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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Wayne Barrett, Donald Trump, and the Death of the American Press

...Obama didn’t kill journalism, but he took advantage of it in its weakness, because he knew the press would do anything to feel relevant again. All those 27-year-olds at the Times, the Washington Post and others hired as bloggers—“who literally know nothing,” as Rhodes told the Times Magazine—when the foreign and national bureaus were closed, they didn’t know it wasn’t OK to be a journalist and a political operative at the same time. They thought it made them more valuable, even patriotic, to put themselves in the service of a historic presidency. And they’d replaced for pennies on the dollar all the adults who could have taught them otherwise.

That’s the raw material out of which the Obama administration built its echo chamber, the purpose of which was to drown out the few remaining vestiges of journalism in order to sell the president’s policies. And there really were real journalists still putting in the hours, still doing the work, but the echo chamber, a relentless, frenzied chorus of incoherent and nearly illiterate prose, shouted them down.

Yes, it would have been nice if the American public had a chance to discuss a policy of vital importance to our national security, like the Iran nuclear deal, but the press congratulated itself for silencing those who dissented from Obama’s signature foreign-policy initiative. These weren’t simply critics or opponents of the White House, they weren’t just wrong; no, they were warmongers, beholden to donors and moneyed interests and lobbies, they were dual loyalists.

But it was all OK for the press to humiliate and threaten Obama’s opponents in accordance with the talking points provided by Obama administration officials—they were helping the president prevent another senseless war. That’s for history to decide. What everyone saw at the time was that the press had put itself in the service of executive power. This was no longer simply tilting left, rather, it was turning an American political institution against the American public.

Now with Trump in the White House, commentators on the right are critical of those angry with the press for calling out Trump on the same stuff that Obama got away with. Let’s be above it, they argue. Just because Obama did it doesn’t make it OK for Trump to do it. Fine, obviously, call out Trump—but this isn’t about playing gotcha. It’s about a self-aggrandizing press corps gaslighting the electorate. The public is astonished and appalled that the media has now returned after an eight-year absence to arrogate to itself the role of conscience of the nation.

It’s not working out very well...

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