Lefty Pundits on Campaign Coverage: Way Too Much on Hillary’s E-Mails, Nowhere Near Enough on Trump’s Lies

November 11th, 2016 5:27 PM

In their respective articles alleging that the mainstream media facilitated the election of Donald Trump, Brian Beutler of The New Republic and Eric Alterman of The Nation overlapped somewhat. Each claimed that the Hillary e-mail story was wildly overcovered, with Beutler citing it as the shining example of how the media “failed abysmally” regarding the “framing and contextualizing of events.” Each posited the MSM’s responsibility for the public’s belief that Trump was more trustworthy than Clinton, with Alterman asserting that “it would be difficult to imagine a more damning indictment of our political media.”

Elsewhere, the two pundits diverged. Beutler singled out the media’s fascination, in the last ten days of the campaign, with Trump’s staying on message when they should have been pointing out that “on every single one of those days, he was saying outrageous and false things at a dizzying clip” (bolding added):

Many different incentives drove this phenomenon: the fact that campaign journalism abhors the absence of a horserace; the competition for audience share; the bias toward balance; the attendant stove-piping of news content into Republican and Democratic bundles—where Trump’s bundle was filled with so many outrages, no single one could define him, but Clinton’s was filled almost entirely with email-related stories, feeding the false impression of that she’d committed a disqualifying error.

Moreover, Beutler stressed, the MSM didn’t convey that Trump and his constituency were simply disreputable: “Trump resembles the political leaders of the European far right, and his core supporters embrace him for that very reason; but this was generally not the way he was portrayed, and definitely not the way his supporters were portrayed…The inability of political media to process and communicate asymmetry between the parties is a genuine crisis for the industry and our political culture.”

What Liberal Media? author Alterman took a long-term view, contending that relentless lobbying from the right has paid off in the form of lax treatment from the media:

There’s no truth to [the] contention that network coverage has been unfair to Trump; quite obviously, the reverse is true. But conservatives learned long ago that there’s no limit to the effectiveness of their “work the refs” strategy, with the networks bending over further and further to placate their demands…

…Many in the media, particularly the television networks, treat the lies, hate speech, calls to violence, and outright nuttiness that characterize modern Republicanism as merely one version of the truth, leaving journalists with no greater responsibility than to offer the “other side” the chance to rebut it. This is the fruit of more than 40 years of working the refs.