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Ahead Of 2024, Media Ponder Aloud: How Dishonest And Manipulative Can We Be?

When they call for a ‘new journalistic tradition,’ what they mean is that they need a novel approach to influencing all future elections.

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I’m enjoying all the “think” pieces and columns by anxiety-racked journalists who are forever coming up with new ways to say a version of, “Voters are way too stupid and we don’t trust them to do anything.”

Just last Friday The Washington Post’s Megan McArdle wrote at length about how much responsibility she attributes to herself and her peers in the media for getting Donald Trump elected in 2016. “It is no exaggeration to say he climbed into the presidency on the shoulders of the hundreds of journalists who kept treating his pronouncements as matters of epic importance,” she said, “even if it had been tapped out one-handed while schmoozing around Mar-a-Lago.”

In essence, McArdle believes that the media were mistaken to report on the public comments and expressions of a prominent figure who was running for president and who was hosting campaign rallies attended by thousands. In doing so, she believes voters didn’t really get the point, as polls showed Trump and many of his positions gaining popularity. “This was, to state the obvious, not the effect we were hoping for,” McArdle said.

But it’s not so much that McArdle believes she or her peers failed the public. She believes the voters did.

They were supposed to look at what the media were saying and come to the same conclusion as McArdle — that Trump and everything he represented was unacceptable.

That’s not what happened, and McArdle and the rest of the corrupt press want to make sure what did happen never happens again. And so, she said it was time for a “new journalistic tradition,” which essentially amounted to treating Trump and his pending return to Twitter as if neither exists. “Rather than leaping to condemn his every pronouncement,” she wrote, “we should treat Trump’s Twitter account the way we’d treat some random account with five followers and a penchant for rancid verbal attacks: as if it were generally beneath our notice.”

This is also known as a “blackout.”

McArdle’s former Post colleague Margaret Sullivan also said last month that “old-style journalism will no longer suffice” in political coverage. Instead, she said all her little friends should “be thinking about what coverage serves the public best.” In other words, what coverage serves her interest— the media’s interest.

I would quibble with some of the word choices that the media are using to describe their motives. When they call for a “new journalistic tradition,” or claim that “old-style journalism will no longer suffice,” what they mean is that they need a novel approach to influencing all future elections. Words like “dishonesty” and “manipulation” would be more appropriate. Otherwise, I appreciate their candor.


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