As I wrote in a new essay for the fall issue of the Columbia Journalism Review, the history of modern Republican politics is rife with examples of conservatives—from Barry Goldwater to Sarah Palin—working to discredit journalism.
But for most of the past half-century, conservatives have at least claimed their press criticism was aimed at spurring reform. “We all know that you can’t live in a free country without a free press,” Fox News contributor Bernard Goldberg told host Bill O’Reilly in 2012. “But you know what else? You can’t live in a free country for long without a fair press. We need a strong mainstream media. That’s why you and I criticize it.”
In the Trump era, that pretense has been dropped. With the rapid growth and rising influence of the conservative-media complex, most on the right seem to have given up on trying to “fix” the mainstream press. And many of the powerful figures in that world now openly declare that they are working to bring about the demise of the nonpartisan journalistic establishment in America.