Imagine that the mainstream press simply disappeared one day: that by some strange, miraculous course of events, the major corporate organs simply vanished off the face of the earth. Would the American people, and our republic, be any worse off than they are now? Might we even be better off?
It’s the sort of naughty counterfactual that crosses one’s mind when confronted with corporate journalists’ role in stoking racial unrest in this country—and in actively misshaping public perceptions of events when those events undermine the media narrative of a white-supremacist nation that hunts its black citizens for sport.
“Journalistic malpractice” doesn’t begin to describe the problem. What these outlets have inflicted on the nation over the past few years, and especially since the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis, is downright criminal.
The latest outburst of media knavery came in response to last week’s Waukesha parade massacre that killed six innocents, including an 8-year-old boy, and injured more than 40. If your media digest consisted solely of mainstream outlets, however, no one could blame you for thinking the killing was the work of a sentient, evil SUV—and not of Darrell Brooks Jr., a black man with a long rap sheet and a history of anti-white racism.
“Here’s what we know so far on the sequence of events that led to the Waukesha tragedy caused by a SUV,” tweeted the Washington Post on Nov. 24, days after the true nature of the event had been established (the tweet has since been deleted). The underlying article was little better: Brooks didn’t make an appearance until the fifth paragraph, and throughout, the paper kept referring to the vehicle, not its driver, as the wrongdoer.
On Sunday, meanwhile, CNN informed us that “Waukesha will hold a moment of silence” to memorialize “one week since a car drove through a city Christmas parade.” What a terrible, nasty car. Bad car.
My own favorite entry in the genre came courtesy of David Begnaud, CBS’s chief national correspondent, who tweeted on Nov. 23 that a sixth person, a child, “has died in the Wisconsin parade crash.” Behold a network-news correspondent’s sheer determination to turn an apparently intentional vehicular killing spree by a Black Lives Matter devotee into a simple crash, the sort of thing that sadly occurs dozens of times every day across the land.
Come on: It’s painfully obvious why reporters and editors, including increasingly influential social-media editors, would turn to such cheap tricks of the hack’s trade when faced with a figure like Brooks. The man in every way upends the story the media, and our elites more generally, have been spinning about race in America. As Pedro L. Gonzalez documents on his invaluable Substack blog,
[Brooks’] social-media posts present a range of extremist views, from encouraging “knocking out white people” and enslaving them, to supporting Black Lives Matter, the Black Panther Party and the Black Hebrew Israelites, a militant black-supremacist hate group. In one of his rap songs, Brooks bragged about being a “terrorist” and a “killer in the city.”
This is all extremely inconvenient for our ruling class. So it must be airbrushed away.
It’s true that the media have always, well, mediated the truth for readers and viewers. National and international news outlets came into being because no one person can figure out what’s going on in his own city, much less the nation or the world. Serving the media consumer’s needs necessarily involves shaping the daily pile of news into relatively compact and, yes, interesting narratives.
Yet a clear line distinguishes this legitimate task (of curating and framing) from Pravda-style propagandizing in behalf of power and powerful ideologies. The American corporate media crossed that line a long time ago; the shameless, support-the-D.C.-consensus-at-all-costs drum-beating for the Iraq War was an early transgression.
Today’s race-narrativizing is next-level stuff, as the kids say. It reminds me of nothing so much as how European media cover crimes and terror attacks committed by recent migrants from the Middle East and North Africa: You often don’t learn that the perp was a migrant until the last few paragraphs of the story—if at all. Open borders are a priority for Europe’s ruling classes, and so reporters and editors airbrush, say, the inconvenient fact of women raped by “asylum-seekers” in Munich.
“Following the story wherever it takes you”? Yeah, not anymore.
Consider our media’s coverage of Nick Sandmann, the Catholic high-schooler instantly framed by the media as a racist because he…smiled at a Native-American elder who was obnoxiously banging a drum in his face. Or of Kyle Rittenhouse, who mainstream outlets just knew was a racist, on the basis of exactly zero evidence. Sandmann sued his defamers, forcing CNN and the Washington Post to settle. Now there are rumors swirling of Rittenhouse doing the same thing, though so far, his spokesmen insist there are no immediate plans.
I say go for it, Kyle. Media owners’ pockets are deep, but not infinitely so. We can’t wish away CNN and the like. But the media’s victims should counterpunch as hard as they can by all lawful means. “Don’t mess with me, lest I hurt you back”—does any other principle govern American public life these days?
about the author
Sohrab Ahmari is a contributing editor of The American Conservative and a visiting fellow of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University. His books include From Fire, by Water: My Journey to the Catholic Faith (Ignatius, 2019) and The Unbroken Thread: Discovering the Wisdom of Tradition in an Age of Chaos (Convergent/Random House, 2021). He is currently writing a book about privatized tyranny in America.