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Working The Refs: Chuck Todd Edition

Donald Trump's insults of Chuck Todd at this weekend's campaign rally was just more of the same working the refs the right has done for years.

We are not Chuck Todd's biggest fan.

This site has spent considerable digital column inches chastising Todd for his both-siderist tendencies, for his flat-out refusal to actually perform journalism, and for his myopic focus on the horse race of elections rather than actual policy impacts.

But we're also not the president of the United States, pandering to low-info voters by lobbing schoolyard insults and taunts either. Our criticisms of Todd has been of substance and of the desire that he simply do his job better.

Unfortunately, guess which one will influence Chuck Todd more?

Donald Trump's gleeful off-the-cuff attacks on Chuck Todd is simply more of the same kind of working the refs that the right has been doing to mainstream media for decades. The same kind of blatant manipulation that has had mainstream media bending over backwards to appear "fair and balanced" by not calling out the destruction of norms, policies and the American Way at the hands of conservatives.

Conservatives have used this same basic method for decades now, treating liberal bias in the mainstream media as a fact, and a conspiracy in and of itself. For just as long, mainstream media institutions have gone to great lengths to refute the right’s liberal-bias accusations, and make good faith efforts to appease their critics. It was arguably this self-defensive reflex that drove leading news outlets to generate a kind of equivalence between Donald Trump’s campaign promise to turn America into a racist kleptocracy, and Hillary Clinton’s email practices at the State Department. By noting that both candidates had question marks hanging over their heads, they could (they believed) preempt accusations of liberal bias from the right.

The conciliatory approach has never worked, and because the accusations themselves are deployed in bad faith, it, importantly, can not work. The goal of movement conservatism is not to make media more representative of American politics at the margin, but to destroy journalism as a mediating institution altogether.

So watch Chuck Todd carefully. In order to appear "unfazed" by these insults, Todd will end up becoming even more both-siderist in his coverage.


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Count on it. Republicans have for as long as Chuck's had a career.

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