Journalists are supposed to be the watchdogs of democracy, but they don't start barking until after the house has been looted.
May 9, 2019

The media are supposed to be the watchdogs of democracy, but what good is a watchdog that is easily distracted by little treats from the burglars, and only barks after the thieves have already left the house? There you are, with your TV, stereo, laptops, jewelry and cash gone for good.

That was our 2016 election. Remember when the New York Times "cleared" Trump of Russian influence shortly before the election, and how they ran with the Comey letter to smear Hillary Clinton? Good times!

The questions I would be asking right now: How did someone who lost $1.2 billion come up with CASH to buy golf courses? Where is the Russian money Don Jr. talked about? Was the National Enquirer the source for the Jerry Falwell "racy photos"? Did Trump blackmail Falwell into supporting him? Just for starters.

I was a reporter, and it's a thankless job. Covering the Trump era, even on a blog, is enormously stressful. And some reporters even tried to do their jobs when it still counted (i.e. before Trump took office). But not enough of them.

Instead, we were exposed to talking heads ridiculing Hillary Clinton and asking her why people didn't trust her. Oh, I don't know -- maybe the constant stream of insinuation and outright skepticism? The questions about why people didn't "like" her (even though she went on to earn three million more votes than the alleged winner).

Let me remind you: Everything Clinton warned about has come to pass. Yes, Trump is a crook. Yes, he's controlled by Russia. No, he wasn't a successful businessman. Yes, his becoming president would be dangerous for our democracy.

And what thanks did she get? The Times and the Washington Post ran with their infamous Clinton Cash stories, either unaware or indifferent to the fact that Peter Schweizer, the book's "author", was president of an organization called the Government Accountability Institute. He co-founded the org with Steve Bannon, executive director and coincidentally, Trump's campaign manager. In an entity that paid Peter Schweizer's bills while he wrote his hit job.

If you're a longtime C&L reader, you already know how victory for the right wing is defined as getting their fabrications into the mainstream.

Why didn't either of these important papers ever apologize?

This isn't just about Hillary Clinton. We saw the same press credulity during the Iraq war about the so-called basis for invading them, and about whether the Bush administration was lying about the human and economic costs. (We also watched as they gave Vietnam war hero John Kerry the Swift Boat treatment, in a veritable orgy of "both sides.")

And God knows, this isn't just a problem of individuals not doing their jobs. It's the very template of news coverage.

I used to tell this joke during the Bush era. "I can just picture Nightline during WWII. 'Our guest tonight claims the German government is, quite literally, sending millions of people to their death in extermination camps. Mr. Mayer, these are some extraordinary claims. What kind of proof can you offer?'

"Well, Ted, I've actually seen the police round up Jews in my neighborhood with my own eyes. It was awful."

"How do you know those people aren't terrorists?" Ted Koppel says. "Here to present his side, Mr. Adolph Hitler, Chancellor of the German Reich. Mr. Hitler, what do you have to say?"

"Ted, I am still amazed at the lengths to which my critics go to attack me. As you probably guessed, it's completely fabricated. As you pointed, those arrested were people working for violent overthrow of my government and to undermine my authority."

"Mr. Mayer, Mr. Hitler, thank you for coming on. This has been Ted Koppel with Nightline."

And think about this: Koppel's a pretty good reporter. But the very format of his show led to false equivalency. If you watch a news show, and the facts haven't persuaded you one way or another, I would argue those journalists haven't done an adequate job. They simply checked the "both sides" boxes.

Samantha Bee and John Oliver do a much better job. There's no question that they're biased, but they make their case.

What does that say about the ultimate agenda of our news media? Look at the other way they weighed the odds in Trump's favor: The live broadcasts of every campaign rally, start to finish. Even last night, knowing everything we now know about Trump, they still did it. So what, if any, lesson did they learn?

Not much, I'm afraid. I mean, David Fahrenthold won a much-deserved Pulitzer this year. But that doesn't pay anywhere near as well as snagging a prime-time cable news gig.

And chicks really dig guys who are on TV!

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