by Robert Stacy McCain
Over the past four years, American news organizations have not merely shredded their own credibility, but have piled those tattered shreds into a heap, poured gasoline onto the pile, and incinerated it. Anyone who still believes what they see on CNN or read in the New York Times is in the throes of a delusion. As much as we might wish to laugh at the plight of the media, now so obviously lost in the helpless hysteria of Trump Derangement Syndrome, we are not better off as a nation as a result of the catastrophe that has befallen American journalism.
Consider the current state of the presidential campaign. With barely three weeks to go until Election Day, any responsible citizen might like to know the answer to the question, “Who is winning?” And the honest answer is, we have no earthly idea, because the media organizations that ought to be reporting the actual state of the race are instead pumping out partisan propaganda on behalf of the Democrat nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden.
What’s that you say? Polls? You want polls? Last week, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll “found Biden leading Trump by 14 points, his largest advantage ever in the survey. Among seniors 65 and older, Biden led by a startling 27 points, marking a 23-point swing in his direction in one month.” Does anyone really believe that Biden gained a net 23 points among senior citizens in a single month? Perhaps this is true, but one of the most experienced poll-watchers in the country, Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics, is dubious:
I look at the polls showing Biden with twenty-per-cent-plus leads among older voters, with boomers voting roughly the same as millennials, and Gen Z, and that makes me nervous. I can tell myself a story about why that would happen, but I can also tell myself a story about conservative Trump voters hearing, “Hi, I’m from NBC/Wall Street Journal polling,” and hanging up the phone because they don’t trust the mainstream media. That makes me very nervous.
By “nervous,” what Trende means is that he fears a repeat of the 2016 debacle, when every major pollster had Hillary Clinton as the all-but-guaranteed winner, only to be shocked on Election Night by the results of the actual voting. President Trump’s upset victory four years ago delivered a stunning blow to the media establishment he calls “fake news.” Everything that has happened since then has been a consequence of the media’s failure to anticipate Clinton’s defeat, and to inform the public in advance of that likelihood.
Because they had believed their own triumphant narrative — that Democrats were on “the right side of history,” and that Hillary was therefore destined to become the first female president — the media were as shocked as anyone when voters rejected this narrative. Think back to the scene in the Javits Center on that fateful night of November 8, 2016. The Clinton campaign had chosen the location of their planned victory party because of its symbolism, quite literally under a glass ceiling, a feminist metaphor. After months of media hype and internet hashtags promoting Clinton’s “I’m With Her” message, journalists inside their self-constructed echo chamber of quasi-religious liberal faith would have denounced as heresy any expression of doubt in Hillary’s victory. So the crestfallen faces of Democrats in the Javitz Center on Election Night were mirrored in the gloomy expressions of the allegedly non-partisan “reporters” and “analysts” on CNN, NBC, ABC, and CBS. The Media Research Center compiled a video montage of the worst reactions, including NBC News solemnly warning viewers about “deeper concerns tonight that the world’s shining light of democracy has gone dark.”
The most obvious consequence of that unexpected defeat was the media’s eager embrace of the “Russian collusion” conspiracy theory by which the Clinton campaign sought to explain Trump’s election. For three years, journalists promoted this bogus narrative, portraying Trump as a Kremlin asset, whose election had been made possible by the shadowy online influence of Russian intelligence agents. Even after that narrative was completely debunked — proven to have originated with the “Steele dossier” funded by the Clinton campaign — the media still refused to admit they had been bamboozled. Having convinced themselves that Trump was indeed Putin’s puppet, the media enthusiastically climbed aboard Nancy Pelosi’s impeachment bandwagon over the nonsensical “Ukrainegate” conspiracy theory.
No one in the media last December paid attention to a warning from Professor William Jacobson: “Democrats will rue the day they forced this impeachment through the House.” Nothing could have done more to solidify the bond between Trump and his tens of millions of supporters than the haste with which Pelosi and her colleagues rammed through that impeachment vote — only to wait two months before presenting the charges to the Senate, which predictably voted to acquit. This reality, that Democrats’ attacks on the president only served to reinforce Trump’s popularity among the voters who elected him, has had no apparent impact inside the liberal media echo chamber. Viewers of CNN and the other so-called “mainstream” networks are clueless about this factor, and this cluelessness is only reinforced by polls showing Biden with a double-digit national lead.
One reporter who makes a habit of venturing outside the bubble, Salena Zito of the Washington Examiner, tried to explain what she perceives in a Sunday column filed from the suburbs of Pittsburgh:
Trump was never the cause of the conservative populist coalition that put him in office. He was the result of it. After decades of voters’ dissatisfaction with both political parties, institutions, government, and culture, they voted for themselves and their communities over both party’s establishments. It wasn’t about voting for Trump.
A lot of very smart people keep missing that critical nuance.
If Trump’s opponents, or those who cover him, spent any time listening to voters and not making fun of them, categorizing them as a cult, racists, stupid, or whatever word of the day they are using to describe them, they would understand that.
Those “very smart people” in the media also seem to place more confidence in the polls (Biden is supposedly heading to a nearly 10-point victory, according to the RealClearPolitics average) than to evidence that the Democrat is on the wrong side of a distinct “enthusiasm gap” among voters. If Biden is cruising toward a November landslide, why aren’t voters showing up at his campaign events? Why is it that every anecdotal report I hear is that Trump signs vastly outnumber Biden signs, even in reliably “blue” states? After the absence of supporters at a Biden event in Arizona drew attention this weekend, Professor Glenn Reynolds piled on the sarcasm: “Why bother showing up? CNN says he’s 16 points ahead. No reason even to bother voting, it’s over. Stay home, Biden voters. Stay safe, while you await his inevitable landslide victory.”
Meanwhile, the media have emulated This Is Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel, turning up their amplifiers to 11 as they shriek out anti-Trump messages at maximum volume. But why has this journalistic jihad assumed such manic intensity? Charlie Hurt of the Washington Times is puzzled, too. After summarizing the polls and other metrics that indicate Biden enjoys an overwhelming lead, Hurt asked Thursday, “If all this is true and Democrats have the election so deep in the bag, why are they so terrified? Why, if this is such a done deal, are Democrats so desperate right now?”
It is a profound mystery, although we can understand why people who have spent too much time inside the media echo chamber would behave irrationally. Immersing yourself in politics 24/7 — your emotions whiplashed by every poll, every press conference, every headline, every tweet — is not conducive to good mental health. The only way to stay sane is to ignore it. Turn off the cable news, find a good book to read, and hope for the best. Or as I have advised my Republican friends worried about the polls: Keep calm and vote Trump.
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Robert Stacy McCain is the author of Sex Trouble: Essays on Radical Feminism and the War Against Human Nature. He blogs at TheOtherMcCain.com.