In public appearances, I’m often asked how to handle the left’s near-total dominance of the media. I typically cite the Ronald Reagan/Donald Trump doctrine in my answer: Understand it is who the media currently are — stop complaining — and go around them as best you can.
Recall how former President Reagan famously (and effectively) spoke directly to the American people in nationally televised appearances, while a much later era saw candidate and then-President Trump utilize social media platforms (especially Twitter) to his advantage. Both methods served to frustrate an always hostile left-leaning press.
It is nevertheless important to understand the media-employed strategies that so often turn hard news stories into narratives that fit how media, academic and cultural elites see the world. From my experience, it comes down to three (not mutually exclusive) options:
1. Minimize and Mitigate
Two recent storylines provide insight on M&M:
“Waukesha will hold a moment of silence today, marking one week since a car drove through a city Christmas parade, killing six people and injuring scores of others.”
“Fiery but mostly peaceful protests after police shooting.” (Against a backdrop depicting a building engulfed in flames.)
These two beauties are from CNN but could easily have come from any modern newsroom. Notice how the former fails to describe a most inconvenient suspect, focusing instead on the inanimate object, while the latter notoriously minimizes if not eliminates the extent of widespread civil unrest.
A related aspect to minimize and mitigate is to simply ignore inconvenient consequences, as when nobody bothers to report on the hollowed-out neighborhoods (and the people and businesses forced to live there) that typically follow major city riots.
Simply put, storylines that fail to comport with favored progressive narratives are minimized in order to mitigate the damage that would and should otherwise be inflicted.
2. Play Up and Perpetuate
The Russian hoax applies here in that it begins with grains of fact: Gen. Mike Flynn did communicate with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak; there was a meeting at Trump Tower between Trump staff and attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya; and then-candidate Trump did say (repeatedly) that America should enjoy better relations with Putin’s government.
But a fault-Trump-always media immediately allowed these foundational events to morph — really metastasize — into a virulent narrative, including the outrageous suggestion that the president of the United States was in fact a Russian asset. The bogus storyline (“Trump is in cahoots with Putin”) was then reported — and repeated ad nauseum until even CNN was forced to blanch in the aftermath of a “nothing burger” report from Robert Mueller.
The Duke lacrosse team fiasco fits here as well in that there was a team party (with dancers) that fateful evening in Durham. But no rape or sexual assault occurred, despite the best efforts of a subsequently disbarred state’s attorney — and the woke media … and 88 Duke faculty members — who aggressively attempted to convince themselves and the country to the contrary. Note: To this day, there has been no apology issued from those 88 virtue-signaling professors.
The recently concluded Kyle Rittenhouse case also fits this category to a tee. The original reporting included actual facts: the riots, the property destruction, Rittenhouse’s travels to and from the riots, the confrontations, the shootings and the deceased. But these predicate facts were immediately stitched together to fit the preferred media narrative of a white supremacist-gone-wild — despite the presence of a widely available exculpatory video.
All of which will soon make Kyle Rittenhouse, like the Duke lacrosse players and Covington Catholic High School’s Nicholas Sandmann, a very wealthy young man.
This is a cousin to #2, but separated by allegations with no factual foundation at all. Here then is the wholly invented narrative that compels the wholly invented story.
Think of Rolling Stone’s made-up University of Virginia fraternity gang rape case story. The “investigative” essay could have been disproved through minimal fact-checking, which, fortunately, was performed by other journalists. You see, there was no party at the Alpha Chapter of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity that night. No fraternity member matched the description of the alleged “ring leader,” and two close friends of the alleged victim failed to corroborate her story. But — in the end — there was a settlement (and a separate jury award) to the benefit of the individuals and entities damaged by RS.
The Jussie Smollett story fits here as well since the “facts” were invented to make a political point. But, alas, such was the clearly outrageous nature of Mr. Smollett’s “attack” that the real facts (hoax) came to light almost immediately. Monetary damages will include reimbursing the Chicago police for the time and resources spent investigating the phoniest of made-up stories.
The triple media misdeeds of minimal reporting, selective reporting and just making it all up will not soon disappear. The strategies are useful and sometimes effective. Progressivism’s grievance industry could not exist without them. But it sure can get expensive from time to time. And there may be diminishing returns…
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