This week I am going to do something unusual. I am going to enter into a conversation with another columnist. Doing so was not so unusual a few decades back. Bill Buckley and James Jackson Kilpatrick did it when provoked and it was always interesting. Yet today a columnist is a godlike figure. Today’s columnist communicates solely with Olympus, and the result is often a bit tedious.
I propose to address the New York Post’s Michael Goodwin and congratulate him on noting that mainstream media (MSM) have passed yet another milepost in their decline. Michael wrote in his column this weekend that “Donald Trump may or may not fix his campaign, and Hillary Clinton may or may not become the first female president. But something else happening before our eyes is almost as important: the complete collapse of American journalism as we know it.” And he elaborated: “The frenzy to bury Trump is not limited to the Clinton campaign and the Obama White House. They are working hand in hand with what was considered the cream of the nation’s news organizations.” Michael writes for a Rupert Murdoch newspaper and I write for the good Times and The American Spectator. None is a member of the MSM, but I would venture that neither of us is as tyrannized into homogeneity as the writers for the MSM. In fact, there exists more diversity of opinion about Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton where we write than within the MSM. In our audience we trust our readers to decide for themselves.
My only quibble with Michael is that I doubt the MSM had much credibility before it began its ambush of Mr. Trump, though for a certitude it has now gone beyond the point of no return. As he says, the MSM’s “reputations will likely never recover, nor will the standards. No future producer, editor, reporter or anchor can be expected to meet a test of fairness when that standard has been trashed in such willful and blatant fashion.” This is a historic moment. Mainstream Americans will continue their migration to the Internet. That is their alternative and in using it they will continue the steady bankruptcy of the news organizations of MSM.
Their abandonment of the standards for fairness and accuracy is completely willful. They find themselves indignant by the looseness with which Mr. Trump says certain things. Most egregious was their hysteria over a sentence fragment about what Second Amendment advocates might or might not do in response to Mrs. Clinton’s attacks on the amendment. The MSM insisted he was encouraging violence. Among mature adults that response was considered preposterous.
The MSM is aroused by Mr. Trump’s words but unbothered about actions that Mrs. Clinton has actually taken. They seem to think that Mr. Trump’s misfired jokes or loosely formulated statements are more dangerous to the commonweal than Mrs. Clinton’s decisions with her emails and her mendacious cover-ups.
Evidence of what FBI Director James Comey called Mrs. Clinton’s “extremely careless” mishandling of classified documents does not arouse the MSM’s sense of alarm. Even evidence of repeated conflict of interest in her co-mingling of Foundation work and State Department work does not trouble the MSM. Their aphorism is not that actions speak louder than words but that words are more alarming than actions.
Actually, Hillary Clinton’s server on which many of her actions were captured will be to her candidacy what Monica’s DNA bespattered dress was to Bill Clinton’s presidency. That is to say, her server will be remembered as high-tech proof that Hillary is a liar. Consider her polls. Sixty-eight percent of the electorate already consider her “untrustworthy,” and as of Monday evening, we are informed of the discovery of 14,900 more emails that she failed to turn over to the authorities.
The MSM may think that Hillary’s actions do not reverberate as loudly with the American people as a handful of cavalier utterances from Donald, but I think they are mistaken. Her acts and the lies she has repeated to cover up for them are going to become increasingly consequential in this race. They will be repeated on the Internet, within the alternative media, in the conservative press, and — at least transiently — in the MSM itself. Lying about mishandled intelligence and repeated conflicts of interest may not be serious matters with the MSM. My guess is they are with the average American.
Michael Goodwin has drawn our attention to an important historical development. With the trashing of Donald Trump and the celebration of a career criminal, the mainstream media have become passe.
• R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is author of “The Death of Liberalism,” published by Thomas Nelson Inc.