In large part, the mainstream media missed or dismissed the rise of President-elect Donald Trump.
But CNN’s Brian Stelter, who tries to dissect the press in his weekly show “Reliable Sources,” didn’t think it was their fault as much as it was the rise of an “anti-media” phenomenon that polluted the election cycle.
Mr. Stelter echoed the narrative of New York Times columnist Nicolas Kristof, who wrote, “fake news is gaining ground, empowering nuts and undermining our democracy.”
So what on earth are they talking about? Well, probably my column over here at The Washington Times.
Here’s an excerpt of Mr. Stelter’s soliloquy Sunday, of what he defines as “anti-media”:
“Breitbart is anti-media. Much of Fox News is anti-media. Fake news websites and some right wing blogs are anti-media. These outlets provide a different audience with a different set of facts about the world. But too often what they’re really selling is opinion and conspiracy theory masquerading as fact. These sites, these outlets, they present themselves as the opposite of traditional news sources, the anecdote to mainstream media.”
Lot to unpack here. But let’s have a go.
First, the reason why Fox News and Breitbart are so successful are they gave a voice to conservatives whose ideology was underrepresented in the mainstream media. They simply filled a vacuum in the marketplace.
This election cycle on CNN, it wasn’t uncommon to see three liberal pundits sitting around a table, with an anti-Trump Republican and one Trump supporter. And that ratio was on a good day.
Yes, Fox and Breitbart have a “different audience,” only because their audience doesn’t believe in the liberal propaganda being spewed by other networks and cable outlets.
There’s only so many times one can hear that Mr. Trump is a bigot, racist and misogynist before you want to flip the dial.
Mr. Kristof actually thinks that “there was too much uncritical television coverage of Trump because he was good for ratings; then there was not enough investigation of his business dealings, racism and history of sexual assaults, and too much false equivalency that equated the two candidates as equally flawed.”
In one evening-to-morning news shift this election cycle, the major broadcast networks dedicated 4 hours and 13 minutes to Mr. Trump’s sexual misconduct compared to 36 minutes of coverage on Mrs. Clinton during this same time period, according to a report by the Media Research Center.
That’s just one example. There was enough coverage. Too much, I could argue.
To argue as Mr. Stelter has, that “anti-media” news alternatives have a “different set of facts,” is completely accurate — they cite studies from conservative organizations like the Heritage Foundation or libertarian-leaning Cato — two institutions seldom used by CNN.
To infer one set of “facts” is wrong — like Mr. Stelter does — is well, just not telling the entire story.
Does voter fraud exist? Yes. Was there backlash and violence committed against Trump supporters? You bet. Are there paid protesters and agitators meant to stir up anti-Trump sentiment? You better believe so. Just go to Craigslist to catch the listings, or watch James O’Keefe’s undercover video.
It’s stuff you can’t read about in the mainstream narrative. Whereas you can get your daily dose of Trump scandal — from how he’s going to cut off press access at the White House, to naming (how incredibly awful!) Breitbart’s Steve Bannon as a senior adviser (a man that helped Mr. Trump win the presidency).
Mr. Trump spoke in self-described “truthful hyperbole.” His supporters got it because he was touching on issues that hit home for them — safety, immigration, jobs and prosperity. He was talking in words, and with images, they could understand. He connected.
It was a connection the mainstream media never got. They simply couldn’t wrap their heads around how a reality-show television-star could become president. They never took his candidacy — or his supporters — seriously, but they did take him literally. And that was absurd.
Mr. Stelter was right on one other thing: these “anti-media” websites do position themselves as an anecdote to the mainstream media, because an anecdote is needed! After WikiLeaks exposed the coziness of Hillary Clinton’s team with the press, and CNBC’s John Harwood bragged to her campaign chairman about peppering Mr. Trump with hard debate questions, an alternative is deserved.
Us, in the “anti-media” were also on-point. Blogs like mine identified the disenfranchisement of the white working-class and frustrations within middle-America that the liberal elites ignored — or whose editorial rooms never felt rose to the significance of being covered.
“In the coming months I hope researchers will hone in on how anti-media persuaded voters in this election because today I can not tell you that I have all the answers or even many of the answers,” Mr. Stelter preached. “But I do know that all journalists, all real journalists, have a responsibility to the truth and it is not elitist to value to the truth.”
I too seek truth. And to break away from the media group-think that happens in the corridors of Washington, D.C., and New York City, that left many journalists, like Mr. Stelter, unable to grasp the potential of a Trump victory.