Slanted: Our Dumb, Incompetent, Dangerous and Awful Media
I’d like to do Sharyl Attkisson one better.
In her new book Slanted: How the News Media Taught Us to Love Censorship and Hate Journalism, Attkisson indicts the media. Reporters are, she writes, biased, unprofessional, reckless and stupid. It’s a familiar critique, and one that Attkisson, the winner of five Emmy Awards, delivers with skill. She explores how the media is committed to “The Narrative,” the storyline that will bolster whatever left-wing cause is currently in fashion.
Attkisson nails it in Slanted, but I’d like to add my own example to her list. I have plenty of reasons to hate the media, but for now I’d like to focus on a small item that reveals a much broader truth about just how deep the awful incompetence of the press goes. The fact that it was covered up and excused away represents the venality, stupidity, and willful blindness of the modern media.
First, Attkisson’s bona fides. Attkisson left CBS because the spin was so bad. Among other things, she was told to do a story on “why Steve Forbes’s flat tax won’t work” rather than report on the pros and cons of the issue. She indicts the ridiculous Russia investigation and interviews Lou Waters, who was an anchor on CNN for twenty years. Waters calls the modern CNN unwatchable, the “all-panel network” whose virtue-signaling talking heads push liberalism all day every day.
President Trump, observes Attkisson, has become “the vehicle that the media at large has used to unleash its furor and redefine journalism in a way it was never defined before.” Slanted closes with a very long, unassailable list of “major mistakes” journalists made about Trump.
The Crucial Question About Christine Blasey Ford the Media Missed During Kavanaugh Fiasco
Attkisson also writes about the 2018 Brett Kavanaugh confirmation war, a battle that put me close to ground zero. As the world knows, a California professor named Christine Blasey Ford accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault while in high school. She would also claim that I was in room when it happened. I was close friends with Brett in the 1980s when we were both students at Georgetown Prep.
The accusation resulted in mass hysteria and the worst media coverage in American history, a bottom-beneath-the-bottom for the fourth estate.
One thing that I always wondered, and even brought up with friends and law enforcement, was why Ford had never attempted to contact me in the summer of 2018, before everything blew up. I’m a conscientious person who strives (and fails) to be a good Christian. I’ve been sober for thirty years. It was a devastating accusation about an alleged event that I have no memory of — nor do the others Ford claims were there. I’m always willing to listen and examine my conscience about anything someone wants to bring to my attention. Why not ask me about it before triggering World War III?
It’s a crucial question. In her book Supreme Ambition: Brett Kavanaugh and the Conservative Takeover, liberal Washington Post writer Ruth Marcus offers a passage that I have read five times over and still can’t quite comprehend. Recounting the summer of 2018, Marcus raises the very same question I had. Then she writes this: “One possibility: Ford would call Mark Judge, remind Judge of what had happened, tell him to call Kavanaugh, and advise him to spare his family the ordeal. She dug up Judge’s Twitter handle but wasn’t sure how to go about contacting him.”
Wait. She dug up my Twitter handle but wasn’t sure how to go about contacting him. Well, you might have tried my Twitter handle, the very one you were looking at. Or Facebook. Or the magazines and websites I worked for. Or the hundreds of people I’ve met in my thirty years as a journalist. Or Ford’s father, who worked for the CIA. Not sure how to contact me? Woodward and Bernstein would have laughed at that answer.
I recently wrote about how journalism is now an elite profession, and that those who practice it have no experience in manual labor and no street smarts. They suffer what H.L. Mencken once called “a leprosy of the horse sense.” If any one of the guys I’ve washed dishes with, or waited tables with, or slung mulch with, had been presented with what Ford presented Marcus — told she just did not know how to contact me — the reply would have been a one word answer. The word consists of two syllables and is represented with the letters BS.
This evasion is like the duct tape that the security guard found on the door of the Watergate Hotel in June of 1972. A good reporter would have used it to reveal a much larger story.
“The Narrative” Was More Important Than The Truth
This gets to Attkisson’s point about the media pushing The Narrative. The Narrative in this case was that Brett, myself and our friends were a bunch of wild prep school jocks, equal parts Conan the Barbarian and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, marauding our way through the suburbs of Washington, D.C. with a reindeer sleigh of kegs behind us.
It isn’t possible for Marcus or the rest of the media to conceive that in the summer of 2018 a political hit was coming, a Code Red intended to bury my friend and myself, and that diffusing that by contacting me would have prevented the public kill shot that the Left had mapped out. (I could tell you stories that would make your hair stand up.)
Marcus, who went to Yale and Harvard, just doesn’t have the life experience to think in those terms. She would go on to embarrass herself and immolate her career when, in 2020, she trashed Tara Reade, the woman who accused Joe Biden of sexual assault.
In Supreme Ambition, Marcus offers this pathetic observation: “Ford was a Democrat, although not a particularly active one; she had given small amounts to Democratic committees and candidates, including Bernie Sanders. And, like so many others in Palo Alto shocked by Trump’s election, she had protested against the new administration — in Ford’s case, by donning a knotted gray brain hat for the March for Science, which criticized Trump’s policies on climate change and anticipated cuts to scientific funding.”
Imagine if Marcus were describing a conservative female who had donated to the Republican party — not just candidates, but committees — and who had attended MAGA marches. Would she claim the person was not a political activist?
If your answer to that is no, you need to stop huffing glue.
The media is now a lost cause, so played out it’s gotten funny. To say they are not a pernicious, agenda-driven plague is like claiming COVID doesn’t exist.
The last word goes to Attkisson:
A new breed of reporter is dominant at many news organizations: the kind who think it is their job to convince you to believe whatever they personally believe, the kind who don’t look for original stories, seek out research, or open their minds to opposing views. They are the kind that spin the news according to what they want you to think. They ignore facts that contradict their story line. They get their ideas from other reporters, quasi–news media, PR firms, political operatives, and talking points.
Mark Judge is a writer and filmmaker in Washington, D.C.