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Will the Media's Newfound Stridency Continue Under Biden? No.
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“In his first rally since losing the election last month, President Trump continued to spout conspiracy theories about voter fraud, falsely claiming that he had defeated President-elect Joe Biden.” That was the lede of a news story in the Dec. 5 Washington Post.

The Associated Press took a similar tack. “President Donald Trump flooded his first post-election political rally with debunked conspiracy theories and audacious falsehoods Saturday as he claimed victory in an election he decisively lost,” began the wire service’s coverage.

You’ll find similarly opinionated news coverage about President Donald Trump in almost every issue of many major newspapers over the last several years. It’s easy to see why many of the president’s supporters don’t trust the mainstream media to be fair to conservatives.

You may long for a return to the days when too many reporters played the role of government stenographers, striving for a neutral tone while dutifully regurgitating the most ridiculous nonsense spewing out of the maws of official propagandists. Not me. Busy news consumers rely on journalists to frame and explain current events, not just reorganize press releases. Skepticism of presidents and labeling their obvious lies are long overdue.

From former President Barack Obama’s “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it,” to former Vice President Dick Cheney’s “There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction,” the public would have benefited from news accounts that emphasized that these claims not only were not true but could not be true. As reporters knew, Obamacare was structured in a way that made it impossible for many preexisting health insurance plans to remain financially viable within the system. And with regard to Hussein, there is always doubt in the military intelligence business; the credulous tone of this reporting enabled the mass misleading of the American people. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died as a result.

So when it comes to Trump, better late than never. But will journalists’ newfound courage survive into the Biden years? Early indications are discouraging.

Throughout the general election campaign, journalists were unduly solicitous as the Democratic nominee generally shunned one-on-one interviews with major news organizations. In July, Biden only granted 10 TV interviews, nine of which were with local outlets. Despite being the oldest major-party candidate ever to run for president, and despite repeated stumbles and verbal slips on the campaign trail, he faced few questions about his physical health or mental acuity. Liberal-leaning journalists largely dismissed his son Hunter Biden’s fiscal adventures in Ukraine as the product of the fevered imagination of far-right conspiracy theorists; Twitter and Facebook even censored a New York Post story about it. Now that a federal investigation into his taxes has been announced, Hunter is clearly a legitimate line of inquiry. Yet the issue is still not getting much coverage.


Accounts of Biden’s Cabinet choices appear to harken a return to the stenographer days. Many praise the president-elect’s effort to increase “diversity” in a Cabinet Democrats say will “look like America” while ignoring one type of diversity: ideological. Though Biden’s top advisers will include many women and some people of color, there is no indication that a single progressive will be in the room while he decides the fate of the nation.

Stories about former Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s nomination as secretary of transportation bury the elephant in the room. “President-elect Joe Biden will nominate former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg to be Transportation secretary,” Politico began its story. “Buttigieg’s ascension to the top spot at DOT marks the culmination of a meteoric rise in politics over the last two years from the mayor of South Bend, Ind., to the first openly gay Cabinet secretary, if he is confirmed.” A reference to Buttigieg’s “thin transportation policy resume” appears in paragraph five.

Had the story been like those about Trump’s Cabinet picks, it likely would have begun something like: “Overlooking experienced transit experts, President-elect Joe Biden instead turned to a young loyalist who helped hand him the nomination, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, to head the transportation department. South Bend, a city of 100,000, has a fleet of 60 buses.” Tone matters.

All presidents lie. Biden lies, too, as he did during a primary debate, when he denied having supported the Hyde Amendment. One hopes that the media will treat him harshly when he does it again, both to be consistent with the more strident scrutiny they have directed at Trump the last four years and to better serve their readers and viewers. But it doesn’t look likely.

• Category: Ideology • Tags: American Media, Donald Trump, Joe Biden 
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  1. This

    Though Biden’s top advisers will include many women and some people of color, there is no indication that a single progressive will be in the room while he decides the fate of the nation.

    is the problem with “progressives” in particular and politics in general.

    Please explain why someone who sees himself as “progressive” falls for identity politics. Would the no-longer-enforced antitrust laws, for instance, been enacted if our ancestors had been divided & conquered over race, sex, etc.?

    And at this point — again, think of the disrespected antitrust laws — why endorse the notion that Red+Blue politicians in Washington should “decide the fate of the nation”? Empowering these irredeemables by participating in their Most Important Elections Ever and waiting to have been lied to yet again is not merely pointless — it secures the Establishment.

  2. So when it comes to Trump, better late than never. But will journalists’ newfound courage survive into the Biden years?

    I am trying to understand what kind of mental brain fungus one would have to have contracted in order to believe that there has been “newfound courage” by mainstream journalists over the past 4-5 years.

    I am trying to understand what has happened to Ted’s brain to believe that the massive and coordinated shift of MSM journalism from being stenographers for government statements to being rabid liars, constantly misstating facts, spreading false rumors. The veritable opposite of responsible investigative journalism. How anyone could think that that development was/is a good thing? It just boggles the mind..

    I have to conclude that there is some type of mental illness in liberals like Ted Rall (and many others such as Stephen Colbert) that is so astounding in its depravity it goes beyond willful ignorance into the 5th dimension of bullshit.

    It’s where vast numbers of people go stark raving mad, such as in the Bolshevik times, the National Socialist times, the Red Guard times, the Khmer Rouge times. Which does not bode well, for Ted Rall–or any of us.

  3. Sean says:

    Ted is right. Anything against Biden (or China) will be put down by MSM as conspiracy theorizing by Trumpists operated by Russian puppet-masters. Biden is not going to listen to anyone because he won’t have to.

  4. Mr. Rall, to be frank, you are completely wrong. Journalists have not found a spine, they have simply been encouraged to attack a target. Obama was a ruthless war-monger, just like George W. Bush. But he was a democrat and black, so they were scared to attack him. But Bush was a Republican and white, so he was fair game. Journalists are cowards, and easily manipulated. That was true in the past and is definitely true today, especially for the corporate media.

    Every journalist working for a corporate media firm speaks only from the approved perspective. Any deviation is punished. They know this, so they don’t. Besides, most of them went to highly progressive schools, so they agree with everything that the corporate-approved narrative says.

    The one fact you are right on is the fact that Biden’s cabinets will be filled with neo-liberal, pro-corporate whores, war-pigs and people who generally either don’t care or vehemently despise America and her people.

  5. At least it will be entertaining to watch our esteemed Press Corps reporting on the protracted palace intrigues between Dr. Jill Biden and Kamala Harris. There will likely be frequent puff pieces about how the gals have a true girl camaraderie thing going on. Deep mutual respect suffused with knowing giggles and a Southern fried green tomatoes voice-over until Kamala coldly dispatches her prey.

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