Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: An Open Letter to the Press Corps

I hope if you are a member of the American press corps, particularly of the political press, that you will consider the points made herein.

There is a serious issue presently percolating that needs investigation, honest examination, and a lack of partisanship to deal with. That would be the suggestion that Russia attempted to influence American elections.

There is a discrepancy between agencies. The FBI does not think the Russians did much while the CIA suggests the Russians did quite a lot. That gets the heart of the issue.

For the last decade, media reports on the CIA have been quite skeptical. Many members of the press have written reports or opined on television in the past decade that the CIA has not been all that capable. From missing 9/11 to allegedly botching the issue of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to other national security issues, press coverage of the CIA has been decidedly negative. In fact, of the two agencies, the CIA has routinely been portrayed as the agency that tells each Presidential administration what that administration wants to hear.

Up until James Comey’s letter a week before the election, the press has routinely treated the FBI with greater respect. But, because Comey is perceived as having damaged Hillary Clinton, the FBI’s credibility with the press has suffered.

Then there is the matter of Russia.

Four years ago, many of the very same reporters who are now squalling about Russian influence in American presidential elections engaged in sustained ridicule of Mitt Romney for daring to suggest Russia was a geopolitical threat. In 2008, these same reporters mocked Sarah Palin for suggesting Russia would invade Ukraine if Obama were elected.

Now look where we are.

But this goes back even further. In 1991, Soviet records revealed then Senator Edward Kennedy had secretly asked the Soviet Union to intervene in the 1984 presidential election. Kennedy was never held to account for the revelations. In fact, at the time many of the now elderly deans of the press corps were dismissive of the unearthed documents.

In 2016, many reporters and pundits realized they had been crying wolf about Republicans for so long that no one really believed them about Donald Trump. Every Republican was the second coming of Hitler and Bull Connor in one candidate. By the time Trump came along, no one believed the hysteria.

This too is a cry wolf moment. The press has long taken a “protect the precious” view of the Obama Administration. Supposedly objective reporters have deflected and defended the various blunders of the Obama Administration while dismissing any criticism leveled by Republicans as partisan or racist.

Now, after spectacularly missing the 2016 election and angrily dismissing Donald Trump’s claims that the election was rigged, the press corps wants us to believe the election was rigged by the Russians who four years ago were not a real threat except in Mitt Romney’s head.

This is why we cannot have nice things. This is why the American public is less likely to treat Russian influence on our elections as serious.

The issue should not be partisan, but the press corps helped make it partisan.

Even now, while people like Dean Baquet of the New York Times admit much of the press corps is ignorant on matters like religion in people’s lives, instead of promoting and hiring people with conservative or more relatable view points, the press is just shuffling the deck. The very people who spent years casting doubt on the integrity of the CIA and mocking Mitt Romney are getting promoted to higher positions.

I should also pause here to note the collaborative damage President Obama helped inflict on a willing press. His administration gave access and information to partisan reporters and pundits who the administration knew would regurgitate the information as intended. Those reporters and pundits then parlayed that access into more prominent jobs in the press corps. Now those reporters, who were useful partisans for Obama, will be opposition partisans for President Trump. That will further undermine press legitimacy, but instead of ousting those individuals, many are being reshuffled or promoted.

The press corps in the United States has often treated the freedom of the press in the first amendment as a right exclusive to them. They have abused the right, feigned fairness, and now have popularity lower than congress’s popularity.

You guys in the press need to engage in the self-reflection you have long demanded others engage in. You guys need to recognize you really do have biases and you really have cried wolf so much, often for partisan purposes.

But the fact that so many of you won’t means the situation in this country will continue to deteriorate.

You are all so worried about Donald Trump’s potential trampling of your press freedoms you have ignored the bigger threat to American democracy — a people who no longer trust the media to report honestly. When people no longer trust you to be honest and fair, you will find far fewer willing to defend your press freedoms and we will all be worse off as the end result.

You are why we can’t have nice things.

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Erick Erickson

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