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Press Freedom

This Week in the Narrative 93

Nigel Clarke

This appears to be the third part of a series. Shall we call it the slope with poor footing? Or the frog and water? Or should we just go straight to Orwell – “imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”

This week, the Boston Globe put the call out to newspapers across the country, asking for a coordinated day of editorials to stand up to President Trump’s attacks on the media, to stand up for freedom of the press and the 1st Amendment.

It was curious timing, the week after Silicon Valley tech companies flexed their 1st Amendment-crushing muscles totally independently of the Trump administration. But these types of things come at us from all sides, and criticism of Trump’s antagonistic relationship with the media is about as fair as it gets.

The problem that the mainstream media runs into when they make dramatic proclamations about journalistic integrity is that they don’t’ really have a leg to stand on. This, the natural progression of their decades-long decline in credibility — that someone would eventually come along and question their credibility. They cannot offer a piece of celery as an alternative to Trump’s cupcake, with the requisite promises of improved health, only a critique of the cupcake and a donut.

Yet, in many of the flowery editorials that appeared in over 350 sources across the country, the mainstream media spoke of themselves in a way which harkened back to a period 50 or 60 years ago, long before our current age in which five companies control 90% of US media, in which hundreds of homogeneous news sources promote the same corporate-specific narrative.

To get the full effect of the editorials, you must push out of your mind that in 2018 only 23% of Americans have confidence in newspapers (though that is still higher than the 20% confidence in television news). Push out of your mind that newspaper circulation — both print and digital — is in the midst of 30 consecutive years of decline.

Instead, while you read them, imagine a journalist hunched over a typewriter in a smoky office building, wearing a suit with a thin tie and a fedora with a card that says “Press” wedged into it, probably smoking a cigar.

But this is not about the self-mollifying back-pats and self-esteem building of the mainstream media.

Hidden within the Boston Globe’s condemnation of Trump which touched off the editorial melee were some alarming statistics. Particularly on the part of those who call themselves Republicans.

According to a recent Ipsos Poll:

Nearly 50% of Republicans agree with the statement, “The news media is the enemy of the American people,” with only 22% disagreeing.

43% of Republicans agree that “The President should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior.” Barely one in three Republicans disagrees with this statement.

Bad behavior? That’s awfully vague.

Further, nearly a quarter of Republicans think “President Trump should close down mainstream news outlets, like CNN, the Washington Post, and the New York Times.”

These are the people who soliloquize about the 1st Amendment and rail against “PC culture,” the people who want to freely call those they perceive as weak [insert derogatory words based on gender or sexuality].

Yet … they want to close down media platforms they disagree with.

Throw that on the pile with last week, when some on the left applauded as liberal tech companies effectively banned an alt-right platform from the internet, and the week before that, when Google was exposed for creating a ‘censorship-included’ version of its platform.

What is this, oil? Or, butter or something?

Either way, this slope is getting quite slippery.


Quote of the Week:


Written by Nigel Clarke

Writer and notorious vagabond. From the frozen north. Follow Nigel on Twitter @Nig_Clarke.

Nigel Clarke is a Writer for Progressive Army.

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