new venture, The Dispatch, colored with magical little quips about how all conservatives are terrible. “Original reporting will be emphasized and petty internet squabbles downplayed” it reads, four paragraphs before one of The Dispatch’s founders calls Boot and Rubin dunces. Still further down, well past where any busy person might read, the profile’s author holds up The Dispatch’s “fact-based stories” in contrast with The Daily Caller, a news outlet with millions of monthly viewers that is not anti-Trump enough for The Atlantic’s tastes. And here we have a chance to take a look behind the narrative.
I was at The Caller for years, so can recall that since Trump’s election its fact-based reporters have exposed censorship by the tech giants, helped put violent left-wing and Nazi extremists in jail, unmasked the prominent family that made its riches off of American misery, tied the founder and CEO of Victoria’s Secret’s parent company to Jeffrey Epstein, connected BuzzFeed’s data collection to assisting Democratic candidates, revealed a congresswoman’s campaign-money payments to a staffer she was having an affair with, broken Chris Matthew’s sexual harassment settlement, and uncovered the Chinese ties to Hunter Biden’s Ukraine troubles. That news reporting is off the top of my head, and that’s the level of disinformation at the heart of the charade.
The Federalist punches holes in this charade daily, reporting on the actual people who funded the Russian collusion story, on President Barack Obama’s ties to this effort, on FBI stonewalling over CNN’s highly suspicious “exclusive” for the arrest of Roger Stone, on the hypnotic memory-retrieval works of Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser. Stories like these go on and on, but they don’t merit a place in a narrative universe made up of the club, its waterboys, and then just a bunch of opinion hosts, blogs, and fake news.
“Outside of the Beltway, Republicans and conservatives steadfastly opposed to Trump are a small minority – more than 90 percent of Republicans approve of the president,” Mark Hemingway writes at Real Clear Politics. “Yet, judging by the column inches and TV appearances being doled out, NeverTrump Republicans might be the most overrepresented demographic in America.”
There’s a sad reality to this media club we can all recognize from childhood: While their waterboys and hangers-on work day and night for acceptance, the club chortles and laughs. They’re the butt of the jokes, allowed to help out here or there but never really included.
In the all-access profile on The Dispatch, an interview with the isolated Rep. Justin Amash and “a nuanced dispatch from the recent March for Life” are held up alongside “a pair of scoops” The Atlantic didn’t even bother to describe or link to. “Have audiences on the right simply been conditioned to expect validation–and nothing else– from the news?” the writer, a frequent guest on CNN, asks his sniggering readership.
Earlier, he cracks how there is only one woman at The Dispatch’s podcast. The insignificant number of subscribers is touted. The accompanying photographs, meant to show the reader what it’s like in this new outlet, are out-of-focus and largely show a dark, empty office.
Romney, once a target of vicious attack when he was against the club, gets a similar treatment for his “bravery” today. Television and print interviews abound, but the focus is never a positive agenda or the citizens of Utah. No, the subject they’d like him to wax on is how bad Republicans are. Were he to ever again dare question the pronouncements of his new friends in public, the backlash would be swift.
These men and women are included for agreeing with a media that has been proven wrong over and over again, but there is no room for self-awareness. The two-or-so weeks of journalistic self-reflection that followed the 2016 election gave way to race-baiting, conspiracies, and inquisitions. A promised focus on the heartland and The New York Times’s apology to its readership gave way to The 1619 Project.
In what industry would this hubris survive except for media? Even in politics, a business filled with corrupt liars not even trying to deliver, its practitioners are held to task by elections. Not here. Unaccountable and self-satisfied, the club marches on, complete with back-handed back-slaps to the boys who carry its water.