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November 28th, 2021

Insight

Media Is a Threat to the Country

Laura Hollis

By Laura Hollis

Published April 17, 2020

Media Is a Threat to the Country

And the national press wonders why it is mistrusted, and even despised?

Sen. Tom Cotton was among the first to suggest that the information China was releasing regarding the novel coronavirus emerging from Wuhan might be inaccurate. Cotton raised the specter that the Chinese national virology laboratory in Wuhan could have played a role — even if inadvertent. For that, he was ridiculed. Cotton is a Republican, so his statement was the press's cue to trot out the tropes: This was just some wacky conspiracy theory. His accusations have already been "debunked." He's a war hawk pitching a "fringe theory" bought into by all the other right-wing kooks who also suspect foul play or grievous error in China.

None of that was journalism. That was just repeating Democratic National Committee talking points and dutifully disseminating the propaganda of the communist Chinese government.

Journalism would have been doing what National Review's Jim Geraghty, YouTuber Matthew Tye and Scientific American's Jane Qiu have done: digging through news reports from online Chinese news agency Caixin Global; going through scholarly journals to find papers on viruses in bats being studied at the Wuhan virology laboratory; discovering advertisements for research positions at that same laboratory that require expertise in coronavirus strains in bats; interviewing scientist Shi Zhengli (called "bat woman" or the "bat lady"), who actually went into the caves in the Yunnan province (hundreds of miles from Wuhan, in the Hubei province) where the horseshoe bats that likely carry this virus live — a different type of bat than those sold in the Wuhan wet market, by the way.

All of that was discoverable through research. Discovering it would have been journalism. But actual journalism would have proven Sen. Cotton correct. And we can't have that.

Similarly, it would have been journalism to actually investigate the claims about corruption within the FBI, and the dangerous politicization of the FISA surveillance warrant process that Rep. Devin Nunes warned of two years ago. He was roundly criticized and his warnings pooh-poohed. And yet, when inspector general Michael Horowitz's report proved Nunes correct, there were crickets. No "We were wrong." No bombshell revelation. Just silence from the Fourth Estate.

It's so much easier to simply repeat what you've been told to say, and what all your politically simpatico friends in the business are saying. And it's much more fun to nudge-nudge-wink-wink and laugh with one another at how morally and intellectually superior you are to the average American than it is TO JUST DO YOUR JOB.

The press is disbelieved — and even loathed — because it has lost its credibility. This has happened by virtue of its own actions. Members of the press blame Trump for the public's antipathy toward them (big shock — they blame Trump for everything), but like most modern unpleasant political phenomena, this didn't start with Trump. He simply made visible that which has been going on, largely unacknowledged, for decades.

The national press is pushing back. We should appreciate the press, it claims, because Trump is an aspiring fascist, and that's why it "covers" him like a swarm of hornets.

YAWN.

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Dearest media: It's not that we don't want you to aggressively challenge the people in power. To the contrary, we'd like some equal opportunity aggression.

But we've seen that you only challenge those in power when you don't like their politics. Your guy? Your fave female? They skate. They can get away with all the same things you purport to be outraged about — corruption, deception, sexual misconduct, self-dealing, government overreach — when you accuse political opponents of the very same thing.

So Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh is a "pig" and a presumed rapist because of a 35-year-old uncorroborated allegation. But an allegation that former President Joe Biden penetrated a woman with his fingers in 1993? Time to defuse that inconvenient bombshell with calculated silence or bland coverage. Time to challenge the accuser's credibility and tut-tut about the troublesome gaps in her story. Time to parade out the faux feminists who care about due process and the destruction of men's lives and careers only when it's men whose political viewpoints they like.


Yes, the people you all like will skate. And they know it. So they can flout laws and ethics and morals and even common decency with impunity because they know you've got their backs.

And it's not just politicians with whom you agree who get this white-glove, powder-puff treatment. It's CEOs of incredibly powerful corporations. It's wealthy investors. It's dictators and foreign governments. It's highly regarded academics and thought leaders. It's powerhouse entertainment and media moguls.

No matter who they are or what they've done, as long as they're reliably leftist, they'll be held to a different standard.

You want to know why Americans don't trust you? Because you're arrogant. You're condescending. You're corrupt. You're hypocritical. You're shockingly ignorant. You're pawns in a much bigger game, and your refusal to hold ALL powerful people to account is malfeasance that puts the country at risk. And not just from coronavirus.

Do you want to earn back the public's trust? Stop playing political favorites. Stop trying to shape the news instead of report the news. Stop seeing everything through the lens of your personal politics.

Do your job.

(COMMENT, BELOW)

Laura Hirschfeld Hollis is on the faculty at the University of Notre Dame, where she teaches courses in business law and entrepreneurship. She has received numerous awards for her teaching, research, community service and contributions to entrepreneurship education.

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