Journalists’ fight against propagandists begins in earnest

I’m proud to write for The Guardian, and I’m glad to see they’ve responded to a Breitbart onslaught with a calm but firm statement of the facts.

Let’s be absolutely clear. This is not “left wing” vs. “right wing.” The two sides here are not equivalent. This is truth vs. lies. In this case, it’s an attempt to label demonstrable facts on border crossings as “fake news,” lumping it in the same category as the websites that have made Weekly World News look rational.

And it’s part of an ongoing deliberate attack on the nature of truth, one that leads to many Americans going against overwhelming scientific consensus on everything from climate change to vaccines (with creationism still lurking in there somewhere). It leads to the propagation of absurd conspiracy theories like the one that prompted a North Carolina man to walk into a D.C. pizza place armed to the teeth in what we would call an act of terror if a Muslim did it.

Do Democrats sometimes bend the truth? Yes. Call them out on it. We all should.

But don’t pretend that it’s the same as what you’re seeing here, where the powers-that-be don’t just want to spin something but want to undermine the very forces that hold them accountable.

And we cannot allow that to happen.

An excerpt from the piece:

In so doing, Breitbart also appeared to foreshadow an emerging line of attack from Trump loyalists against journalists and media organizations who don’t adhere to the president-elect’s version of events. On Tuesday, this sentiment was loudly proclaimed by Newt Gingrich, a longtime advocate for the president-elect, who said that Trump supporters were entering a “world in which we get to tell the truth”.

Let’s talk about Gingrich and “truth” for a second. This is the man who called Trump’s border wall, which a lot of his supporters took literally, a “campaign device.” You know … fiction.

And there’s this memorable appearance in defense of “feelings” over “facts”:

That’s the closest you’ll ever come to seeing someone admit facts have a liberal bias.

They don’t, of course. But here’s the problem: When a journalist cites facts, that journalist is dismissed as having a liberal bias. Pointing out campaign promises a candidate has no intention of keeping is not “liberal bias.” Pointing to scientific consensus on climate change is not “liberal bias.” Fact-checking and pointing out fake news are not “liberal bias.” And in this case, pointing out the actual numbers on immigration is “liberal bias.” Or you’re a “Social Justice Warrior.” Case in point:


Journalists are far from perfect. We need diverse voices — we may not be amplifying the voice of the reasonable Republican as well as we should, but neither are we amplifying the voices of African-Americans or Hispanics as well as we should. We need to discuss and debate the headlines.

But we need to do so with respect to institutions that have long strived to be self-correcting. Newspapers are one of the few products ever manufactured that carry criticisms of that product (letters to the editor) within the product. You don’t buy a pair of socks that has a bunch of testimonials about how lousy these socks really are on the package.

We’re listening to legitimate criticism. Always have, always will. It’s sometimes tough to discern what’s legitimate in all the noise — I know plenty of journalists who have to tune out Twitter replies, or else they’d spend all day reading abusive junk in the search for that one good point — but be patient, polite (or at least amusing) and persistent, and we’ll listen.

If you want to be adversarial toward the press, fine. There’s a legitimate role for that. Just remember that the enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend.

You want the truth. These people do not. Period.

The Guardian does run some risk here. Journalists don’t want to spend all their time responding to nonsense from disreputable people. But some of those people are in power now, and we need to hold them accountable. That’s the job we signed up for. And we’re going to keep doing it, no matter how much people try to bully us.



One thought on “Journalists’ fight against propagandists begins in earnest

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s