The Self-Congratulatory Front Page

I had an opportunity to sit down with Vice President Pence on Friday to talk about the coronavirus taskforce, Georgia’s slow-rolling reopening, and what college football might look like in the fall. You can listen to it here.

Relatedly, don’t look now, but the tracking average in Georgia suggests the number of cases is going to go back up. Look for lots of “I told you so’s” this week. The people who said Georgia was rigging the data will now rely on that data to say Kemp was wrong. They just cannot admit they were wrong. The state has seen a jump in cases, but they are the result of a ramp up in testing and some isolated and contained outbreaks. It is consistent with other states and not uniquely Georgian or tied to reopening. But who cares about facts when the outrage machine must outrage.

Which gets me to the New York Times. I have no problem with a front page that displays the names of the dead. It was actually quite powerful and appropriate. But I really was put off by the self-congratulatory tone of it all. There were celebratory tweets from reporters, “how we did it” bravado from the New York Times, and lots of “Orange Man Bad” style coverage comparing the cover to the President playing golf. In fact, I dare say the President playing golf got way more coverage than most other news over the weekend.

You know how when you have a really terrible experience at a restaurant — like just awful service and food poisoning — you want the whole world to know they should avoid the place. You tell your friends. You put it up on Facebook. You put up a Yelp review. “Waiter never showed up and had to flag him down. Got the order wrong. Never refilled my drink. Wound up barfing all night. Avoid this place!!!!”

We’re at that point in the media coverage of Donald Trump. What makes it even worse is that it is more relational than gastronomy. The media was in bed with Trump for years and then broke up. Now they squabble about him like scorned lovers. Trump used to go on Morning Joe and Don Lemon’s show. He had an NBC show and would show up at events. Now he calls the press the “enemy of the people” and the press treats him like an ex-husband in a nasty divorce.

So when the New York Times somberly lists the names of 1000 dead COVID-19 victims on the front page, they run a big self-congratulatory piece on it all and the media goes overtime with coverage of Trump playing golf.

There is a lot of buzz about this piece in the Wall Street Journal today from the former President of CBS News. Van Gordon Sauter says the media just needs to own its bias. Now, to be fair, Sauter was barely a President of CBS News from the early eighties, but he does make fair points — the media is lying to us and itself about its biases.

The thing is, though, the media has long been biased and to the left. The big change is relational. The media hates Trump passionately not because he is a Republican, but because they used to sleep with him, and he chose the hicks and rubes of flyover country instead. It’s the same with the obsession over Stacey Abrams — all relational. The media is filled with white progressives harboring white guilt. They obsessed over Beto v. Cruz in 2018 and ignored Abrams, a more viable candidate. Now Abrams is masterfully playing on their progressive white guilt to get favorable coverage after they ignored her.

It is all entirely predictable. Conservatives know that, like with Lucy and the football, the media is always going to pull the ball away at the last minute. What we are now learning is that, unlike Lucy, the media is going to celebrate it, cover their own genius in doing it, and no longer promises to never do it again.

The bias we all expect. Lying about the bias is something we know will happen. But the malice that now comes with the bias and the lying is new. It’s not, for example, that the New York Times listed the dead. Good for them. They should have. But then seeing reporters using the dead to drag not just the President, but his supporters, is gross.