Some here would take issue with “lately,” but there’s no doubt now that the activism of media outlets has become impossible to ignore, especially after the orgy of media self-congratulation over the last few days. Fox’s Howard Kurtz argues that the Obergefell decision in particular has exposed the extent to which agenda journalism has permeated reporting, and not just opinion journalism. “Some journalists just come out and say it,” Kurtz notes, by saying that “there aren’t two sides in the gay marriage debate.” There are two sides, but the media is purposefully ignoring or marginalizing one side by painting it as bigotry:
I fully understand why same-sex marriage in particular is viewed as a triumph, in a country that no longer denies two people in love the right to wed. But not only was the Supreme Court divided 5 to 4, some 40 percent of the country is still opposed to gay marriage—for either personal or religious reasons–and their views should be accorded some respect.
Some journalists just come out and say it: there aren’t two sides in the gay marriage debate.
Most news organizations have so tilted their coverage in favor of the court’s ruling that you might get the impression that only an extreme few think differently.
Yet public opinion was very different when Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, and even when George W. Bush pushed a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in 2004. Barack Obama’s position until the spring of 2012 was that marriage is between a man and a woman.
Now those who still believe that are being told, in effect, that they are not just wrong but immoral.
Conservatives will find themselves amused by this belated recognition of a phenomenon that has been well documented for nearly two decades. As early as 1996, former CBS reporter Bernard Goldberg openly discussed how editorial bias and agendas were perverting journalism, at first in a Wall Street Journal essay and later in his seminal book Bias, for which I wrote an introduction in the 2014 re-release. The difference today is that journalists have stopped pretending that their news coverage takes a political point of view. Rainbow flags popped up in media outlets all weekend long, not as coverage of events but as statements by the outlets in their news sections rather than opinion, which Kurtz notes. Interestingly, Kurtz never even gets to the baldest and boldest declaration of the “one side only” declarations, the execrable PennLive/Patriot-News editorial that equated Obergefell dissent with racism and anti-Semitism, and the insincere walkback from editor John Micek. Then again, perhaps Kurtz has too many examples to air them all out in a four-minute segment.
“Many of us [in the media] do live in a bubble,” Kurtz points out. It’s a self-imposed and self-perpetuating echo chamber of elites more than a “bubble,” which makes it sound somewhat less intentional. The worst part of this hypocrisy is the insistence, even with this blatant manipulation, that we take their reporting at face value rather than question their motives. If the mainstream media thinks that will fly, then they’re really living in a bubble.
Kurtz also misses another point, which is that the moral posturing about the opinions of their readers usually involves a heaping helping of hypocrisy. Hugh Hewitt challenged BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith about his publication’s endorsement of SSM in its news coverage as well as its opinion pieces, and asked whether Smith extended the outlet’s moral preening on other issues.
HH: Do you guys take positions, this leads me to the harder stuff for you now. Do you guys take positions on Castro being evil?
BS: You know, we, no, and this isn’t, we’re not in the position to take, like that this is often, I emailed you this before, and this is why I was initially reluctant to go on and was hiding out in Latvia, which is that when people who, when, I am sort of a connoisseur of really cringe-inducing interviews where the editor of the New York Times talks to an ideological, somebody who really cares a lot about ideology and comes across sounding really squirrely, because people who spend their time thinking about news are often kind of inarticulate on matters of ideology. It’s not the thing they’ve spent a lot of time on. They’re not that interesting in it. And instrumentally, as a journalist, it gets in the way. And so you know, and this is what I always tell our reporters. Like don’t, try not to use the word outrageous in a headline, because if something’s outrageous, the reader ought to read this thing and come away and say hey, this is outrageous, and shouldn’t need to be told. You know, we should, we cover horrific things happening in the world. We do not add paragraphs saying by the way, a mass rape by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia was evil. That’s just not our job. We report on it.
HH: I know, but when you report, for example, on Saudi Arabia, you’re reporting on a state that refuses Christians to practice their faith. You’re reporting on a state that beheads people. You’re reporting on a state that embraces Shariah. Do you have an editorial judgment that that is an evil state? Or is that not within, is that again above your pay grade?
BS: Hugh, that’s not the business. I mean, the value that we add is the reporting, as I see it, and so that’s what we try to do.
HH: So can you articulate for me, and I get it, I think I get it, but can you articulate for me what is the different between the need to announce on LGBT equality and the need not to announce on Shariah-governed states?
BS: That’s a really good question.
Be sure to read it all, because Smith comes up with a lengthy answer that entirely misses Hugh’s subtle point. The media is awfully quick to paint Americans as bigots and equivalent racists for having a heterodox opinions on same-sex marriage, but they’re pretty silent about the moral character of regimes that toss gays and lesbians off of roofs as a matter of public policy in order to maintain their supposed objectivity and sensitivity to multicultural concerns. It’s interesting to see where and when the media is willing to allow for two sides on an issue.