Bryan Griffin: Just Give Us The Facts | WAMC

Bryan Griffin: Just Give Us The Facts

Aug 19, 2020

Is objective journalism dead?

It’s certainly been sacrificed on the altar of hate for the administration – and to the new truth of the progressive narrative.

In July, New York Times op-ed editor Bari Weiss resigned from the paper and published a scathing letter to the ‘hostile work environment’ she left behind. She wrote of the paper: “Stories are chosen and told in a way to satisfy the narrowest of audiences… history itself is one more ephemeral thing molded to fit the needs of a predetermined narrative.” Her letter tells of bullying and threats lobbed at her for her efforts to publish a wide-range of political views in the paper. “If a person’s ideology is in keeping with the new orthodoxy, they and their work remain unscrutinized,” – but if a “piece [gets] published that does not explicitly promote progressive causes, it happens only after every line is carefully massaged, negotiated, and caveated.”

It was absolutely stunning in June when the New York Times editorial editor James Bennett was pushed out for publishing an opinion essay by sitting U.S. Senator Tom Cotton.

There’s a deep and growing divide in this country, and people are sensing heavily blurred lines between mainstream, big network news and opinion.

Casual asides, subjective statements, and political opinions stated as fact are abundant within modern reporting.

Take the mainstream media coverage of the battle over mail-in voting. Trump has staunchly held the position that primarily voting by mail has the potential for enormous fraud. Much of the media has breathlessly warped this into Trump looking to win by disenfranchisement, even though he still encourages all eligible Americans to vote in-person or by absentee ballot.

Yahoo News contends that Trump “admitted… his real objection: that increased ballot access would be bad for Republicans.” This is patently false. Trump has only ever objected to non-citizen or fraudulent voting, not increased voter turnout. The intellectual dishonesty of this slick bait-and-switch on the average news consumer is sickening.

Politics aside, masked media bias is harmful to a free society.

So many news articles about voter fraud concerns brush them aside as ‘unfounded.’ Despite dozens of stories of ballot harvesting, dead-voters, unpurged voter rolls and missing ballots from local election jurisdictions, this line persists unpunished because the metric for “unfounded” is an indictment. It ignores the cases which have been found and makes it seem voter fraud is a mere fantasy which discourages further investigation.

This type of underhandedness leads people to make policy decisions based on bad facts.

Speaking of facts, fact-checking has become something of a past-time these days. Too bad that too has become a tool for the narrative.

When the stated goal of the Washington Post’s fact-checking branch is to “track false and misleading claims made by the President,” then the outcome is presupposed from the get-go. The qualifying term ‘misleading’ conveniently offers the “fact-checkers” the ability to tally differences in political opinion in the count.

Even for pundits, there has to be a line. It’s no longer “spin,” if there is no underlying verifiable truth.

In August, MSNBC wanted the public to believe the President is a criminal. In a blog article covering Joe Biden’s promise ‘not [to] interfere’ with a prosecution of Trump when he leaves office, the article covers (according to their own qualifiers) alleged and “possible” events as if they were fact. The entire premise of the article is on the hypothetical ramifications for Trump if anything is proven against him – guilt implied as a given: “By most accounts, the only way for Trump to ensure he faces no criminal liability is for him to remain in office for another four years.” (emphasis original to the article). The “only way,” contends MSNBC, truth notwithstanding.

What if the layperson reading this article misses the profound implications of the legal term “alleged”? How much of the public digests news solely based on headlines that they scroll past in a Facebook feed? And how clearly does MSNBC make the distinction between Maddow’s opinions and their news?

After President Trump narrowed down his choice for accepting the Republican presidential nomination to a short-list that included Gettysburg, the site of the most important Union victory during the Civil War, CNN White House Correspondent Jeremy Diamond asserted on air that this is reflective of Trump’s support for “Confederate symbols and monuments.” The evidence to support Diamond’s claim on this one was nonexistant.

Huffington Post White House Correspondent SV Date couldn’t help himself when he finally got his chance to ask the President a question. He was going to insert his politics into his journalism from the very premise of his first and only question: “Do you regret at all, all the lying you’ve done to the American people?” he smugly asked.

As Michael Barone points out, Trump’s July 4th speech was horrendously misreported. Brit Hume remarked, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen such dishonest and biased coverage of any event.” He was referring to instances such as the New York Times calling the speech a “divisive culture war message” and the Washington Post’s assertion that the speech was a push to “amplify racism.” Yet no racist remarks were present in the speech.

This trend not only grows division in the country, it damages the efforts of hard-working journalists who want to deliver reliable journalism by sowing distrust among the public.

According to a Gallup poll, 86 percent of Americans believe the mainstream media is biased, and nearly one-half of all respondents characterized this bias as “a great deal.” Further, 84% of the respondents believe “the media is to blame for political division in this country,” and 80% recognize that the media is “trying to persuade people to adopt a certain viewpoint.”

Make no mistake, whoever is in the White House must be held to the highest standard.

But, a dishonest media is bad for everyone. It eats up the middle ground. It colors every word of the opponent as the most egregious offense; it glosses over the faults of the favored. It removes choice from a free society to make informed decisions about its political representation.

Bring back objective journalism.

Bryan Griffin of the London Center for Policy Research is a lawyer and author who specializes in American policy in the Middle East.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.