Back in 2008, I wrote a story for Washington Babylon, my then Harper’s column, about media coverage of Sarah Palin, who was John McCain’s vice presidential running mate at the time. Palin was no genius, to put it mildly, and there were plenty of grounds to criticize her but some of the media attacks were far more revealing about the journalist boobs who launched them than about Palin herself.
I cited a story by Colbert King of The Washington Post which said, “I do not now have–nor am I likely ever to have before departing this vale of tears–the slightest interest in skinning a moose or in scarfing down a mooseburger. Knowing how to properly field dress a moose is, for Palin, evidently a source of pride. As is her love of mooseburgers. I simply cannot relate to any of that.”
Who cares what Colbert King can relate to? As a friend of mine noted, “Alaskans eat moose! Delawareans eat she crab, as in all the crab. Gross. Alaskans all have guns! Delewareans all have boats! There are plenty of cultural curiosities about Delaware, but they are not covered by elite east coast media because to them these things don’t seem curious.”
The point was — and remains today when it comes to coverage of Donald Trump, who admittedly makes Palin look like Einstein — that there is a media elite, bound together by class and geography, that it is utterly clueless about its own biases and filters. The vast majority of journalists covering the presidential campaign are such pampered brats they don’t even recognize that for most Americans, the economy is in recession and people are terrified.
And if you don’t understand that, you can’t understand Trump to begin with. That an addled, reckless, dangerous billionaire is the last electoral hope to tens of millions of Americans is sad and reflects the complete breakdown of our political system, but it doesn’t make Trump’s appeal to a significant chunk of the electorate any less significant.
One of the worst articles of the entire 2016 campaign came on August 7, when Jim “Big J” Rutenberg, the New York Times’s media columnist, wrote a story under the headline, ”Trump Is Testing the Norms of Objectivity in Journalism.” He said that he and other journalists (like fellow douchebag Ezzie Klein of VOX) were in a terrible bind trying to stay objective because Trump, among other things, “cozies up to anti-American dictators” and has “put financial conditions on the United States defense of NATO allies,” which, another New York Times story he linked to said, had “unnerved the small Baltic States.”
I’m not in favor of a Russian invasion of Latvia, but I’m certain that U.S. troops should not be deployed to Latvia (or any of the Baltic states) if Putin decides to roll in. And when it comes to cozying up to dictators, I guess it’s a good thing all of Hillary’s foreign friends, i.e the Saudis and the Qataris, are pro-American.
What a heavy burden“Big J” carries around! “Covering Mr. Trump as an abnormal and potentially dangerous candidate…upsets balance, that idealistic form of journalism with a capital ‘J we’ve been trained to always strive for,” poor Rutenberg wrote.
Oh, and by the way, Rutenberg was hired at the Times in 2013 to cover Metro, which he did while based in the Hamptons. That’s right, the Times’s Metro reporter summered in the Hamptons — which also happens to be the place where the Clintons owned a home worth more than $30 million and where Hillary Clinton is preparing a fundraising blitzkrieg with the help of the ghastly Jimmy Buffett. If a lowly beat reporter is so fortunate, one can only imagine where senior editors like Dean Banquet are at the moment.
Here’s how the Times announced Rutenberg’s assignment: “It’s a place where the beauty of the late-afternoon summertime sun is matched only by the wealth of those who can afford to enjoy it. But there are darker stories amid the hedgerows and former potato fields, and Jim will cover them all – from mega-mansions to horse shows; from the well-off to the striving immigrant community; from battles over favorite surfing spots to explorations of just what it means today to spend the summer, or even a tiny part of it, on the far side of the Shinnecock Canal. It’s going to be a lot of fun for us, and perhaps for him. (I suspect there will be some reporting from a surfboard.)”
As far as I can tell, Rutenberg didn’t spend a lot of that summer far from his surfboard and when he ventured forth, it generally wasn’t in search of “darker” tales. But he did manage to write one story headlined “As Boozy Invaders Hit Beach, Hamptons Sound a Snooki Alert” and another, about the ignoble suffering required to get a table at a high-end restaurant called Nick & Toni’s.
Returning to Big J’s recent story on Trump, how’s this for standards? To back his storyline, he actually cites Carolyn Ryan, the New York Times’s senior editor for politics. “If you have a nominee…proposing to rethink the alliances that have guided our foreign policy for 60 years, that demands coverage — copious coverage and aggressive coverage,” she tells him.
Well, at least they’re honest. Anyone who wants to rethink “the alliances that have guided our foreign policy for 60 years” is politically verboten.
God help us all.