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Although a weaponized bureaucracy, academia, and pop culture are also in the running, with good reason most of us believe that media bias is the single biggest advantage the Left has over conservatism. Bush lied to get us into Iraq. Sarah Palin was a moron. Romney was a heartless vulture capitalist. The 2008 economic crisis was capitalism’s fault and had nothing to do with government overreach. Bush’s mistakes during Katrina show how racist he was and caused the deaths of thousands while Mayor Nagin’s and Governor Blanco’s ridiculous behavior isn’t even worth mentioning. The only Republicans who aren’t motivated by hate for the poor, gays, immigrants, women, minorities, and Mother Earth are backwards idiots who take the Bible too seriously. All of these beliefs and countless others have been adopted by large swaths of our population, and every one of them was advanced with the help of the mainstream media.
One can only imagine how different Washington would look today were the media merely fair. Of course, I’d love for CNN to have ferociously sought to destroy Lois Lerner instead of politically incorrect rodeo clowns, but had our esteemed Fourth Estate simply gone after Lois and the clown with equal fervor, we’d still be doing far better electorally. Note how much better we do in state and local elections where the national media has far less sway.
Yet after losing the 2016 elections, balance has hardly been hardly been restored to the national press. Whatever the current administration might attempt or accomplish regarding education, trade, regulation, or foreign policy, the press has only reported on Russia, Russia, tweets, Russia, Russia, awkward handshakes, and how greedy the President is with ice cream. Not only does this drive the narrative in ways similar to other eras, it’s had the tangible effect of resulting in an independent counsel that is likely to hound the President and his administration for the duration of his term, requiring them to devote energy and attention to disprove the existence of wrongdoing that exists only in the minds of his most fervent opponents.
So what is to be done? Aware of the problem, one of Ricochet’s esteemed contributors suggests the following:
And yes, of course Republicans get more biased coverage from most outlets than Democrats, but Trump should be able to shrug that off with a joke and a smile.
Indeed, a joke and a smile. I’m sure there were plenty of smiles in the White House at the absurdity of “Bush lied, people died” and how no reasonable person could believe such a thing. Romney was merely mildly perturbed at Candy Crowley unfairly ambushing him at the foreign policy debate, but he bravely took his knocks, soldiered on, and look at how well that worked out for him! After all, when our high school daughter gets too distraught at the rumors Kaitlyn keeps spreading about her, don’t we encourage her to ignore the unfairness of it all, focus on doing the right thing, and getting good grades so that she can get into Stanford where the opinions of fools like Kaitlyn and the people who listen to her will no longer matter?
However, we live in a democratic republic where people vote. Politics isn’t a high school where the smart kids can just leave the opinions of idiots behind them, it’s a high school in which the students vote on whether somebody gets into Stanford or not (or even gets to graduate), GPA and extracurricular activities be damned. In this world, when Kaitlyn spreads rumors, those rumors don’t just keep Brandon from asking Melissa to prom, they determine whether Melissa gets expelled. The media is Kaitlyn, and Kaitlyn’s big mouth does serious damage. Consistently.
Thus, the aforementioned “aw shucks, reporters are just like that” attitude may strike us as eminently mature, and taking others’ opinions and insults with a grain of salt indeed stands as an effective and mature way to lead one’s life when those opinions don’t objectively matter much. In the case of politics, they matter too much to ignore, and the media has sway over those opinions.
We can differ in good faith on the tactics we should employ to fight the media, but a “shrug it off with a joke and a smile” attitude indicates a disinclination to employ any tactics at all. Although I find Trump’s tactics to be effective (at least far more effective that any national Republican in living memory, save perhaps Reagan), if you believe he should fight differently or more intelligently, I’ll be willing to hear you out, so long as I know you know we need to fight.
But if instead of suggesting he modify his Twitter strategy you suggest he basically ignore the problem of a hostile press, it tells me you’ve learned nothing from the failed strategies of the Bushes, Romney, and countless other decent men and women who’ve lost horribly in the court of public opinion. You’re not just criticizing Trump’s tactics, you’d criticize any tactics other than “respect for the free press” (that refuses to respect you) and coming up with better slogans for reporters to twist and misrepresent.
Whether or not Trump brings on some of his problems with the media himself (did Bush?), only the most naïve among us could possibly believe that if Trump just acted with more dignity he wouldn’t have problems with the media, or that his problems with the media wouldn’t ultimately matter in the court of public opinion like they have every other time a Republican has taken the national stage. No matter our opinions on how we need to solve this problem, it’s time we agree it’s a problem we’ve got to solve, that it’s a bigger issue than personal insults we can transcend by being dignified.
The attitude epitomized by “shrug that off with a joke and smile” is no longer relevant for us and our movement, and that so many of our opinion leaders still think that way is one of the biggest reasons so many of us find it hard to find common ground with them any more.