Into a Mating Net with the Fourth Estate

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In chess, when one player is put by the other in a “mating net,” the game effectively is over. The player in the net has the right to “push the wood” until the inevitable end, and sometimes when the end is some moves away, the doomed player may actually do so. But he has lost the game, whether he sees it at the time or not.

This is precisely what has happened to the Fourth Estate. Though such legacy publications as the New York Times and the Washington Post have favored Democrats and liberal policies for decades, it wasn’t until the election of Donald Trump that they—along with cable networks such as CNN and MSNBC—put American journalism in a mating net.

Now roughly half the people in the country (and probably more since publication over the weekend of the summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report) see the corporate left-wing media for what they are—vile propagandists who hate Trump supporters, not just as citizens and voters, but because they conceive of them as unworthy human beings. Neither the slandered nor the slanderers are going to change.

So now what?

It’s too late for change because, as polls have shown, the media have accumulated a string of witnesses to their journalistic crimes, most notably their unforgivable promotion of the Russian collusion hoax. A current article in the leftist Nation magazine, titled “Even a Vacuous Mueller Report Won’t End ‘Russiagate,” makes for delicious reading in that regard.

And it’s too late because, as Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of the Times, helpfully put it recently, “Given its mostly liberal audience, there was an implicit financial reward for the Times in running lots of Trump stories, almost all of them negative: they drove big traffic numbers and, despite the blip of cancellations after the election, inflated subscription orders to levels no one anticipated.”

Exactly the same condition obtains at the Washington Post. When Jeff Bezos acquired the Post in 2013, there was hope that, after so many years of the Grahams’ ownership, the paper might open a new front on journalism as it should be. Didn’t happen. Instead, under the editorship of Marty Baron, who joined the Post the same year Bezos bought it, the paper turned into one of the shrillest broadsheets in the land immediately after Trump’s election.

Baron had previously inflicted his political and journalistic sensibilities on the Boston Globe (then owned by the Times) so his behavior was no surprise. But Bezos, who has been nothing if not a capitalist with both hands, is a huge disappointment. As things look now, he will have one lifetime, and one enduring, claim to fame: He became the richest self-made man in the world—and he, along with the Times’ Sulzbergers, deeply wounded journalism in this country.

And then there are the cable networks, CNN and MSNBC. It had been hoped that, when AT&T got the government’s approval for its acquisition of Time Warner, the company would dump Jeff Zucker from the presidency of CNN. Instead, just weeks after the D.C. circuit court’s decision last month greenlighting the merger, AT&T added to Zucker’s portfolio. One wonders what they are thinking. By its reliance on the network’s biased and over-the-top attacks on Trump, CNN has alienated millions, such that today the name enjoys roughly the same cachet as that of Charles Manson.

From such mouthpieces as Brian Stelter, Chris Cuomo, and Don Lemon, CNN has made air travel with stopovers in airports nearly unbearable. Put it this way: If Brian Stelter can have a cable network show, anybody can.

And then there is MSNBC, home to such dim bulbs as Joy Reid who, within hours of the release of the summary of Mueller’s findings, relieved herself of the opinion that “it feels like the seeds of a cover-up are here.” Never to be overlooked is the fact that MSNBC, like NBC, is owned by Comcast, and the fact that the controlling Roberts family are big-time Democrats.

As reported in a 2014 story by Matthew Continetti, titled “How Comcast Bought the Democratic Party,” Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and executive vice-president David Cohen engineered a virtual takeover of the Democratic Party through their lavish corporate PAC contributions, foundation gifts to Democratic interest groups, and extensive lobbying.

That was then and this is now, but if you look at MSNBC’s current lineup of commentators, and their disgraced but not yet indicted contributors like former CIA Director John Brennan, the picture painted by Continetti starts to come into focus. Seen this way Comcast, and all of its operations, are appendages of the Democratic Party. The company occasionally hires Republicans in executive capacities, but in everything that matters editorially and politically, Comcast’s power structure consists purely and unalterably of Democrats.

It might seem to some that it is a stretch to hold last rites for Fourth Estate journalism based just on the performance of a few key players. And in truth there are some outfits that still practice a decent kind of journalism, with USA Today and the Wall Street Journal coming to mind.

But the reality is that there are many more TV shows, and newspaper and magazine companies, that ape the coverage of the Times and the Post. And more than this, even a number of leftist journalists like Matt Taibbi are throwing in the towel on contemporary journalism. In a scathing essay published after it became clear that no further indictments were coming, Taibbi wrote: “The Iraq war faceplant damaged the reputation of the press. Russiagate just destroyed it.

So what is going to take the Fourth Estate’s place? The guess from here is that, for better and worse, it will be the so-called Fifth Estate, that noisy playground of bloggers, writers publishing in small-circulation journals, and commenters on social media.

This means that a lot of editorial ground will go uncovered; topics such as fiscal policy, monetary policy, regulatory policy, constitutional issues, and foreign affairs. But these things are not being adequately or objectively covered even now.

Writing about the Fifth Estate, Wikipedia of all places sums it up this way: “Web-based technologies have enhanced the scope and power of the Fifth Estate far beyond the modest and boutique conditions of its beginnings.” Yes, that’s it precisely. That, and the abandonment by the leading legacy media of honest and objective journalism.

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