HYPOCRISY ÜBER ALLES

Regarding “Week 1,” Jonah Goldberg writes “Hypocrisy Uber Alles.”

I don’t have much time for the charge of Republican hypocrisy for supporting these executive actions. Charlie Cooke laid out the why in detail, but you can think of the argument this way: If Trump exceeds his authority and suspends habeas corpus, it will not be hypocritical for opponents of the move to celebrate the next president revoking that executive order.

Then again, if hypocrisy were helium we’d all have funny voices and some folks would just float away.

I agree with pretty much all of the right-wing criticism of the mainstream media these days, or at least the intelligent stuff, of which there has been plenty. What the MSM still fails to appreciate is the degree to which they’ve spent the last 40 years — at least — presenting news as unbiased and objective when it was in fact coated with, saturated in, and bent by all manner of confirmation biases, self-serving narratives, assumptions, and ideological priorities that leaned left. No, it wasn’t all “fake news” (man, am I exhausted by the ridiculous misuse of that term), at least not most of the time [insert outrage over Duranty’s Pulitzer, Janet Cooke’s and Steve Glass’s fabulations, and of course that time Dan Rather climbed the jackass tree only to hurl himself down, hitting every branch].

I would even go so far as to argue that most of the time liberal bias isn’t even deliberate. Maybe because I’ve been reading so much public-choice theory and psychology stuff of late, I tend to credit conspiracy theories less and groupthink more for the wayward state of the mainstream media (though Mark Hemingway makes a good point about Plowshares’ sub rosa complicity in pushing the Iran deal). Still, the more you get to know elite “objective” journalists, the more you can appreciate that they are trying to do it right. But it also becomes all the more obvious that they live in a social milieu where the borders between the Democratic party, liberal activism, and liberal experts are very, very fuzzy

Reporters routinely call experts they already agree with knowing that their “takes” will line up with what the reporter believes. Sometimes this is lazy or deadline-driven hackery. But more often, it’s not. And that shouldn’t surprise us. Smart liberal reporters are probably inclined to think that smart liberal experts are right when they say things the smart liberal reporters already agree with.

For these and similar reasons, liberal ideas and interpretations of the facts sail through while inconvenient facts and conservative interpretations send up ideological red flags. Think of editors like security guards at a military base. They tend to wave through the people they know and the folks with right ID badges. But when a stranger shows up, or if someone lacks the right credential, then the guards feel like they have to do their job. This is the basic modus operandi for places like Vox, which seek to explain not the facts or the news, but why liberals are right about the facts and the news…

And you know what, the same thing is true for conservative journalists, because it’s true of people (I’d offer the relevant quotes from Haidt or Daniel Kahneman, but my Kindle e-reader thing isn’t playing nice with the plane’s WiFi). The distinction is that there aren’t a great number of conservative journalists, certainly not in print, who don’t openly admit their biases to the reader. There are literally thousands of mainstream journalists, editors, and producers who insist that they are objective — and who actually believe it. And that leaves out the fact that liberalism is besotted with the idea that liberals aren’t ideological at all in the first place, which makes it even harder for them to recognize their ideological biases. And, then, when everyone they know, including all the right “experts,” are in a total bowel-stewing meltdown over the Trump presidency, it is very difficult for them to find perspective and balance. “Donald Trump puts salt on his French Fries just like Napoleon!”

So, I get why so many of my friends on the right are freaking out about the double standard being applied to Trump. It is an entirely legitimate complaint. But it is also incredibly insufficient and, at times, dangerous. Every day I see conservatives on Twitter and TV denouncing, say, the New York Times for calling Trump a liar because the Times didn’t say the same thing about Clinton or Obama. Fine! Great point. It’s a double standard. Who among us can contain our shock that the MSM is tougher on Republicans?

But it doesn’t mean it’s not true about Trump!

And that brings me to the danger here. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but our president has a persecution complex. He thinks any inconvenient but truthful coverage of him is an unfair criticism and any unfair criticism is a lie. What makes this complicated is that sometimes Trump is right. Some of the coverage has been ridiculous and desperate nonsense, as Mollie Hemingway ably chronicles. And some of the coverage has been merely accurate-but-hypocritical. Howard Kurtz ran through a list last night on Special Report. When Bill Clinton lied, it was called “misleading” or “less than candid” but when Trump lies, it’s a “Lie!” in the headline. (One can make the argument — as I have — that many of Trump’s lies are less offensive because he just glandularly blurts them out, while Bill Clinton lied like an artisan whittling a ballerina out of a block of wood, with loving, expert attention to every detail.)

When conservatives — I’m not referring to Republican political hacks, that’s their job; I’m referring to actual conservative writers — go out and respond to the negative coverage solely by attacking the MSM messengers, they are in effect condoning — or at least providing cover for — Trump’s behavior and feeding the idea that he’s a victim whenever anyone does anything other than applaud. Steve Bannon wants to demonize and delegitimize the mainstream media. Given his record at Breitbart, that’s some odd casting for Champion of Journalistic Integrity, but whatever. That’s his fight, and shame on the mainstream media for making his job so easy.

But what should conservatives do? Exactly what most of us have been doing…

Indeed, I think this is something of a golden opportunity for quality conservative journalism. Based on what has transpired so far, much of the mainstream media can’t be trusted to respond proportionately or accurately to Trump. And, based on what has transpired so far, neither can big swaths of the entertainment wing of the right-wing media. They will, Pravda-like, announce that each new Trumpian wheat harvest has exceeded all expectations, for quite a while it seems.

But if you actually watch the news side of Fox News, or read National Review, the Weekly Standard, Commentary (not to mention the more responsible conservative websites: The Federalist, Hot Air, etc.), you’ll find that we tend not to be swept up in the hysteria of the Left or the Right. There’s a diversity of writers and opinions to be sure, but on the whole we have praised some of what Trump has done and criticized other things. Fox reports inconvenient facts for the Democrats and inconvenient facts for the Trump administration.

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