The Scandal of the Media’s Reporting on Scandals, Both Fake and Real

October 16, 2020 Updated: October 18, 2020

Commentary

When is a scandal not a scandal? When the media says so.

Last week, the big story not covered by the media was the revelation in declassified documents of Hillary Clinton’s involvement in collusion with Russia to influence a U.S. election—by engineering an investigation of President Donald Trump for colluding with Russia to influence the same election.

What was (so the media claimed) the biggest scandal in American history—“worse than Watergate”—when Trump was (wrongly) suspected of doing the same, suddenly turned out to be a mere nothing when Clinton actually did it.

This week, the big story not covered by the media was the revelation, from the discovery of a stray laptop purportedly belonging to Hunter Biden, that his father Joe Biden, currently the Democratic nominee for president, had almost certainly lied when he claimed to have had no knowledge of his son’s business dealings in Ukraine.

In fact, one major media outlet, The New York Post, broke the Biden story. However, Twitter and Facebook, foolishly (in my opinion) throwing in their lots with the legacy media, quickly moved to block the accounts of anyone trying to share the story, while the rest of the media set about spinning it to fit their pro-Biden narrative—which, you may remember, takes as its motto: “Truth over lies.”

“Three weeks before Election Day, Trump allies go after Hunter—and Joe—Biden,” headlined The Washington Post.

Both The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times treated this highly credible confirmation of Joe Biden’s corruption—widely suspected for over a year—as no more than a dubious, “unverified” adjunct to what they regarded as the more important story of social media’s crackdown on “misinformation.”

“Over the last four years,” wrote Suhauna Hussain, Chris Megerian, and Samantha Masunaga for the L.A. Times, “social media companies, accused of standing idle as ‘fake news’ and phony accounts overran their platforms in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, have been gradually adopting stronger policies to stem the spread of misinformation.”

Now, their blocking of the Biden story, assumed to be “misinformation” by implication, is supposed to show that these policies have at last become really strong—just in time for the election of the (presumptively) uncorrupt Biden whom, in case you didn’t know it, they prefer to Trump as president anyway.

Media Decide

I myself might be inclined to overlook what they used to call the “honest graft” of old Joe’s doing his ne’er-do-well son a bit of good, by having a chat with some foreign official whom he was probably going to benefit anyway. But it’s hard to ignore the blatant double standard involved in the media’s treatment of this story as no big deal while crying scandal constantly against Trump—even, in last year’s impeachment hearings, for wanting to find out more about what Joe had been getting up to in Ukraine.

Well, that’s the beauty, from the media’s point of view, of limiting political news, at least during Republican administrations, to all scandal, all the time: because the media get to decide what is scandalous and what isn’t.

Fake news (like Trump’s alleged “collusion” with Russia) can be treated as real, and real news (such as Biden’s probable influence-peddling in Ukraine) can be treated as fake, at will.

They know that such patently partisan reporting won’t be noticed anywhere outside the echo chamber of the right-wing media, which they treat with contempt and do not deign to notice, let alone answer.

Narrative Protection Business

But there is another much-neglected story of the past couple of weeks, which they might find it more difficult to ignore, if only some independent-minded journalists were to make more of an effort to publicize it.

On Oct. 4, three highly respected academic epidemiologists issued something called the Great Barrington Declaration which represented a fracturing of the scientific consensus—or what the media had represented as the scientific consensus—that locking down most of the economy and normal social life was necessary to prevent a mass die-off from the coronavirus.

As The Epoch Times reported on Oct. 13, more than 34,000 health professionals—those whom the media in other contexts would call “experts”—have since signed on to this declaration.

You might think that this would be a pretty big story, especially in view of the acres of newsprint and the hours of television time devoted in recent months to the opinions of “experts” or “the science” in connection with the coronavirus. But you would be wrong.

After all but ignoring the story for over a week, both The New York Times and The Washington Post ran stories about the Declaration which—you’ll never guess—managed to turn it into yet another Trump scandal.

“White House embraces a declaration from scientists that opposes lockdowns and relies on ‘herd immunity,’” headlined The New York Times—which produced its own set of experts in an attempt to debunk it.

“Proposal to hasten herd immunity to the coronavirus grabs White House attention but appalls top scientists,” claimed The Washington Post—which identified the Great Barrington ones as not “top” but merely “maverick scientists.”

Now, why do you suppose the media would be so eager to trash this expert opinion, bringing as it does the good news that we can protect those most vulnerable to the disease without wrecking the economy, thus producing (as the Declaration points out) worse consequences than the disease to many of the least well-off?

You know the answer. Trying to keep up the increasingly transparent fiction that the disease is a virtual death sentence to anyone who catches it—a fiction belied by the swift recovery from it by Trump himself only last week—benefits the media’s favorite political party in two ways: by crippling what had been the very strong Trump economy with perpetual lockdowns (at least until the election) and by feeding the narrative that the president was somehow responsible for 200,000 deaths by not taking it seriously enough.

That the two contradict each other is of no more concern to the media than it is to Biden, who doesn’t scruple to blame the president both for the deaths and for the state of the post-Covid economy—which, of course, only got into that state by his following what the media represented as “the science” at the time and locking down all but the most essential economic activity.

Now, it turns out that it’s the fear-mongers who have been taking the disease, at least as it affects all but a comparatively few people, much too seriously—according to this latest bulletin from “the science.” Just don’t expect any acknowledgment of the fact from those former news people who are now so obviously out of the news business and into that of narrative protection.

James Bowman is a resident scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. The author of “Honor: A History,” he’s a movie critic for The American Spectator and the media critic for The New Criterion.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.