By Larry Schweikart
“Tucker Carlson Truth Bomb” (The Liberty Daily)
“Shake Shack Catches Flak for ‘Lazy Take on Korean Fried Chicken” (Yahoo News)
“Detained Shaman Granted Special Organic Diet” (Drudgereport)
“Jennifer Horn, co-founder of The Lincoln Project, on why She’s Leaving the Republican Party” (MSNBC)
“Bald Eagle Lays Second Egg After Losing First to Ravens Near Big Bear Lake” (MSN)
“Two Gorillas Test Positive for COVID-19 at San Diego Zoo” (WPXI news)
A few weeks ago, America’s #1 radio host Rush Limbaugh began to say with regularity that “there is no news anymore.” For more than two years, he has argued that the “mainstream news media” (which I call Hoax News) has been nothing more than the leadership arm of the Democrat Party. So-called “news” is so overtly and fantastically politicized that it has become meaningless. There is no actual reporting of events that affect millions of people or even that affect the world. When was the last time your local news even carried an international story that was not related to the China Virus?
It used to be common for headlines to deal with many different things. Now, it’s almost entirely the China Virus and/or how President Donald Trump did or said something horrible. For those things that do not fall into one of those two categories (see Shake Shack or the Viking man), the stories are straight out of Ripley’s Believe It or Not—goofball, crazy stuff that just 20 years ago no one would even look at, let alone consider “news.”
Certainly, the decline of the “mainstream” news into what is nothing more than shilling for the Democrat Party and whatever policies/statements it has on tap that particular day is nothing new. The Partisan Press, professor of communication at Virginia Tech, James Kuypers, showed that in the 1960s, a slow shift away from “objective” news began a slow but steady march. I once contacted a reporter for a Chicago paper while writing an article on press bias. He told me that it was a requirement at his paper in the 1960s that every substantial comment and/or fact had to have not one but two on the record sources. No fact or piece of evidence was allowed by way of “unnamed sources.” Further, it was required that all stories “tell both sides,” to the point that editors demanded that a reporter not only make each side’s case but do so as that side would interpret its case. For example, it would have been considered thoroughly unethical to go to a never-Trumper like Bill Kristol for any comment on a Trump policy unless Kristol was designated as overtly hostile to Trump . . . as a Democrat!
Of course, this has changed. No one questions that. Probably the 1990s was the last decade of even remotely honest journalism and television news coverage. But the rise of internet news, and the 24-hour news cycle, “news” has become not only politicized but trivialized. Fox News, for example, with its siren “breaking news” alerts is nearly to the point of breathlessly announcing a gaggle of geese have landed in a local pond.
With the trivialization of news, possibly an even greater casualty than the truth, has been significant. Foreign news is now not even covered unless it’s the Royal Family “saying” something about Meghan and Harry. Have you noticed how little Americans hear about foreign affairs—anywhere? China probably receives more coverage, but only in the context of what it means for American tech companies. Probably the best actual “news” that has appeared in the last month is that after March, CNN will no longer appear on airport television monitors. Now that’s news!
Accompanying this, especially after the rise of Donald Trump to the presidency, was the use of “future news.” A dead giveaway to “future news” is words or phrases such as:
* ” intends to”
None of these are acts. Nothing has happened with the use of any of these verbs. They are all intangibles. “Mueller intends to investigate Trump’s finances.” “McConnell mulling changing senate rules.’ These are the kinds of headline phrases that meant nothing. At any time, anyone can be mulling, intending, considering, or planning anything, but nothing has happened. At the same time, the focus on future news eliminates discussion or circulation of real news—things that have actually happened.
For example, as I wrote in a column last year, one of the biggest genuine news stories of the last four years is that under the Trump administration—and, yes, with the aggressive support of Attorney Generals Jeff Sessions and William Barr, and no small role played by the FBI—sex trafficking has been dealt major blows. Yet these individual tales of state arrests and busts have yet to be put together by any mainstream source, including Fox as far as I can tell.
Another major news story that has been entirely un-addressed is the total demise of the House of Representatives as a source of power in Washington, all the while pretending that somehow Nancy Pelosi is the second coming of Joe Cannon. Or consider the utter emasculation and helplessness of state legislatures in dealing with runaway tyrant governors in the China Virus restrictions. Has a single mainstream source even considered that?
These have major ramifications. Set aside for the moment that the national debt is so big no one even bothers to report on it (and, as I have argued, that may not be as ominous as it seems, given that it may be stemming from a 30-year deflationary cycle brought on by the introduction of computers worldwide—but no one reports on that either). Certainly, the decline, even crash, of major professional sports and their mouthpiece ESPN should warrant investigation, but aside from a few conservative sports bloggers, it does not. Or the hollowing out of the movie industry before COVID, due not just to streaming (as is portrayed) but to millions of Americans rejecting anti-American values.
These are real stories, and there are many more. Yet one can scarcely find them among “so-and-so blasts such-and-such” or a celebrity dumping on Trump (what a shock!). Much of this is driven by the reality TV elements in the major news and entertainment companies. Here, Roger Ailes is partly to blame, as he was never a “news guy” and had pioneered the “coffee table” approach to talk shows now common with, say, “The View,” when he produced the Mike Douglas Show some 50 years ago. Ailes’ concept of “the Five” was built around a court: the jester (Greg Gutfeld), Falstaff (Bob Beckel), the “leg” (Kimberly Guilfoyle), the prince (Eric Bolling), and the imperious queen (Dana Perino). Thus, was born the notion of people just talking about the news rather than the news itself. Of course, earlier “round table” news shows had appeared, but Ailes took the subject out of reporters' hands and put it into the hands of “ordinary people.”
This carried with it a deadly danger, namely that there were always “two sides to every story” to discuss. What, then, was “Hitler’s side of the story?” Was the “rapist’s side of the story” going to be told? The approach introduced a relativism into news that had not existed. In the 1950s, while one requirement was that every reporter gets the other side of the story, some certain stories and viewpoints were so untrue as to not deserve a side. “Well, Schweikart, isn’t that where we are today with the Hoax News media? They censor everything they don’t like.” Yes, to a point—but the overwhelming difference is that in previous eras, those things that were off-limits to defend or even discuss fit well without the morality of the vast majority of the general public, whereas beginning in the 1960s (as Kuypers showed) this shift occurred where the news did not reflect society’s morals but criticized and challenged them. Once the purpose of news shifted from reporting to molding public opinion de facto, it began to limit the subjects fit for attention.
And that’s where Rush is. His 30+ year career has been about commenting on the news. Where is he if there is none? It’s akin to every musical group devolving into a parody of itself. Where would Weird Al be?
Larry Schweikart is the co-author with Michael Allen of the New York Times #1 bestseller, A Patriot’s History of the United States, author of Reagan: The American President, and founder of the Wild World of History, a history curriculum website featuring full US and World History courses with teacher guides, student workbooks, tests, images/maps, and video lessons for all units (www.wildworldofhistory.com)