Our Crude News Network

By | 2017-07-12T14:21:17+00:00 June 6th, 2017|
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Progressive media bias is now a given. The present generation of journalists and reporters tends to believe that just conveying the news no longer offers ample venue for their unappreciated talents, celebrity status, and deserved political influence.

As a result, they often massage coverage to find relevance as makers, not mere deliverers, of news. Like many academics, writers, and intellectuals of our bicoastal elite landscapes, they are naturally self-described idealists and left-of-center both politically and culturally.

Yet Donald Trump’s election as president has redefined the American media by stripping nearly all pretenses off its once carefully sculpted disinterested veneer. In other words, never before in American presidential history—not even during the dark days of Watergate—have the media so despised a sitting president.

The reasons have become clear: the outsider billionaire Trump’s politically-incorrect blasts and personal invective, his non-Washingtonian and often in-your-face behavior, his combative and undisguised contempt for progressive elites, his unexpected and unapologetic conservative agendas, and the liberal depression over his shocking victory that stopped cold an anticipated 16-year progressive agenda that really would have fundamentally transformed America in perhaps irrevocable fashion.

So the media’s anti-Trumpism is now daily fare. The Harvard Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy’s recent media bias study found that Trump coverage by CNN, to take one example, was 93% negative—a far greater percentage than even its earlier documented prejudices in 2008 and 2012 against John McCain and Mitt Romney.

Donald Trump’s election as president has redefined the American media by stripping nearly all pretenses off its once carefully sculpted disinterested veneer. In other words, never before in American presidential history—not even during the dark days of Watergate—have the media so despised a sitting president.

But after nearly two-years of an anti-Trump drumbeat, CNN’s rote biases have become pedestrian. There are only so many ways a Don Lemon or Fared Zakaria can express his antipathies for Donald Trump that so far seem to have had little effect on Trump’s presidency.

So what comes next after mostly polished and polite disdain?

The last two weeks answered that question: obscenity, crudity, and a sort of cruelty—ironic given those are some of the character defects that CNN has lectured the nation about are inherent in Donald Trump.

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper was forced to confess that he was both “crude” and “unprofessional” when, during an-on-air panel discussion, he cut off Trump supporter Jeffery Lord with the following putdown: “If he took a dump on his desk you would defend it. I mean, I don’t know what he would do that you would not defend!” What a strange simile for an anchor to use in front of a national audience.

Then there was the macabre photo moment of comedian Kathy Griffin—a CNN New Year’s Eve show co-host with Anderson Cooper—hoping to recapture fading attention by holding, in ISIS fashion, a gruesome bloody decapitated model of Donald Trump’s head. Like Anderson Cooper, Griffith later apologized, but given that she was not so central to CNN, she was expendable and so let go. Her dismissal helped spark her subsequent whiny rant that she was now herself a victim of an untoward backlash from the Trump family. (The passive-aggressive Griffin herself once ridiculed Sarah Palin’s Down’s Syndrome child with “Oh, Palin, ur goin down so hard, you’d better just stay in Wasilla w ur “retarded baby”).

After the recent savage terrorist attacks in London, CNN’s “religion” scholar, Reza Aslan (heretofore infamous largely for eating cooked brain tissues with self-described religious cannibals in India), wrote: “This piece of s— is a not just an embarrassment to America and a stain on the presidency. He’s an embarrassment to humankind.” Aslan is channeling the vulgarity of other journalists, which in turn has brought the inner vulgarian out of politicos like Tom Perez, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, John Burton and other Democratic grandees.

These vulgar anti-Trump biases of journalists and celebrities on CNN are not new. We remember, for example, the December 2016 hot-mic, off-camera video joke of CNN correspondent Suzanne Malveaux and her producers about the idea of President-elect Trump’s plane crashing. CNN, we also recall, was one of the first networks to air the existence of the fake-news dossier about Trump’s supposed sexual escapades in Moscow last January. The list of unhinged statements by CNN panel members and anchors could be expanded, but the point is not bias per se, but what accounts for the recent emphases on the grotesque (beheading chic, references to feces on a desk, scatology like “piece of s—t”)?

Crudity is not for the sake of crudity alone, but exists now for politics, and in particular for destroying Trump. The elite of the Left also believes, in ends-justifying-the-means fashion, that their ideological nobility demands unusual methods that might better further their message. CNN is merely the news façade of televised culture in general, as characterized by the obscene references to Trump fellatio and incest by celebrities or reporters like Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher, and Julia Joffe. Once Trump is deemed bad, then bad language and imagery are necessary to deal with him—the lower the bar, the better.

The answers are many. Propriety has largely vanished from American discourse, a legacy of the 1960s when “f—k” and “s—t” superseded old expletives like “damn”, largely because of the supposed revolutionary shock effect on polite, staid society. Now a coarsened culture has become indifferent to commonplace obscenity and we are in a downward spiral of always seeking the next scatological or sexual one-uppance.

Crudity is not for the sake of crudity alone, but exists now for politics, and in particular for destroying Trump. The elite of the Left also believes, in ends-justifying-the-means fashion, that their ideological nobility demands unusual methods that might better further their message. CNN is merely the news façade of televised culture in general, as characterized by the obscene references to Trump fellatio and incest by celebrities or reporters like Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher, and Julia Joffe. Once Trump is deemed bad, then bad language and imagery are necessary to deal with him—the lower the bar, the better.

Political and cultural impotence also explains the desperate descent into scatology and the macabre. The progressive establishment—network news, major newspapers, PBS and NPR, Hollywood, academia and the foundations—failed to stop the election of Donald Trump and the 100-day implementation so far of his anti-Obama agenda executive orders. Yet Trump was himself an adornment to ongoing Democratic losses of state legislatures, governorships, the House and Senate, and the Supreme Court. As a result, frustrated elites are psychologically melting down, as if unhinged crudity might do what past political messages and agendas and even the courts could not. If you will not change your political message, and your political message will not win the Electoral College, then you either hope to turn up the cultural heat in hopes that others will melt first or simply yourself spontaneously combust.

Sheer incompetence and laziness also play their own roles in the decline of networks like CNN into crude political movements rather than disinterested news agencies.

CNN has no idea of what are its standards of professional conduct (can a CNN political analyst like Donna Brazile leak debate questions to a candidate ahead of an upcoming CNN presidential primary debate and then subsequently lie about her behavior?). Instead. it adjudicates these scandals apparently on the basis, first, of the relative value of the offender to CNN’s profitability, and, second, of claims on race/gender/sexual preference persecution and victimhood (cf. Brazile’s initial stonewalling denials: “As a Christian woman I understand persecution, but I will not stand here and be persecuted because your information is totally false.”). More recently, CNN was charged with supposedly choreographing anti-terrorism protests in London, ostensibly as a way to further its narrative that British Muslim communities were outraged over the terrorists among them and actively seeking to suppress them.

As a result, frustrated elites are psychologically melting down, as if unhinged crudity might do what past political messages and agendas and even the courts could not. If you will not change your political message, and your political message will not win the Electoral College, then you either hope to turn up the cultural heat in hopes that others will melt first or simply yourself spontaneously combust.

Again, CNN has no real norms about making rather than reporting news because in our age of fake news, JournoList, the Wikileaks trove, and Washington political/media power marriages there are no recognized ethical boundaries any more in journalism. (Will updated network ethical handbooks have to specify that on-camera employees are barred from eating human flesh, or from exhibiting decapitated representational heads of politicians?) From Jorge Ramos to Jim Rutenberg, we hear defiantly that disinterested journalism is passé, and active media opposition to Trump’s narratives is now necessary in lieu of an effective Democratic Party resistance.

Over the next four years, expect CNN and others to follow further the trajectories of late-night potty-mouth comedians and unhinged performance artists who must seek to shock or vent when they can no longer either elucidate or entertain. In sum, the aim of crude network news is now to propagandize by any means necessary.

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About the Author:

Victor Davis Hanson
Victor Davis Hanson is an American military historian, columnist, former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He was a professor of classics at California State University, Fresno, and is currently the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush. Hanson is also a farmer (growing raisin grapes on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author most recently of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict was Fought and Won (Basic Books).