What’s Going Wrong in Conservative Media

I start with the near-obligatory reminder that I am on the record arguing that until establishment media hires enough people with non-Left viewpoints as both reporters and editors to constantly challenge newsroom groupthink, its fundamental biases will persist.

I tend to doubt Big Media will ever do this, but some recent stories about conservative media will hand them some easy rationalizations.

Judge Andrew Napolitano returned to Fox News Channel and affirmed his belief that Pres. Obama asked British intelligence to conduct surveillance on Pres. Trump.  He was previously suspended for making this claim and the supposed “news” side of Fox tried to distance itself from the apparently baseless claim.  But he not only repeated it on a straight news show in his return visit, but also appeared on another supposedly straight news show that evening (lest you think he got suspended again).

Geraldo Rivera accused the House Freedom Caucus of “treason” for opposing the failed House GOP healthcare bill.  Rivera is considered a Fox News correspondent, not a contributor.

Breitbart News has been denied permanent press credentials on Capitol Hill until it clarifies its links to a conservative nonprofit group as well to a major Trump donor whose family is an investor in the site.  And Breitbart’s brand of journalism has corporate advertisers trying to flee association with the site.

Not even GOP loyalists like radio talker Hugh Hewitt trust Breitbart as a news source.  Yet Breitbart dominates conservative social media, perhaps because the number of high-profile conservatives who regularly speak out about Breitbart’s excesses is pretty small.

Regnery Publishing is interested in publishing the book by Milo Yiannopoulos that was dropped by Simon & Schuster after comments surfaced in which Milo condoned sexual relationships between young teenagers and adults.  Apparently his anti-Semitic remarks need more publicity, because Regnery seems to be overlooking those also.

The Independent Journal Review has seen staff departures over the publication of a conspiracy theory and the site’s general editorial direction.  Reportedly, other staffers are also looking to leave.

Of all these stories, the IJR report is the most heartening, as it demonstrates that there are conservative journalists who do not want to be associated with the standards adopted by some conservative media outlets, and overlooked by many conservative media critics.

If conservatives want the establishment media to take conservative journalists seriously, they need to take conservative journalism seriously enough to hold it to the standards they want the establishment to observe.

Update: There’s a minor correction to this post (i.e., it does not affect the thesis) at the end of this companion post.

PS: Consider subscribing to WHRPT in the sidebar (the posts come straight to your inbox; no muss no fuss). And following WHRPT on Twitter.  Thanks for reading and sharing!

Reaping News

According to a new Harvard-Harris Poll, 59 percent of Republicans say they believe Pres. Trump’s claim that fmr. Pres. Obama wiretapped Trump Tower.  That claim has been rejected by FBI Dir. James Comey, as well as many GOP leaders in Congress.  Similarly, NSA Dir. Michael Rogers has rejected Trump’s claim that Obama asked British intelligence (GCHQ) to conduct surveillance on Trump.  Overall, 66 percent of registered voters reject the claim.

Trump and White House spox Sean Spicer relied on Fox News Channel pundit Judge Andrew Napolitano to justify their claim about GCHQ.  Napolitano had managed to mangle an already dubious claim by wacky CIA analyst-turned-blogger Larry Johnson on RT, the “news” channel funded by the Russian government.

The “news” side of Fox, including anchors Shepard Smith and Bret Baier, tried to distance itself from the ensuing international spat.  Napolitano was indefinitely suspended from FNC over the flap.  Cynics linked the suspension of Napolitano to the backlash the baseless claim could have on Fox News honcho Rupert Murdoch’s proposed deal to purchase Sky News in the UK.

The cynics are finding more ammo in yesterday’s editorial from the Murdoch-affiliated Wall Street Journal, which said of the wiretap claims that “the President clings to his assertion like a drunk to an empty gin bottle” and warned that “he needs support beyond the Breitbart cheering section that will excuse anything. As he is learning with the health-care bill, Mr. Trump needs partners in his own party to pass his agenda. He also needs friends abroad who are willing to trust him when he asks for support, not least in a crisis.”

It’s hard to discount the cynics in light of prior reports that Murdoch was much involved in directing the tone of Fox’s Trump programming, both when it was tough and when it turned soft.  And reports that there have been tensions within the WSJ’s newsroom over its Trump coverage.

Indeed, it’s a little rich to see the WSJ condemning the “Breitbart cheering section” while ignoring Sean Hannity wildly shaking his pom-poms for Trump from Murdoch’s sidecar.

The WSJ is right to be concerned about Trump’s credibility.  One hopes conservative media might take the moment to consider how much they are linking theirs to his, and how it affects the public discourse.

PS: Consider subscribing to WHRPT in the sidebar (the posts come straight to your inbox; no muss no fuss). And following WHRPT on Twitter.  Thanks for reading!

Sean Connery’s Advice on Trump, Russia, and Wiretapping

No, it’s not “one ping only.”

I considered really digging in on Pres. Trump’s allegation that fmr Pres. Obama wiretapped him, based on an article at Breitbart.  Although this article was based on old news stories, it was apparently all news to Trump, who then leapt to an accusation not fully supported by it.

Nevertheless, Trump’s claim served the political purpose of getting the right to focus more on the idea that the investigation(s) of contacts between people associated with his campaign may have been politically-motivated.  After all, the Obama administration abused its administrative and investigatory powers in other cases, so why not here?

My guess is that anyone reading this is already interested enough to have an opinion and that for me to add value, I would have to get very deeply into the weeds, perhaps mind-numbingly so.  Accordingly, I will try to add value by not talking about it.

Instead, I will observe that many of the people I see raising their blood pressure over this allegation (and the larger Trump/Russia narrative) tend to be at least eight years younger than I, and frequently considerably younger.  Of course, that may just reflect that I’m down with the kids.

People of that age generally have little direct and visceral memory of the time in which many conservatives thought Clinton White House Counsel Vince Foster was murdered.  Or that Pres. Clinton had some connection to a drug-running enterprise operating from Mena, Ark., and that there were mysterious deaths connected to it.

Conservatives were inclined to believe such things not only out of partisan passions, but also because the Clintons tended to be surrounded by a cloud of scandals.  The odds that Hillary Clinton turned $10,000 into $100,000 as a novice trader of cattle futures were indeed so astronomical as to defy belief.  There was evidence to suggest Hillary was involved in the firing and smearing of White House Travel Office employees in a classic bit of cronyism, even if the independent counsel declined to prosecute.

The independent counsel, however, did convict 15 people in the Whitewater scandal, including Bill and Hillary’s business partners in the the ill-fated real estate venture.  That investigation stalled when those same business partners, even after they were convicted, refused to discuss the Clintons’ role.

And there was Bill lying under oath in a sexual harassment case, the selling of the Lincoln Bedroom, and so on and so on and scooby dooby dooby.

The point is that when people have a shady track record, whether it be Clinton, Obama or Trump, partisans may be inclined to believe even crazy things about them.  Or at least believe them enough to want them investigated.

In fact, sometimes you don’t even need the shady track record.  I’m also old enough to recall when Very Serious People investigated whether George H. W. Bush flew in an SR-71 Blackbird jet to Paris to interfere with the Iranian hostage negotiations.  They also investigated whether he was involved in drug-running with the Contras in Nicaragua.  Apparently, if you have been director of the CIA, there is no limit to your capability for evil.

I mention this not to tell so many of those excited by the allegations against Trump or Obama to get off my lawn, Eastwood-style.  It is to observe that it is far different to have lived through the events described above than to hear or read about them.

People who have not been immersed in that sort of political climate may not understand the feeling of them.  They may not understand on an emotional level how easy it is to convince yourself that that things which seem crazy now seemed so much more reasonable to consider seriously at the time.

Given the track records of Trump and Obama, it may not be crazy to consider that there may be something (even if it’s a very soft version of the hysterics now) to the allegations against either man or their associates.  But maybe we’ll look back and — with the benefit of hindsight — conclude that some or all of it was indeed crazy.

What we do know is that there are investigations that will ultimately produce findings.  Regarding those results, as Sean Connery said as Jim Malone in The Untouchables: “Don’t wait for it to happen.  Don’t even want it to happen.  Just watch what does happen.”

Not that anyone will take that advice when there is punditry to be had.

Update: If you do want to get into the weeds on this issue, Stephen Hayes lays out what we know — and what we don’t know — at TWS.

PS: Consider subscribing to WHRPT in the sidebar (the posts come straight to your inbox; no muss no fuss). And following WHRPT on Twitter.  Thanks for reading and sharing!