Thursday 18 June 2020

The revolution in the American media

It became very clear as soon as Trump was sure to win the Republican nomination that most American journalists working for major newspapers, sites and even TV channels had become political actors rather than news-gatherers but this process has this year gone even further. Very much further.

I just found two must-read articles on this subject. 

From an article on a site new to me:
Yet Fang found himself denounced online as a racist, then hauled before H.R. His crime? During protests, he tweeted this interview with an African-American man named Maximum Fr, who described having two cousins murdered in the East Oakland neighborhood where he grew up. Saying his aunt is still not over those killings, Max asked:

I always question, why does a Black life matter only when a white man takes it?... Like, if a white man takes my life tonight, it’s going to be national news, but if a Black man takes my life, it might not even be spoken of… It’s stuff just like that that I just want in the mix. 

Shortly after, a co-worker of Fang’s, Akela Lacy, wrote, “Tired of being made to deal continually with my co-worker @lhfang continuing to push black on black crime narratives after being repeatedly asked not to. This isn’t about me and him, it’s about institutional racism and using free speech to couch anti-blackness. I am so fucking tired.” She followed with, “Stop being racist Lee.”

The tweet received tens of thousands of likes and responses along the lines of, “Lee Fang has been like this for years, but the current moment only makes his anti-Blackness more glaring,” and “Lee Fang spouting racist bullshit it must be a day ending in day.” A significant number of Fang’s co-workers, nearly all white, as well as reporters from other major news organizations like the New York Times and MSNBC and political activists (one former Elizabeth Warren staffer tweeted, “Get him!”), issued likes and messages of support for the notion that Fang was a racist. Though he had support within the organization, no one among his co-workers was willing to say anything in his defense publicly.

...To save his career, Fang had to craft a public apology for “insensitivity to the lived experience of others.” According to one friend of his, it’s been communicated to Fang that his continued employment at The Intercept is contingent upon avoiding comments that may upset colleagues. Lacy to her credit publicly thanked Fang for his statement and expressed willingness to have a conversation; unfortunately, the throng of Intercept co-workers who piled on her initial accusation did not join her in this.

 From a very astute article on Unherd:

The lack of impartiality among journalists today helps explain why the media ecosystem they inhabit has been so integral in spawning the successive waves of moral panic that have engulfed US politics and culture over the past four years.
Just because something is a moral panic doesn’t mean its proximate causes are wholly fictitious. Take several instances that have arisen since the election of Trump, all with different features, and affecting different sectors of society, but all part of the same hysterical trajectory: #MeToo, “Nazi” alarmism and Russiagate. Sexual harassment and violence obviously exist, and sometimes go unreported; there really were a small band of “alt-right” instigators who gathered online and in person, inspired at least in part by Trump’s political success; and it is true that “Russian bots” probably do exist on social media to some negligible degree.

Even so, all three of these phenomena took on straightforward qualities of moral panic, namely: wildly exaggerated claims with little or no connection to the facts at hand, prophecies of terrifying apocalyptic threats, public shaming rituals, thinly-veiled political and interpersonal score-settling, relentless policing of private beliefs and attitudes, and an all-encompassing, irrational, accusatory frenzy.

Likewise, it’s certainly true that black Americans are often subject to overzealous law enforcement practices, and in some cases wrongfully killed by the police — with the George Floyd incident in Minneapolis being the latest egregious example. But the subsequent quest by hypermoralising journalists and activists to impose their will on media institutions, often by employing the tactics of what one might call “emotional terrorism”, has nothing to do with George Floyd. Rather, it has everything to do with their desire for power. It just so happens that invoking the rhetoric of racial and ideological grievance is an especially effective strategy for bludgeoning liberal-Left media institutions into submission.

With the concept of “journalism” having been expanded beyond recognition to include all forms of “content-producing” activity on the internet, the sentiments of younger “journalists” have fused almost totally with the sentiments of pop cultural and corporate activists in the same peer group. Among this cohort, there is widespread adherence to the principle expounded by the actor Rachel Zegler — who while herself not technically in “media,” might as well be, given her online content-production style: “RACISM ISN’T A DIFFERENCE OF OPINION PLEASE STOP SAYING THAT,” she recently proclaimed. (Needless to say, there are certainly “differences of opinion” around the definition of “racism”.)

Zegler’s attitude was distilled more crisply into a media context by E. Alex Jung, a senior writer at New York magazine, who declared: “The entire journalistic frame of ‘objectivity’ and political neutrality is structured around white supremacy.” Adhering to this mindset allows these journalists, and increasingly their employers, to deny that engaging in outright public protest activity is “political”, thus giving them licence to do essentially whatever they please without it being seen as an ethical breach.


  1. Matt Taibbi has had his own brushes with irritated public opinion, and so may be oversensitive to this charge.

  2. A significant number of Fang’s co-workers, nearly all white, as well as reporters from other major news organizations like the New York Times and MSNBC and political activists (one former Elizabeth Warren staffer tweeted, “Get him!”), issued likes and messages of support for the notion that Fang was a racist.

    "Nearly all white." That's the crucial point. When someone commits a sin against political correctness or Wokeism the mob that gathers to unperson him is usually mostly white liberals.

    People on the far right, especially Americans, assume that absolutely everything is about race. But it isn't. The anti-racism of today has little to do with race. It's about conformity and virtue-signalling. It's about ideological tribal markers.

    If a black person makes even a mild criticism of homosexuals the same liberal mob will gather to force him to conform to politically correct orthodoxy.

    It's all about rootling out heresy.