I grew up in the era of three commercial TV networks plus taxpayer-funded PBS. Virtually no one under the age of about 40 knows what that was like then. For one thing, news moved a LOT slower in those days! This quote explains much about that era:
Because that explains the precise purpose of mass media – as intended – in those days: to produce “news and information” that could be conveyed to the masses in uniform and synchronized fashion. You don’t seriously believe the Deep State is a new phenomenon, do you?
But back to the “slower” bit again. The NY Times (the vaunted “newspaper of record”) set the tone for the nightly news reports; what made its morning pages became the stories reported each evening on the three networks – and propagated by the AP/UPI news services to other newspapers across the land. A kind of closed-loop operation, without much dissent except for the opinion pages where different political voices and perspectives were seen (the main news pages in newspapers and magazines back then were generally apolitical – real journalists existed, and political commentary and personal opinions were, by and large, relegated to the opinion pages). I – like many others my age – came to believe that everything that the likes of “Uncle Walter” (and Chet and David and Bob/Frank/Howard) said on the tube was the gospel truth. Here is an overview of Uncle Walter’s career.
Except all was not as it seemed. Years later we would learn that Walter Cronkite was essentially a leftist Democrat, which explained a lot about his 27 Feb 1968 broadcast after the Tet offensive during which he claimed the Vietnam War was unwinnable, and that the US should find a way out. Here is a leftwing view of how the Tet offensive (during which the Viet Cong were virtually wiped out) was spun. You will note the reference made that “Cronkite was in the mainstream of American opinion.” What a joke.
That was one of the first “peeks behind the masks” of our nightly news talking heads. Still later we would learn that virtually all of them were politically left-of-center and nominal (if not actual) Democrats. But I was in high school at the time and scarcely paid attention to politics. That would change for me in 1980 when I was a young Navy lieutenant at a training command, and an old Navy Limited Duty Officer (LDO) named Sol handed me a copy of “Human Events: The National Conservative Weekly.” I was to learn later that it was Reagan’s favorite weekly magazine.
Most naval officers are expected to be apolitical while serving in uniform; I had conformed to that unwritten rule and steered clear of politics. But I became politically aware during Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign thanks to Sol and Human Events. And since then I have been an avid albeit amateur observer of politics – and especially the media. I learned about media bias from Human Events – which I had never before even suspected. After learning the basics, the inherent biases in the networks’ reporting became obvious.
For example, during Reagan’s presidency, each network adopted a similar routine in attempting to defeat any and all of Reagan’s proposals/initiatives. The commentator would paint the issue from the Democrats’ point of view and then interview an elected Democrat. A person from a left-wing policy think-tank would then confirm the collective presumption that Reagan’s proposal was “crazy”, or “bad for the children” (a Democrat/media staple back then).
By the way, the “for the children” shtick was always used as a wedge argument by congressional Democrats in that era – and Hillary, too, as she was pals with Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the “Children’s Defense Fund,” an influential leftwing lobbying group back then. And does “for the children” sound familiar to the Democrat/media caterwauling about “family separation” at the border these days? There’s nothing new under the sun, and Democrats dust off old tactics from their playbook whenever it suits them.
Back to describing the template of the standard TV interview back then. The interview segment was capped off by a nominal Republican who was generally inarticulate and frequently opposed to Reagan’s particular initiative being discussed. That “Republican” interviewed would have been today’s equivalent of Ryan/Romney/Sasse/Amash – yes, RINOs were alive and well in the 1980s, too! The end goal of the segment was to propagandize against Reagan’s conservative policy proposals.
And that same template was repeated night after night throughout the Reagan years on all of the networks on any important topics of the moment. [Note: this is what CNN and MSNBC are doing these days, too, except they don’t even interview elected RINOs much anymore.] Only in the nascent conservative media (print media and William F Buckley’s “The Firing Line” on PBS) could one find unvarnished conservative opinions and logic from real conservatives. There was no Rush Limbaugh, the internet, or social media in those days.
In the 1980s, National Review was one of the go-to sources for conservative thought and policy. They really went off the rails after William F. Buckley Jr passed, and we all know about their debacle in 2016 when they published an entire issue in an effort to “stop Trump.” In hindsight, just how wrong and stupid do those “conservatives” look about their claims that “Trump is not a conservative”? We have seen the greatest conservative changeover in the federal judiciary in over 100 years, including two rock-sold US Supreme Court judicial appointments. And a YUUUGELY successful tax cut, an ongoing renegotiation of international trade deals, confrontation of an increasingly aggressive China, and a restoration of traditional US foreign policy goals. Some Trumpenfreude has been served, too, as a number of the authors from that 2016 National Review issue have been discredited!
The media dam really broke in 1987 when the Federal Communications Commission repealed the 1949 “Fairness Doctrine” because “it failed to encourage the discussion of more controversial issues.” In reality, it stifled dissenting conservative opinions, as discussed here. This led to the rise of Rush Limbaugh and talk radio in general. And the conservative genie that the Democrats/Uniparty had fought to keep bottled up erupted into public consciousness. Although the Fox TV channel commenced operations in 1986, it was not until the cable TV gods begat Fox News in August 1996 that the legacy media (expanded from the Big Three commercial networks to include CNN by then) lost their monopoly for good. A common thread continued on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, NY Times, WaPo (and later MSNBC) through the present day: an increasingly obvious leftward bent in legacy media news presentation to the point where common daily and weekly narratives were easily discerned by thoughtful observers.
Today, there is not much difference between “news pages” and “opinion pages” in the print media. It seems that every aspiring (leftwing) “journalist” these days insists on conveying personal political opinions by slanting news stories accordingly – and lying when convenient! Rush Limbaugh taught us about “media montages” – the repetition of planted words and phrases repeated on all the legacy networks by their talking heads to convey the desired Democrat/leftist spin/message of the day. For example, who could forget the endless repeat of the word “gravitas” during the 2000 presidential campaign that was intended to convey that George W Bush needed Dick Cheney on the ticket to provide “weight” to the supposedly featherweight Bush?
And the media bias against nominal conservatives (W was a moderate at best, but perhaps is better characterized as a Uniparty member) continued unabated and accelerated during the Obama regime. Only fools deny there was (and still is!) 24/7 media bias in favor of Obama.
With the rise of the internet and cable television, there has been a proliferation of political news channels, web pages, blog sites, and social media. One can get one’s news and information from a veritable smorgasbord of choices on a near-instantaneous basis. No more waiting for the NY Times’ story of the day or the nightly TV news! Journalistic standards, such as they were, degraded to the point that in the Trump era we are finding out that many of them are actually propagandists paid by Democrat cutouts like Fusion GPS. And that cabals like the infamous “JournoList”, a collection of leftist journalists started in ’07, actually facilitated the election of Obama through coordinated stories and puff pieces.
We all know about Obama’s politicization of federal agencies and their use to attack/suppress dissent and to attack political opponents (Spygate, the IRS targeting scandal, and general DoJ/FBI corruption spring immediately to mind). Most Americans remain unaware of Obama’s tinkering with media laws, in particular the changes effected to the Smith-Mundt Act (full name: U.S. Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948):
36. The original legislation authorizes the U.S. State Department to communicate to audiences outside of the borders of the United States through broadcasting, face-to-face contacts, exchanges (including educational, cultural, and technical), ….
36A. … the publishing of books, magazines, and other media of communication and engagement.
Broadcasting “Radio Free Europe” and “Voice of America” to the world seems like a good thing, right? Well, no good deed goes unpunished when leftists have their way. It turns out the act was modified in 2015 to repeal the prohibition of broadcasting USG propaganda to domestic audiences!
The propaganda teams are to go about business as usual in spite of the fact that this information will be immediately available for domestic distribution. [The new Act] creates a loophole the size of the Grand Canyon for these agencies to create propaganda that they know will be distributed domestically and will be used to influence Americans.
The modified Act gives powers to the State Department and Pentagon to push television, radio, newspaper, and social media (in other words, propaganda) onto the US public without any oversight or checks and balances. So now government-run media can be weaponized to convey the Uniparty party line in the US – and then be quoted endlessly by other domestic legacy news as “government statistics” and the like. Does that provide another window into how the legacy media have been politicized since 2012?
The legacy media have been identified as true threats to the American Republic by many – but the number of “woke” people on that score has exploded during the Age of Trump. Virtually any reasonable person understands the horrible political bias of the legacy media these days. Fake News may be the most widely known and understood phrase in current public discourse, and the legacy media are filled with daily if not hourly examples. How many “Trump gotcha” breaking news stories have been totally bunked over the past 2+ years? This great quote by John Solomon says it all for me:
Instead of facts, many journalists today trade in supposition and opinion. Instead of dispassionate neutral coverage, many have offered emotional rants that border on disrespect. Instead of covering all sides of the story, entire news organizations have chosen to pick one side over another.
And the media bias is virtually all leftward! Here’s a summary from one media survey among many with the same conclusion:
Researchers from Arizona State University and Texas A&M University questioned 462 financial journalists around the country. They followed up with 18 additional interviews. The journalists worked for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press and a number of other newspapers. What they found surprised them. Even the supposedly hard-nosed financial reporters were overwhelmingly liberal. Of the 462 people surveyed, 17.63% called themselves “very liberal,” while 40.84% described themselves as “somewhat liberal.” When you add it up, 58.47% admit to being left of center. Along with that, another 37.12% claim to be “moderate.”
What about the mythic “conservative” financial journalist? In fact, a mere 0.46% of financial journalists called themselves “very conservative,” while just 3.94% said they were “somewhat conservative.” That’s a whopping 4.4% of the total that lean right-of-center.
Is it any wonder why the legacy media news stories and commentary are overwhelming anti-Trump?
So whom to believe in this day and age? My thinking on this has evolved greatly over the years. In the modern era of highly-politicized media, I have become skeptical of just about EVERYTHING reported on the cable networks and in print media (including blogs and here on social media). Virtually EVERYONE has a political agenda. Best to start with that proposition, especially when the sources attempt to mask themselves in supposed “objectivity.”
[Note: I label myself as a constitutional conservative in order for people to understand my political biases. If only everyone else who provides political commentary would do so!]
My watchwords for digesting disparate news and commentary are “trust but verify” and “consider the source(s).” Another useful phrase to remember is: “wait 24-48 hours before reacting to any sensational legacy media story with political ramifications.” I look for these things: does the commentator comport with my worldview and belief system? What is the person’s track record of predictions over time? Are the facts and opinions presented based on logic or emotion? What is the proof/evidence presented? Does the person have a political motivation for making the statements/claims? What are the person’s political affiliation and former political jobs, if any? In short, I simply don’t take anybody’s claims on face value any more. Nor should you!
On social media, I tend to follow like-minded people who help me broaden my own perspective on subjects of great interest to me. But I follow a few “fools” on the other side, too, because I feel that it is important to know what the opposition is thinking/saying.
If I were king for a day, I would require that every talking head on cable news be accompanied by captions at the bottom of the screen stating political party affiliation, political contributions made, past political jobs held, etc., for the duration of a person’s appearance in the particular news segment.
People need to know the political motivations behind statements made by all political and news commentators. And these reminders are constantly needed for those among us who pay scant attention to politics and are easily swayed by words and emotions.
Conclusion: POTUS is showing us all whom to believe and not believe in the media! Think about what we have learned since he began his presidential campaign in 2015. Your best bet is to carefully and methodically pick and choose news and information sources and “trust but verify” them over time. As for CNN, MSNBC, NYT, and WaPo? Fuhgeddaboudit!