Victor Davis Hanson

Trump pounds final nail into mainstream media’s coffin

In this Nov. 21, 2015, file photo, Donald Trump supporters ‘boo’ members of the media after a heckler was removed during a campaign stop in Birmingham, Ala. The news in 2016 was filled with battles over culture and territory that exposed divisions far deeper than many realized.
In this Nov. 21, 2015, file photo, Donald Trump supporters ‘boo’ members of the media after a heckler was removed during a campaign stop in Birmingham, Ala. The news in 2016 was filled with battles over culture and territory that exposed divisions far deeper than many realized. AP file

President-elect Donald Trump probably will not often communicate with the nation via traditional press conferences. Nor will Trump likely field many questions from New York/Washington journalists.

What we know as “the media” never imagined a Trump victory. It has become unhinged at the reality of a Trump presidency.

No wonder the fading establishment media is now distrusted by a majority of the public, according to Gallup – and becoming irrelevant even among progressives.

Once upon a time in the 1960s, all the iconic news anchors, from Walter Cronkite to David Brinkley, were liberal. But they at least hid their inherent biases behind a professional veneer that allowed them to filter stories through left-wing lenses without much push-back.

When Cronkite returned from Vietnam after the 1968 Tet Offensive and declared the war stalemated and unwinnable, no one dared to offer the dissenting viewpoint that Tet was actually a decisive American victory.

The mainstream-media narrative in 1963 that Lee Harvey Oswald, the Castro-ite, communist assassin of President John F. Kennedy, was a product of right-wing Texas hatred was completely crazy – but largely unquestioned.

That old monopoly over the news, despite the advent of cable television and the internet, still lingered until 2016. Even in recent years, Ivy League journalism degrees and well-known media brand names seemed to suggest better reporting than what was offered by bloggers and websites.

Soft-spoken liberal hosts on public TV and radio superficially sounded more news-like than their gravelly voiced populist counterparts on commercial radio and cable news.

Yet the thinning veneer of circumspection that had supposedly characterized the elite liberal successors to Cronkite and Brinkley was finally ripped off completely by a media meltdown over Trump.

Journalists such as Jim Rutenberg of The New York Times and Christiane Amanpour of CNN said that they could not – and should not – be neutral reporters, given their low opinion of Trump.

When the press is unashamedly slanted, even its benefactors want even more partiality – media heartthrob Barack Obama included.

In his last press conference as president, Obama attacked pet journalists for reporting on WikiLeaks’ release of emails from John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s former campaign manager, supposedly at the expense of his own legacy and Clinton’s accomplishments.

The WikiLeaks trove certainly proved another disaster to the media – but only because it revealed that mainstream journalists conspired with the Clinton campaign.

CNN’s Donna Brazile leaked possible debate questions to Clinton. One op-ed columnist, Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, even asked Clinton-ites for research to help him attack Trump.

Politico’s Glenn Thrush sent a story to the Clinton campaign team to be audited before publication. He begged to keep his collusion quiet and admitted that he had become a “hack” for such journalistic impropriety. Thrush may have been rewarded for his predictable left-wing bias, recently being hired by the New York Times as a White House correspondent.

Last week, New York Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman grotesquely suggested via Twitter that Trump might welcome another 9/11-like attack, given that such a human catastrophe supposedly helped win support for George W. Bush.

Recently, another Politico reporter, Julia Ioffe, used Twitter to relay a news story about the possibility that Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, would get an office at the White House. In her tweet, Ioffe suggested that Trump was either having incestuous relations with his daughter or skirting nepotism laws.

Politico fired Ioffe – sort of. She had already announced that she was moving from Politico to the Atlantic.

Yet the Atlantic announced that it would not rescind her hire – suggesting that her political bias, despite the accompanying unprofessionalism and uncouthness, could almost be interpreted as a plus.

In today’s media, all of this progressive distortion serves as an insurance policy for lapses of personal integrity like those of Thrush and Ioffe.

MSNBC anchor Brian Williams sermonized about the so-called “fake news” epidemic. Williams failed to remind us that he was removed as NBC’s evening news anchor for serving up all sorts of fake details about his supposedly brave trips abroad in search of edgy news stories.

After the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., the co-hosts of the show “CNN Newsroom” collectively put up their hands in “hands up, don’t shoot” solidarity – echoing a narrative of police murder later proved to be completely false by a lengthy federal investigation.

Decades-long journalistic one-sidedness was apparently tolerable when there were no other news alternatives. Mainstream-media monopolies once were also highly profitable, and long-ago liberal news people were at least well-mannered.

All of those assumptions are no longer true. News outlets such as The New York Times and NBC have no more credibility than most websites or the National Enquirer.

Is it any surprise that we are witnessing the funeral for traditional journalism as we once knew it?

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University and the author of “The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern.”

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