The Media Octopus and How to Fight It

The unholy alliance between the Compromised Media and the Democratic Party is today inarguable. The two have become largely indistinguishable in both ideology and, often, in personnel, with mainstream-media reporters moving into any given Democrat administration, then returning to the media when the Republicans win. The late Andrew Breitbart famously referred to this syndicate as the “Democrat-Media Complex”—a play on president Eisenhower’s warning, in his farewell address, about the “military-industrial complex”—and noted that this one is far more dangerous to our political health.

Like the “Octopus” in Frank Norris’s novel of the same name, which depicted the conflict between the wheat growers in California’s Central Valley and a vicious railroad conglomerate trying to steal their land, the Democrat-Media octopus has snaked its tentacles into nearly every area of our lives, and aims to seize not only hegemonic control of the culture, but also a permanent electoral majority—something it believed was within reach during the 2016 presidential campaign, only to see its hopes bitterly dashed by a corrupt, unlovely, unskilled legacy candidate so weighed down by her own repellent persona that even the mighty media couldn’t hoist her over the finish line.

And yet even the election couldn’t put paid to what has become known as the “resistance,” as if the defeated progressives and their media mouthpieces were the maquisards, bravely battling the Nazis in rural France, instead of urban poetasters they really are, tweeting insults from their urban redoubts in the Upper West Side and west Los Angeles. Notice, en passant, the celerity with which the term “Nazi” was reintroduced to the journalistic lexicon, with a new meaning (Republicans), and how prolonged this damaging fantasy has now become.

“Resisting” the results of a legitimately conducted American election speaks poorly of the Democrats, but they are, after all, the “loyal” opposition. The media, however, has no such motivational fig leaf behind which to hide. Beginning with the Clinton impeachment, they have gradually let the mask of objectivity and political impartiality slip, until now there is no pretense to the former impartial standards that more or less held from World War II until the late 1990s. Today’s Compromised Media have much more in common with the partisan European broadsheets of England, France, Italy and, to a lesser extent, Germany (whose media, like its political parties, essentially speaks with one voice) than they do with their former incarnations as the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Journalists will come to regret the abandonment of their professional principles, and their descent into rank partisanship, just as surely as the radical Left regrets having nominated Hillary Clinton over the Brooklyn-born “socialist” senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders. Still, there is a chicken-or-egg question here: which came first? The abandonment of principles under Clinton (“everybody does it,” “it’s just sex,” “it didn’t affect his job performance,” “hypocrisy is a good thing,” and “screw you”), or the untrained and unethical character of today’s journalists? A little of both, probably.

The next few weeks and months will not be kind to the profession. The Fusion GPS affair—in which a group of former journalists moved into opposition research, got entwined with members of the intelligence services of at least two (and probably three, including Russia) nations, passed off fanciful, if not outright fabricated information, which then very likely was used by rogue elements of the American intelligence community to justify the FISA application to tap the Trump campaign and later, the nascent administration—is one unholy mess. And when the Fusion banking records are finally released, along with the Nunes memo outlining how journalists effectively tried to short-cut Woodward and Bernstein and take down a Republican administration by creating their very own “scandal” out of the whole cloth of ideological resentment… well, heads should roll.

Meanwhile, throughout its first year, the Trump White House’s “what-me-worry?” communications shop has been slow to react and loath to punish its tormentors. Any pushback against individual reporters or news organizations immediately brings cries of censorship as partisan scribblers and airheads with microphones suddenly rediscover the First Amendment. Never mind that many of them (David Axelrod, George Stephanopoulos, David Gergen) have been working both sides of the street for decades; what was once conflict of interest is now excused in the name of “access,” “sourcing,” and “up yours.”

What can be done? The administration should not be in the business of choosing which individual reporters are credentialed, but surely it has the right to withdraw the passes of reporters of proven and demonstrable hostility, which renders them incapable of covering the news fairly. The promiscuous tweeting of a pair of White House correspondents employed by the implacably Trump-hostile New York Times became so egregious that the newspaper’s editor, Dean Baquet, had to issue an edict against it.

The administration took an early step in the right direction when it opened the press corps up to non-traditional media, including bloggers and web-only publications. But this has only exacerbated the problem as, in many cases, the alternative right-wing media was even more rabidly partisan than the Compromised Media, setting off a race to the bottom that has ultimately been won by CNN and Jim Acosta.

So perhaps some time in the penalty box is in order. The press has a constitutional right to cover the news any way it sees fit, but the White House is under no obligation to indulge its grandstanding, or to provide a forum for its axe-grinding.

If, for example, the Times cannot control its employees from contradicting its own stated mission of objectivity and fairness—“If our journalists are perceived as biased or if they engage in editorializing on social media, that can undercut the credibility of the entire newsroom,” Baquet’s memo read—then the White House and other governmental agencies should have the right to pull individual credentials. And if the publication refuses, then to pull its institutional credentials as well, for a defined period: say, nine months, in honor of the human gestation period they so adamantly deny is human.

The Trump campaign took a step in this direction when it banned the Washington Post from its events. While this only intensified the Post’s hostility, it didn’t prevent the paper from writing about the campaign, or expressing its opinions about the unsuitability of the candidate in both its editorial and news columns. No administration has the right to dictate the tone and tenor of its coverage, but it does have a right to institutional fairness. Why, it’s all spelled out right here in the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics. Among its strictures:

  • Take responsibility for the accuracy of their work. Verify information before releasing it. Use original sources whenever possible.
  • Identify sources clearly. The public is entitled to as much information as possible to judge the reliability and motivations of sources. Consider sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Reserve anonymity for sources who may face danger, retribution or other harm, and have information that cannot be obtained elsewhere. Explain why anonymity was granted.
  • Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information unless traditional, open methods will not yield information vital to the public.
  • Avoid stereotyping. Journalists should examine the ways their values and experiences may shape their reporting.

Stop laughing; this was once the ideal. Lately, however, these rules have been replaced by the Alinskyite rules of the hard Left:

  • Do unto others before they can do unto you.
  • The political end justifies the means.
  • By any means necessary.

The older journalists sold their birthright for a mess of pottage: a temporary gig in the Clinton or Obama administrations; some face time on TV; lucrative publishing deals that cheated their employers out of scoops in order to withhold them for their books. The younger ones, looking on in admiration, simply followed their lead, and their own noses.

And here we are. Unless and until journalism undergoes a thorough reformation, including a return to its former principles, it’s doomed. And we are all the poorer for it.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact

About Michael Walsh

Michael Walsh is a journalist, author, and screenwriter. He was for 16 years the music critic and foreign correspondent for Time Magazine, for which he covered the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. His works include the novels As Time Goes By, And All the Saints (winner, 2004 American Book Award for fiction), and the bestselling “Devlin” series of NSA thrillers; as well as the recent nonfiction bestseller, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace. A sequel, The Fiery Angel, was published by Encounter in May 2018. Follow him on Twitter at @dkahanerules (Photo credit: Peter Duke Photo)

Support Free & Independent Journalism Your support helps protect our independence so that American Greatness can keep delivering top-quality, independent journalism that's free to everyone. Every contribution, however big or small, helps secure our future. If you can, please consider a recurring monthly donation.

Want news updates?

Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.

27 responses to “The Media Octopus and How to Fight It”

  1. Actually I like Sarah Sanders’ method better–just don’t call on them. Has anyone else noticed that both April Ryan and Jim Acosta don’t seem to be called on that much anymore? It’s fun to watch them stew.

    • Might be fun, but it will not get to the head of the octopus. Walsh appears to be clueless, failing to heed that other Bannonism: “politics is downstream from culture”. Walsh did not notice the clarion call on Nov. 9, 2017 “An American Tragedy” by David Remnick, whose echo powers and validates the NYT, WaPo, PBS, NPR, legacy networks, et al. Since then, he regularly renews & refreshes the new attack labels. Hoping Walsh reads comments & handy I can post Epstein’s keener insight from Dec. 12, 2011, :

      […]In its covers, its coverage of events, its need to seem au courant, and its insistent politics,
      the New Yorker has begun to seem more and more like a weekly news or opinion journal (“of salvation”)
      than the magazine once adored by earlier generations of readers.
      The New Yorker Wolcott Gibbs wrote for—elegant, literary, ironic, laced with a bracing
      skepticism—was the spiritual house organ for people looking for relief from the
      clang of rivaling opinions, the barkering of each week’s Next New Thing,
      the knowingness of haughty punditry,
      the maelstrom of the world’s unrelenting noise.[…]

      I wonder why Epstein does not do a follow-up – he must have noticed the head, brain and voice, of the post-2016 octopus is the culture media of Conde Nast. It is why ‘conservative’ media continues to react blindly, and, I get trolled for refusing to stay silent.

      My work is done for today. Exhausted untangling the fake news about Afrin, revived that the City of Geneva, and French media, got the rest of the western media’s attention.

      The NATO angle would change in a hearbeat is more read this from SCF [Stockholm Center for Freedom] 20 Nov 2017: “Erdoğan’s advisor: NATO behind all coups, Turkey must review membership”

      • Pardon that I haven’t been answering is as timely a fashion as before, in process of putting the kitchen back together and having all kinds of fun getting set up on medicare. (I hate that kind of stuff) What should be an easy transition is made more difficult by the telemarketers and mailings each hawking their Part D offerings.

        The NATO angle would change in a hearbeat is more read this from SCF [Stockholm Center for Freedom] 20 Nov 2017: “Erdoğan’s advisor: NATO behind all coups, Turkey must review membership”

        An interesting read, thanks. This goes back to an earlier observation that perhaps Turkey isn’t as needful as a NATO member as times in the past. I understand the arguments both ways. It just aggravates me that we are being forced to negotiate with a NATO member over the blatant attack of the alliance we have developed with the Kurds. I just listened to a spokesperson on Fox that Turkey is still a vital member of the NATO alliance and that we should separate the political machinations from the military/intelligence arm of the Turkish Government and the benefits we receive from them.

        Thanks for the link to the Epstein article. I found it eye opening and was very impressed with Epstein’s keen analysis is such a short article. In so many ways it seemed an unauthorized peek behind the curtain.

        My brushes with the New Yorker came primarily from reading collections of its cartoons. (which led me to a quick trip down memory lane at ). We in the hinterlands often have to be reminded that New York is more than Islands and Peninsulas connected by bridges and is actually still part of the United States. Chuckle.

      • Who was Fox using? They are out-of-date. Most American pundits still brainwashed by ‘NATO ally’ theme that really started to disappear Wednesday. Bloomberg news is prime example. Germany announced they will cancel Leopard tank contract with Turkey because using Leopards violates NATO rules, and this afternoon: “Germany calls for NATO meeting to discuss Turkish military operation in Afrin” Brussels

        Plus, also Wed., Turkey directly threatens US troops in Manbij. The TAF bombed just after the Trump-Erdogan phone call! And, statements. I expect Mattis to re-emerge on this, because it was his statements in Indonesia about ‘ally’ vs. ‘partner’ that fed the NATO theme. This statement today: “OIR Spokesman: Citizens cast their votes in a local election in Raqqa, Syria this week. The representatives elected will provide leadership for rebuilding Raqqa following years of brutal ISIS occupation. Another step toward stabilization and return to normalcy through local, inclusive governance”

        MAGA was a lot like “Return to Normalcy”

      • “Who was Fox using?” A retired Green Beret Lt. Col. whose name is escaping me at the moment. What I do remember is that he is running for a Congressional seat out of Florida. I’ve seen him before but can’t remember a name.

      • The recommendation to “separate the political machinations from the military/intelligence arm” seems out-of-sync with 1) the aftermath of the 2016 attempted coup & specific elimination of so many NATO-experienced Turkish military officers; 2) Germany’s redeployment in July 2017 of their NATO contingent from Incirlik to Jordan; 3) the subsequent Norway incident & more than that one citation in the SCF report that Turkey is ‘reviewing’ NATO membership; and, 4) the air strikes east of the Euphrates that started last weekend. If I know all that, without even following it closely except for the bombings, why doesn’t Waltz?
        My conclusion? 1) what Mattis said about ally vs. partner in Indonesia: 2) OIR’s point there are no USA personnel in Afrin; and 3) quotes from ‘sr. administration officials’ that I read at liveuamap on Tuesday, but never did find the source. The quotes were the same time as Nauert’s DPB, but, it was not her. There were unidentified military & State visitors in Ankara at the same time NATO’s Deputy was there on a previously scheduled visit, so I assume it was them. They were quoted that they were hearing different points than what Turkish government (Erdo, Deputy PM, & FM) were saying.

        Now you know why I stopped watching all news :)
        I got upset enough reading the various reports at the different US military news sites & VOA this week. Almost startled to read the change at Stars & Stripes today.
        Someone in the WH is finally getting messaging consistent between State and DoD.

        And, on Monday, there was this:

      • Gℴogle offereing to people of all ages 98 US dollars every hour to complete few jobs off a home computer .. Work Some few peroid of time daily and stay greater time with your own relatives … Any person can also do this simple work…on weekend I bought a gorgeous Land Rover Defender just after making $9908 past month .it’s actually nicest-work however you will no longer forgive yourself if you don’t hop over to it.!vx912t:➜➜➜ http://GoogleNewFeedNetJobsOpportunity/simple/work ♥r♥♥e♥♥♥i♥♥♥d♥♥d♥♥♥z♥g♥p♥♥♥m♥♥m♥l♥y♥♥♥l♥♥♥v♥♥a♥i♥♥♥c♥d♥♥♥v♥♥m♥c♥♥b♥p♥u♥♥♥w:::::!vw631m:lh

      • I have always seen “politics is downstream from culture” attributed
        to the late Andrew Breitbart, never to “Got the Boot” Bannon.

  2. Spewing their ink to cloud the truth,
    A grasping group of ill trained youth.

  3. “Ethics” in journalism?
    Please stop! I’m getting cramps from laughing!

  4. Absolutely love Michael Walsh…not many smarter, wittier, and more informed. Can’t see any of the above recommendations/solutions ever taking place though. In my opinion its over. Journalism as we once knew it is gone for good. In my opinion we are better off imploring any and all we know to go to sites such as this and Fox News.

  5. A while back a reporter was being fired for plagiarism. I had to laugh at the public display of “journalistic integrity” from a fake news outlet. It’s all right to lie about others and lie by omission but plagiarism is stealing from one in their own tribe, so it is taboo. The article linked to a website in New York with writers, all women in their twenties, calling themselves journalists and stories about their sex lives and other topics nobody should care about. These so called journalists live in closet sized apartments in urban areas where they have nothing to do but hang with their clique and drink. Their lack of experience results in a lack of wisdom, yet they think they are smart. I guess all those participation trophies are coming home to roost.

  6. It isn’t a compromised media at all. It’s an establishment media 100% and that means a globalist, corporate media and it’s purpose has always been to control the population. Simply stop wasting your time submitting your mind.

  7. Normally we would take our money to a different vendor to punish them for the poor service we’ve received. But when big money is keeping these press cesspools afloat, that method has no effect.
    So essentially we have a press run by the libtard rich. The only way to beat them is to create right leaning, or even fair news outlets to compete with the lies of the juggernaut.
    What a concept.

  8. Perhaps I missed it, but what can WE do…the audience? I already don’t subscribe to ANY media, so all I do now is send polite e-mails to whomever I can contact about why they are wrong (citing facts, word choice, etc.) and why I distrust them (politely) and that I hope they go out of business sooner rather than later because we don’t need their mendacity.

  9. Aren’t the good guys in the Star Wars movies “the Resistance?” I think the Dems are taking that more than the WWII French reference. Figures that they identify with a science fiction parody as opposed to anything involving, well, reality.

  10. …the (media’s) … impartial standards that more or less held from World War II until the late 1990s.

    “Until the 1990s”… hah ha hah. Such sarcasm, Mr. Walsh. You’re killing me!

    The Establishment Media didn’t give Reagan a fair shake, so strike the 1980s from the list. And for the media’s horrible misreporting of the Vietnam War and their maligning of Presidents Nixon and Ford, we must also cross the 1970s and much of the 1960s from the list. Then there was the same media’s failure to cover the Kennedy Administration objectively, the media wanted dreams of Camelot rather than the reality of failure and near-catastrophe that was the Bay of PIgs fiasco and later the Cuban MIssile Crisis. Don’t forget how the media misrepresented Sen. Barry Goldwater either.

    Of the period before 1960 I was too young to deliver newspapers and TV wasn’t my thing so I withhold judgment of the media of that time.

    “1990s”… hah ha hee hee hee, That’s rich, Mr Walsh. Keep the funnies comin’!

  11. Please stop trying to reform the media. Quit normalizing them. You would have better luck restoring virtue to a whore.

    We are well past the point where any return to objectivity or fairness would balance the ledger.

    The state of Journalism is a joke. there is nothing left to salvage . Stop normalizing them by seeking reform. Let it burn.

  12. Typical anti-media rant by Trump follower Michael Walsh.
    This was old a year and a half ago.

  13. A few ground rules would help to reduce chaos of the WH press conferences. First rule, press conferences begin and end on time. Second rule, no one is admitted after the scheduled start time. Third rule, questioners are selected randomly (you could use a ticket system like the one you see at the deli counter in your favorite grocery store). Fourth rule, no multipart or follow-up questions by the same reporter (if a question requires a follow-up, another reporter can ask it). Anyone who violates a rule is barred from attending press conferences for one month.

  14. Doctors and nurses have to be licensed, realtors have to be licensed, businesses, even drivers have to be licensed. It’s long past the time to license and make journalists out of the mess at Leftist newspapers and magazines!

    Well, no, I’m not serious, but there has to be some way to at least make journalists honest!!

    Dear “journalists” it’s time to change your biases!