Charlie Cooke writing for National Review of the Sinema bathroom incident notes how different the press coverage would be if the senator had been harassed by right-wing activists in like manner.
Over at The Dispatch, David French blames “malice and misinformation” for the political divisions we now face. He makes a good argument, but in my opinion, he does not give sufficient emphasis to “why.” French says malice (hatred) spawns lies (misinformation) which in turn drives more malice in an ever-spiraling torrent. This, I would argue, is nothing new. What is relatively new is how the media covers it.
French writes “Yet broad consensus on the most important legislation now pending in Washington didn’t stop 80 percent of Biden voters and 84 percent of Trump voters from viewing the opposing party as a ‘clear and present threat to American democracy.’”
He goes on to note (as has been widely reported) that this is a result of misinformation – that the opposing sides misunderstand one another and are closer than either side is willing to admit. If true, the question I have is “Where are the two sides getting their information?” Obviously, the news media.
When I first became “politically aware” (for lack of a better term), the difference between a Republican administration and a Democratic one was mostly about how money was raised and spent. How much for programs like Social Security, how much for the military, and where would the money come from? There would also be relatively minor differences in foreign policy. I do not want to make these sound trivial, they frequently were not. The war in Vietnam was not a trivial matter, neither was a potential showdown with the Soviet Union. The oil embargo was real, inflation was real.
However, some things were nearly universally agreed on. For example the Bill of Rights. Was there ever talk of bringing back segregation, confiscating firearms, speech codes, and government control of the means of production? Yes, by crackpots and crazies – the minority fringe.
There was a time when the media treated crackpots and crazies as they should be. Socialists, communists, the Klan, and neo-Nazis didn’t get much press. They were largely ignored as the fringe they were (and are). I would say that in the ‘70’s you might have run across a story on the Klan about once a year. In contrast, CBS has given non-stop coverage of QAnon and conspiracy theories on their website for over a year here and here.
Ever hear of Victor Berger? Didn’t think so. He was the first socialist member of Congress, elected to the 62nd congress (1911 – 1913).
Both were fringe crackpots, rightly ignored by the media until the media decided to actively promote radicalism. Mainstream media this week decried the fact that two Democratic senators derailed a bill that had, according to them, “the support of the vast majority.” Since when is 48/100 a majority?
Until recently serious politicians did not discuss, and serious reporters did not report on, direct attacks on the foundational principles of the country. Packing the Supreme Court, doing away with the Bill of Rights, socialized higher education, destroying our domestic energy production, and conspiracy theories were the stuff of the radical fringes, rightly ignored by the media and politicians. Now these things, and much more radical nonsense, are all we hear about.
Pundits will complain that Republicans (or the NRA, or whoever the villain is that day) are blocking “common sense” gun control legislation. Then they go on to promote confiscating semi-automatic rifles and their magazines. That’s not “common sense” and it’s not mainstream, it’s radical. Shutting down our domestic gas and oil production is radical. The demands of BLM are radical. The 1619 Project is radical. Critical Race Theory is radical (and fantasy). But this sort of nonsense is not only taken seriously, it is promoted by the media.
If more than 80% on both sides of the divide believe the other side is an existential threat to the very existence of this country when in fact the majority of Americans are more or less in the middle, it’s because the media told them so.
We don’t hear much in the press about moderates or centrists unless of course, they spoil the agenda. Those two Democratic senators did the country a favor this week, they blocked the radicals (at least temporarily) and the press vilified them for it.
We conservatives rightly complain that the press never covers anything on our side of the argument unless it is (or can be spun) negative. But the press also pays very little attention to moderate Democrats. Democrat readers and viewers see QAnon and conspiracy theories, Republicans see AOC, Sanders, BLM, and 4 or 5 trillion dollars in new spending. And that’s exactly how the media wants it.