Sunday, January 1, 2017

UPDATED: Fearless Journalism, Or Presidential Appeasement?

Happy New Year, everyone.

And now, a return to regular programming.

As 2017 dawns and the Trump presidency draws near, I have been wondering if the MSM will show any real backbone and fulfill the role traditionally ascribed to them as bulwarks of democracy. Or will they simply continue to be the abject failures that journalist and social prophet Chris Hedges calls them, sell-outs as part of the liberal class he takes to task in his book Death of the Liberal Class?

One of the prizes that journalists, on behalf of their corporate employers, hold most sacred is access. Given the unbridled contempt Trump has shown toward criticism, will there now be an effort at appeasement of the temperamental one? Indeed, Will both external and internal factors influence the media's approach to political coverage?

Early signs offer cause for concern. Take, for example, this report from The Guardian:
A journalist was temporarily banned from Facebook after a post in which he called Trump supporters “a nasty fascistic lot”, in the latest example of the social media platform’s censorship of journalists.
The social media giant later reversed its decision and apologized, but the trouble began when writer Kevin Sessums shared a post by
ABC political analyst Matthew Dowd that read: “In the last few hours I have been called by lovely ‘christian’ Trump fans: a jew, faggot, retard. To set record straight: divorced Catholic.”

Sessums added his own commentary, writing:

But as those who do hold Trump to the standards of any other person have found out on Twitter and other social media outlets these Trump followers are a nasty fascistic lot. Dowd is lucky he didn’t get death threats like Kurt Eichenwald. Or maybe he did and refuses to acknowledge them. If you voted for Trump and continue to support him and you think you are better than these bigoted virulent trolls, you’re not. Your silence enables them just as it did in the racist campaign that Trump and Bannon ran. In fact, hiding behind a civilized veneer in your support of fascism I consider more dangerous. We’re past describing you as collaborators at this point. That lets you off the hook. You’re Russo-American oligarchical theocratic fascists.
Seesums was initially informed that his post violated FB's community standards, a curious justification given much of what it deems to be consistent with those standards.

The writer's reaction was swift and excoriating:
It’s chilling. It’s arbitrary censorship ... Do I have to be careful about what I say about Trump now?
That does become the central question, doesn't it? And that leads to this concern: will mainstream journalists now practice a kind of prophylactic self-censorship? They might be wise to heed the advice of Newsweek reporter Kurt Eichenwald, who said on Saturday that
journalists needed to “grow a backbone” to deal with President-elect Donald Trump.

With a Republican-controlled House and Senate, expect the usual checks and balances of the American political system to completely fail. Let us all hope that mainstream journalism doesn't have to be consigned to the same category as well.

UPDATE: This Washington Post piece, replete with links, gets to the journalistic heart of the matter.


  1. They are called the "fourth estate" for a reason, Lorne. Democracy can't survive unless journalists grow a backbone.

    1. At their best, they tell people things they might prefer not to hear, Owen.