There is a perception, supported by many surveys, that what passes for contemporary journalism is more biased, even propagandistic, than in earlier times. One of the definitions of “journalism” on Dictionary.com will affirm that attitude for many: “writing that reflects superficial thought and research, a popular slant, and hurried composition …”
Journalism has, in fact, been infected by bias and sensationalism from the start. In his book, “Infamous Scribblers,” Eric Burns suggests that colonial journalism would often make today’s tabloids look like real news. Their slogan could have been “all the unfit news we print.”
Newspapers of those days published unverified scandals and statements by rival politicians that would today be considered slanderous, even libelous.
George Washington coined the phrase Mr. Burns used for his book title. The summary on Amazon.com reads: “The journalism of the era was often partisan, fabricated, overheated, scandalous, sensationalistic and sometimes stirring, brilliant, and indispensable. Despite its flaws — even because of some of them — the participants hashed out publicly the issues that would lead America to declare its independence and, after the war, to determine what sort of nation it would be.”
Fast-forward to 1920. Warren Harding is elected president. Initially, the press gushing over Harding could be compared to what today’s media are saying about President Joe Biden.
As Leesa Donner recalls on LibertyNation.com:
“Historian David Pietrusza’s riveting book ‘1920: The Year of the Six Presidents’ puts forth a ‘dazzling panorama of presidential personalities, ambitions, plots and counterplots,’ but in the end, it was the least offensive man who won.
“To say that the media was in love with Warren Harding is putting it mildly. … Mr. Pietrusza quotes Washington journalist Edward G. Lowry, who he tags as ‘often-acerbic’ portraying Harding thusly: ‘Kindliness and kindness … fairly radiate from him. He positively gives out even to the least sensitive a sense of brotherhood and innate good-will toward his fellow man.’ American author Irvin S. Cobb gushed: ‘I think I never met a kindlier man or a man of better impulses or one with more generous and gracious opinions of his fellow man.’”
After his death in 1923, the Teapot Dome scandal and an extramarital affair came to light, erasing the virginal political image of Harding created by the press.
Which brings me to the media “reporting” on Joe Biden’s inauguration.
The conservative website News Busters has compiled some examples that make the gushing over Harding and other politicians (JFK and Barack Obama come to mind) seem mild.
On Jan. 20, New York Times editor Lauren Wolfe tweeted: “Biden landing at Joint Base Andrews now. I have chills.” That recalls former MSNBC host Chris Matthews who said he “felt this thrill going up my leg” after an Obama speech.
CNN political director, David Chalian: “Those lights that are just shooting out from the Lincoln Memorial along the reflecting pool, it’s almost extensions of Joe Biden’s arms embracing America. It was a moment where the new President came to town and sort of convened the country in this moment of remembrance, outstretching his arms.”
Major Garrett of CBS News compared Mr. Biden’s Inaugural Address to that of a priest: “The beginning had a soaring rhetoric. A tiny bit at the end. The middle it sounded like a homily. … But like a priest explaining something from the Bible or something. ‘I’m breaking it down for you so we can all have a common language and a common understanding.’”
Please pass the Communion wafer.
Former Clinton adviser and ABC News co-anchor George Stephanopoulos said Mr. Biden’s speech had “echoes of Abe Lincoln.” Really?
There’s plenty more and will be more to come. Some of these people should receive awards from the SPCA because of their role as lapdogs for Mr. Biden.
• Cal Thomas, a nationally syndicated columnist, is the author of “America’s Expiration Date: The Fall of Empires, Superpowers and the United States” (HarperCollins/Zondervan, January 2020).