From Smirking Chimp
How you respond to an attack defines you. Keep your cool, remain civil and others will respect the way you handle yourself, even if they disagree with you. Lower yourself to your assailant's level and -- at best -- spectators will dismiss your dispute as a he-said-she-said between two jerks.
So much has been written about Donald Trump's debasement of rhetorical norms and his gleeful contempt for truth that there is no need to cite examples or quote studies that count the prolificacy of his lies. Trump's attacks on journalists -- "fake news," mocking a disabled reporter's body movements -- are contemptible. They undermine citizens' trust in news media, a serious menace to democracy and civil society.
Less noticed is how major news organizations, incensed by the president's trolling, have debased themselves to Trump's moral level.
American journalism used to adhere to strict standards. Though impossible to achieve, objectivity was paramount. At bare minimum, reporters were expected to project an appearance of political neutrality.
Truth only derived from facts -- verifiable facts. Not conjecture and never wishful thinking. Sources who wanted to be quoted had to go on the record. Anonymous sources could flesh out background but could not be the entire basis for a story.
From the start of Trump's run for president -- before the start -- Democratic-leaning media outlets abandoned their own long-cherished standards to declare war on him. Every day during the 2016 campaign The New York Timesled its coverage with its forecast of Hillary Clinton's supposed odds of defeating Trump. Setting aside the fact of the Times' embarrassing wrongness -- the day before Election Day they gave Clinton an 85% chance of winning -- it cited odds rather than polls. Maximizing a sense of Clintonian inevitability was intended to demoralize Republicans so they wouldn't turn out to vote. The two figures might mean the same thing. But 85-15 odds look worse than a 51-49 poll.
It's downright truthy. And when truthiness goes sideways it makes you look really, really dumb. 51-49 could go either way. 85-15, not so much.
The impeachment battle marks a new low in partisanship among media outlets.
After Trump's surprise-to-those-who'd-never-been-to-the-Rust-Belt win, outlets like the Times declared themselves members of a so-called "Resistance." Opinion columnists like Charles M. Blow pledged never to "normalize" Trumpism; what this has meant, ironically, is that Blow's essays amount to rote recitations on the same topic: normally, about the argument that Trump sucks. Which he does. There are, however, other issues to write about, such as the fact that we are all doomed. It would be nice to hear Blow's opinions about taxes, militarism and abortion.
Next came years -- years! -- of Robert Mueller -- palooza. Russia, corporate media outlets said repeatedly, had "meddled" in the 2016 election. Vladimir Putin installed Trump; Hillary Clinton's snubbing of her party's 72%-progressive base had nothing to do with the loss of the most qualified person blah blah blah to an inductee in the WWE Hall of Fame.
Whatever happened to the journalistic chestnut: if your mother says she loves you, check it out? Russia-gate wasn't a news report. It was religious faith. Russia fixed the election because we, the media, say so, we say so because we were told to say so by politicians, who were told to say so by CIA people, whose job is to lie and keep secrets. No one checked out anything.
What we knew and still know is that a Russia-based troll farm spent either $100,000 or $200,000 on Facebook ads to generate clickbait. Most of those ads were apolitical. Many were pro-Clinton. The company has no ties to the Russian government. It was a $6.8 billion election; $200,000 couldn't have and didn't move the needle.
Anonymous Congressional sources told reporters that anonymous intelligence agents told them that there was more. The Mueller Report implies as much. But no one went on the record. No original or verifiable copies of documentary evidence has been leaked. The report's numerous citations are devoid of supporting material. By pre-Trump journalistic standards Russia-gate wasn't a story any experienced editor would print.
It was barely an idea for a story.
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