Former Newspaper Editor: 'Lying Propaganda' Works
January 18, 2022

As you probably know, I was a journalist for 20 years. So I was happy to find this Beyond Politics podcast with Matt Robison about how the old rules in media just don't work anymore. The interview is with former metro editor at the Chicago Tribune Mark Jacob.

The blizzard of lies is coming disproportionately from the Republican Party, and the mainstream media is giving those lies "more credence, more time, and more legitimacy." It's a demoralizing and dangerous situation in a democracy that requires that people have real facts and good faith analysis. The good news: Jacob has some ideas about how to fix things. The not-so-good news? None of them are easy. Here are some highlights:

  • "When I was editing those stories, starting back in the nineties, I felt like I was being fair if I equally skewered Republicans and Democrats, or equally gave them each their say, and let the readers sort it out. But what we've seen in the last couple of decades is a move toward the Republican party toward becoming a fascist party, becoming a dishonest party, and systematically telling lies on purpose."
  • "Too often, the way the construction is in newspaper stories or on TV is that they think that they're calling out a lie, but they're actually just giving the lie more credence, more time, and more legitimacy. The scary thing that we have learned in this era is that that kind of [lying] propaganda works so well."
  • "Too many people in the Washington news media feel like it's in their best interest to both-sides everything. It's a safe thing to do and gets them invited to all the right cocktail parties. And so they have a vested interest in not reporting the fact that we have a fascist insurrection going on."
  • "For example, when the AP wrote a story about Senator Ron Johnson announcing that he's going to run for a third term, their headline said he had rescinded his promise. Instead of saying he lied, or he broke his promise. They almost made it like it was some sort of administrative process, instead of just saying that the politician just flat out lied."
  • "The Washington news media are trying to cover the midterm like it's any other election. "Here's how midterms have gone for the last several decades." Well, it's not the last several decades. We're in a dramatically different situation because the Republicans are trying to overthrow our democracy: creating an election fraud and voter suppression and casting doubt on elections. It is a crisis. So for the media to treat it as some sort of little thing that happens every two years, and we'll just cover it the same way we always have, means they're missing the biggest story of their entire lives."
  • "It is a scandal that Fox news is on all cable systems and the people who don't want it have to pay for it. It inoculates them from any accountability for their utterly irresponsible coverage of COVID that has undoubtedly killed Americans. What you have is a bunch of rich people financing a bunch of right-wing media. I don't know if we're ever going to get past the cocoon that Fox news has created with people, but it's still a minority of people who have lost faith in democracy and have bought into the Republican fascist scheme."

There's much more, and it's refreshing to hear a journalist say it all out loud.

Editor's Note [Frances Langum]: So much to fix...

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