Imagine this: There’s a problem on our southern border. Hundreds of thousands of foreigners are breaking our laws and entering the country illegally. Republican lawmakers want to increase border security and close legal loopholes. Democrats emphasize humanitarian concerns and seek to facilitate the entry of asylum seekers. The two sides debate. The press reports the facts without distortion. An informed public registers its feelings through political activities and polls. The two parties find compromise measures that leave everyone feeling both gratified and dissatisfied — but, in general, the American people feel conditions have improved, and their attention moves on to the next problem.
This might be the way our government worked, if it weren’t for the news media, if it weren’t for the fact that the major news outlets are now little more than propaganda arms of the Democratic Party. In pursuit of that object, they obscure the issues, they increase our divisions, they encourage dishonesty and moral preening on the Left, and seek to intimidate and silence opinion on the Right. They ruin everything.
I am a First Amendment purist. I want neither government nor monopolistic corporations like Google, Twitter and Facebook to have any power whatsoever over the free flow of American expression and discussion. I agree with Thomas Jefferson: "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."
But as things stand — because of the ideological corruption of our corporate media — a government without newspapers is pretty much what we have.
This past week couldn’t have made it any clearer. In the midst of a partial government shutdown, Donald Trump took a brief hiatus from his obstreperous governing style to deliver a perfectly calm, rational and largely factual address on border security from the Oval Office. He pointed out that our under-defended borders allowed criminals, terrorists and drugs to enter our country, and that the nation’s defense mechanisms cannot humanely handle the recent influx of families with children. He called for greater funding, including money for the wall he promised to build during his campaign.
The Democrats responded by opposing the wall while claiming other measures would increase security more effectively. They declared that the illegal entrance of families was "a humanitarian challenge," and that Trump was cruel to address it as a security threat. They also tried to deflect attention to federal workers left temporarily unpaid by the shutdown.
Then, the press moved in and spread lies and distortions in support of the Democrat positions. The New York Times and The Washington Post ran bogus "fact-checks," that tried to cast Trump’s truthful assertions in a negative light. Networks, pretending to report, instead editorialized, accusing Trump of trying to "use the fear of crime" (NBC) or manufacture a sense of crisis (ABC) where no crisis exists. Almost every outlet pushed extremely unreliable studies showing that illegal immigrants commit fewer crimes than citizens. Most of these studies mingle visa-jumpers — who were vetted when they applied for entry — with border-breakers — who were not. Many also include legal immigrants and other foreigners. The insistent credulity with which these studies are urged upon the public by putative "journalists" is an example of bias to the point of mendacity.
What is the result of this rampant and one-sided dishonesty? Democrats, protected by the massive corporate power of mainstream journalism, are free to hurl around wholly unsupported charges of racism and cruelty, ginning up the emotions of their base so they become pre-disposed to dismiss the opposition as immoral. The Right, under a ceaseless media assault, becomes furious and is forced to rely on outlier conservative media, which ranges from the excellent journalism of Bret Baier on Fox to the hateful nonsense of InfoWars. There exists no neutral voice of authority to help them tell the difference.
How can we debate and compromise under those conditions?
It would be so easy for the media to reform this situation: stop hiring Democrat hacks as Evening News anchorman, divvy up the editorial desks where decisions are made so they include fair numbers of people with truly diverse opinions, fire reporters who favor one side over the other, learn to treat the Obamas and Pelosis as you treat the Bushes and the Trumps.
No one can force these reforms on the networks or on the Times or the Post. They should do it themselves, for shame.
It’s not Trump or Pelosi who are driving us apart. It’s the media.