By Guest Contributor Brad Slager (@MartiniShark)
As a reluctant but stalwart member of the Never Trump faction, I went into the November 8 Presidential election with all the passion of a narcoleptic Ambien abuser. My election night plans involved a select bourbon, and I queued up a horrible Nicolas Cage film (that is to say, a “Nic Cage film”). I did not have a horse running in this dog race, and I had little interest in the ebullient lectures sure to come from our pundit class.
As credits rolled and I got up to rotate my whiskey stones, I flipped over to vote coverage for a few moments, mainly to see how some statewide issues were doing. However, I noticed, curiously, the expected prolix from the talking heads lacked something. There was no subtext of an inevitable Hillary Clinton romp. Knowing our press does not usually employ this level of reserved professionalism, I switched to the national coverage.
At CNN, Van Jones and company were also looking stoic and reserved. They pored over the metrics and analytics without a caffeinated glee. They appeared to be actually studying the figures, and a phrase I didn’t expect was frequently bandied – “still in play.” Okay, you have my attention. By the 9 p.m. hour the vocal tones were filled with import and concern; while the results were far from official the reality was creeping in that Trump was more than performing better than predicted.
I lunged for the remote – I just HAD to go to MSNBC. This was going to be worth seeing. Sure enough, gone were the beatific smiles I’d seen glimpses of earlier in the day. Chris Matthews looked positively dyspeptic. Rachel Maddow had the look of someone shown her new Obamacare premiums. Brian Williams could not even look into the camera (probably reminded of the upset he’d witnessed while covering the Truman/Dewey election). This was delicious!
They refused to call states that had forgone conclusions, their on-air map analyst drew up real time conspiracy theories for a Clinton comeback, and by 11 p.m. Maddow and Matthews began sniping at each other as they grappled with explanations. It was an on-air seppuku, and there was no more deserving a crowd of self-immolation.
The press turned a corner in 2016, moving from its position of apparent bias in past elections to outright cheerleading for a Hillary Presidency. I had earlier written details on how the media was in a practice of ostracizing their own if members dared deviate from a pro-Hillary agenda. Dr. Drew, Jimmy Fallon, and a few other journalists had seen their careers threatened when they looked at Hillary objectively or dared be fair towards Donald Trump. Only one position was permitted.
Conversely, those covering Hillary did so with an overly affectionate élan. Look at the beaming faces of the press pool that was on board Air Farce 1. Listen as Mark Halperin early in the campaign told us we should marvel at the majesty of Hillary ordering a burrito. These journalists felt like they were in proximity of history and needed to deify the most quotidian acts by our future queen. This also led to blatant journalistic contradictions.
The examples are legion. Chris Cillizza was one of the ardent defenders against those daring to mention Hillary’s health concerns; he flailed trying to justify himself once it was noted he tried to disqualify John McCain over the exact same concerns. When New York City was the target of numerous explosions the press scorched Trump for referring to them as “Bombs.” At the very same time, Hillary gave a statement, using the term “bombings” in her opening sentence. Not only did she not absorb criticism, the very first question she received from the press fawns asked her to comment on Trump’s irresponsible use of the same term Clinton had just burped out.
This bifurcated standard system was reduced to the most asinine levels. When Melania Trump wore a white gown to the Republican convention its color was described as a problematic symbol of racial division. Without a trace of introspection, mere days later, Hillary was hailed for her fashion choice at the DNC – a white pantsuit. This somehow was said to be emblematic of the suffrage movement. How, you may ask? Damned if I know. I should explain, I am not the sort to explore further when presented with that type of infantile headline.
The media bias was most evident as much in what it doesn’t cover, as much as what it spoon-feeds its audience. Clinton’s health became a growing issue due to obvious evidence, yet the press continued to tell us there was nothing to see. Her email server issues (“The Never-Ending Scandal”) were routinely buried in the backyard. This is largely due to mounting emails revealing media coercion with the Clinton campaign. Glenn Thrush professionally shrugged once revealed he submitted stories for approval to Sydney Blumenthal. Donna Brazile was dismissed from CNN when caught feeding debate questions to her future boss. You can see why this would be under-reported.
So devout was the press that they began to display open disdain for Trump supporters. The press has no means of looking at itself to see how this may have contributed to the upset. Consider the possibility of a two-pronged animosity; voters who had little love for Trump could very well be motivated to vote against his opponent when presented with a barrage of opposition from the media as well. Calling a group of Americans sub-standard will basically tell them they are alienated. The message of “Hillary doesn’t like you, and neither do we” is the polar opposite of voter outreach.
Hilariously the press feigned shock when Donald adroitly began to demonize them in his stump speeches. How dare he, after all the mockery we delivered at his followers! This led to some of my favorite dispatches from the press pool – reports of people being mean to them.
In March a Trump rally in Chicago was canceled due to a violent outbreak at the arena. It was later revealed that Democrat operatives had staged the uprising, designed to disrupt the event. The press treated this as non-news, dismissing the severity of the exposé even while those involved quit their posts. However, when Trump backers began to turn on the media at rallies, these confrontations were fully detailed.
“Here are quotes of the mean things they dared say to us!”
“Here’s a photo of a guy who pointed at us and raised his voice!”
“Look at this shirt with an offensive saying towards the press! The temerity of these serfs!”
Tuesday night became a referendum on all of it. Our media went so far as to lecture and demand obedience towards a candidate, and resistance was met with derision and condemnation. The press clearly chose sides this election. And so did the voters across the country.
Our media, of course, will not look at themselves critically. Do not expect lengthy mea culpas on how they erred this past year. Instead expect reports on how the rubes failed to listen to them. This could be a fun four years after all.
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.