The decay of political reporting

Beyond The Washington Post (hi, David Fahrenthold!) and a few pieces, three or four, journalism in 2016 saw the nadir of its obsession with false objectivity and false equivalence. There wasn’t a Trump story during the election cycle that a newspaper didn’t mitigate with a story about Clinton’s emails. Rick Perlstein gasps. “The Trump transition has put in stark relief the very foundations of the profession of journalism in modern America—whose fundamental canon is that there are two legitimate sides to every story, occasionally more, but never less,” he writes. “In a political campaign, they are structured on an iron axis. The Democratic side. The Republican side. Any critical attempt to weigh the utterances of one as more dangerous than the other is, by definition, the worst conceivable professional sin.” Except when Hillary Clinton’s emails are a story, or, indeed, any Hillary Clinton story:

The elite gatekeepers of our public discourse never bothered with context: that every Secretary of State since the invention of the internet had done the same thing, because the State Department’s computer systems have always been awful; that at the end of the administration of the nation’s 41st president a corrupt national archivist appointed by Ronald Reagan upon the recommendation of Dick Cheney signed a secret document giving George H.W. Bush personal, physical custody of the White House’s email backup tapes so they would never enter the public record. (A federal judge voided the document as “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and contrary to law.”) The White House of his son George W. Bush erased 22 million of its official emails, including those under subpoena from Congress. Newspapers archived by the Lexis-Nexis database mentioned Hillary R. Clinton’s 33,000 erased private emails 785 times in 2016. I found six references to George W. Bush’s 22 million erased public ones: four in letters to the editor, one in a London Independent op-ed, another in a guide to the U.S. election for Australians, and one a quotation from a citizen in the Springfield (Ohio) News-Sun.

And now we have Donald Trump, elected in part because of his alleged tender concern for the secure handling of intelligence, making calls to world leaders from Trump Tower’s unsecured telephones.

On NBC Nightly News last night, the program, to my surprise, aired a segment about Michael Flynn Jr., son of the incoming national security adviser, and his history of posting and endorsing anti-Muslim drivel. Thanks to unexpected and welcome press resistance, the darling child will no longer work on the transition.

A few hours ago, “Morning” Joe and “Mika” Bryzinski, kneeling before a portrait of David Broder, hoped Robert Gates was under serious consideration for secretary of state. He would be seen, they suggested, as a stabilizing force. Should the overrated scion of American foreign policy work for an ignorant white supremacist, he’d do more normalizing than was dreamt of in Scarborough’s philosophy.

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