Nov. 10, 2016, "Commentary: The unbearable smugness of the press," CBS News, Will Rahn
"The mood in the Washington press corps is bleak, and deservedly so. It
shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that, with a few exceptions, we
were all tacitly or explicitly #WithHer, which has led to a certain
anguish in the face of Donald Trump’s victory. More than that and more
importantly, , after having spent months mocking the people who had a better sense of what was going on.
This is all symptomatic of modern journalism’s great moral and intellectual failing: .
Had Hillary Clinton won, there’s be a winking “we did it” feeling in
the press, a sense that we were brave and called Trump a liar and saved
So much for that. The audience for our glib analysis and contempt for
much of the electorate, it turned out, was rather limited. This was
particularly true when it came to voters, the ones who turned out by the
millions to deliver not only a rebuke to the political system but also
the people who cover it. when he invited his crowds to jeer and hiss the reporters covering him. They hate us, and have for some time.
can you blame them? Journalists love mocking Trump supporters. We
insult their appearances. We dismiss them as racists and sexists. We
emote on Twitter about how this or that comment or policy makes us feel
one way or the other, and yet we reject their feelings as invalid.
a profound failure of empathy in the service of endless posturing.
There’s been some sympathy from the press, sure: the dispatches from
“heroin country” that read like reports from colonial administrators
checking in on the natives. But much of that starts from the assumption
that Trump voters are backward, and that it’s our duty to catalogue and
ultimately reverse that backwardness. What can we do to get these people to stop worshiping their false god and accept our gospel?
diagnose them as racists in the way Dark Age clerics confused medical
problems with demonic possession. Journalists, at our worst, see
ourselves as a priestly caste. We believe we not only have access to the
indisputable facts, but also a greater truth, a system of beliefs
divined from an advanced understanding of justice.
that Trump’s victory – the one we all discounted too far in advance –
would lead to a certain newfound humility in the political press. But of
course that’s not how it works. To us, speaking broadly, our diagnosis
was still basically correct. The demons were just stronger than we
This is all a “whitelash,” you see. Trump voters are
racist and sexist, so there must be more racists and sexists than we
realized. Tuesday night’s outcome was not a ; no, it was a primal scream against fairness, equality, and progress. Let the new tantrums commence!
That’s the fantasy, the idea that if we mock them enough, call them
racist enough, they’ll eventually shut up and get in line. It’s similar
to how media Twitter works, a system where people who dissent from the
proper framing of a story are attacked by mobs of smugly incredulous
pundits. Journalists exist primarily in a world where people can get
shouted down and disappear, which informs our attitudes toward all
Journalists increasingly don’t even believe in the
possibility of reasoned disagreement, and as such ascribe cynical
motives to those who think about things a different way. We see this in
the ongoing veneration of “facts,” the ones peddled by explainer
websites and data journalists who believe themselves to be curiously
That the explainers and data journalists so
frequently get things hilariously wrong never invites the soul-searching
you’d think it would. Instead, it all just somehow leads us to more
smugness, more meanness, more certainty from the reporters and pundits.
Faced with defeat, we retreat further into our bubble, assumptions left
unchecked. No, it’s the voters who are wrong.
As a direct result, .
Out on the road, we forget to ask the right questions. We can’t even
imagine the right question. We go into assignments too certain that what
we find will serve to justify our biases. The public’s estimation of
the press declines even further -- fewer than one-in-three Americans
trust the press, per Gallup -- which starts the cycle anew.
There’s a place for opinionated journalism; in fact, it’s vital. But
our causal, profession-wide smugness and protestations of superiority
are making us unable to do it well.
Our theme now should be
humility. We must become more impartial, not less so. We have to abandon
our easy culture of tantrums and recrimination. We have to stop writing
these know-it-all, 140-character sermons on social media and admit
that, as a class, journalists have a shamefully limited understanding of
the country we cover.
What’s worse, we don’t make much of an
effort to really understand, and with too few exceptions, treat the
economic grievances of Middle America like they’re some sort of
Sometimes quite literally so, such as when reporters tweet
out a photo of racist-looking Trump supporters and jokingly suggest that
they must be upset about free trade or low wages.
We have to fix
this, and the broken reasoning behind it. There’s a fleeting fun to
gang-ups and groupthink. But it’s not worth what we are losing in the
Thursday, November 10, 2016
Media thinks they did nothing wrong. It's that there must be more racists and sexists than they realized. Journalists have no reason to accommodate views other than their own. In their world, people who don't hold the correct view get shouted down and eventually disappear-CBS News, Will Rahn, commentary
Posted by susan at 8:49 PM