On Jan. 6, a warning to my fellow journalists
You fail when you support censorship and ask hard questions only if they are ideologically convenient; you are destroying yourselves by becoming the government's propaganda arm on Covid and vaccines.
Donald Trump lost the 2020 election. What happened at the Capitol one year ago today was disgusting and dangerous.
I know a lot of Unreported Truths readers don’t believe those words. I don’t care. They are the truth as far as I can tell and from my (limited) reporting in late 2020 to chase potential election fraud, which seemed then and now to be a fantasy.
I will give you the truth - the facts and data - to the best of my ability. Then we can argue about it what means or how to respond to it. If you don’t like what I’m saying, you don’t have to read it.
That’s journalism, as far as I’m concerned. It doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions or am not biased; I am a human being, and all human beings have opinions and biases.
The I’m truly neutral and just presenting facts model of journalism is essentially a lie. For a start, you have to decide what facts you're going to present. If you are a journalist who truly aspires to neutrality, about the best you can do is:
a) acknowledge your biases, at least to yourself
b) fight those biases honestly by trying to understand all the arguments, even ones you don’t like, and giving the other side plenty of space to present its view
c) be certain that at a minimum you are getting the facts right
When I worked at the Times, it was pretty good at b and c, so the fact that it wasn't great at a didn't matter as much. Now it's terrible at b and increasingly bad at c.
Life becomes easier as a journalist - easier and more honest - when you acknowledge your points of view openly. Having covered pharmaceutical companies at the Times, I do not believe they are benign actors. I watched them distort data, play down dangerous side effects, and market their drugs to people who were unlikely to benefit from them.
This doesn’t mean their drugs never work or that they are part of a global conspiracy to destroy humanity; it means that we journalists should look at Pfizer and Moderna just as we do ExxonMobil or Amazon. None of them serve the public good, except accidentally. They are all corporations driven primarily by a drive to increase their profits and survive.
And we journalists should view the public health bureaucracies and bureaucrats no differently than we view any other government bureaucracies and bureaucrats. The National Institutes of Health is at its core no different than the Central Intelligence Agency, a flawed and powerful and rich institution with its own incentives, rules, and secrets.
Last month, the New York Times ran two long investigations into the way the United States military had used airpower against the Islamic State during the war in Syria. The Islamic State is a hateful group, and the United States was entirely right to attack it. Had any of the journalists who wrote those articles fallen into ISIS’s hands five years ago, they and their families would have begged and prayed for American military rescue.
Nonetheless, the Times was entirely correct to investigate and publicize the civilian deaths that came out of the air campaign.
Oversight of government actions, both real-time and retrospective, is probably the most crucial function of the press in a democratic society, the most crucial check on state power.
Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and even when it doesn’t people make bad decisions and then double down on them. Spend a few hours at a casino if you don’t believe me.
The only answer is truly independent oversight, which only non-governmental entities are equipped to give.
Which is why Thomas Jefferson said that if he had to choose between “a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
And this oversight function is crucial whatever the motives of the bureaucrats and their political leaders - whether they wear suits or epaulets or white coats.
Do you see where I’m going with this? For the last two years the self-appointed guardians of liberty - the watchdogs at the Times and the rest of the elite media - have gleefully joined what can only be described as government propaganda campaign without parallel in peacetime, if not ever.
They spent 2020 lying about the risks of the coronavirus and the effectiveness of masks and lockdowns and other efforts to eliminate. They spent 2021 at first ignoring and then actively lying about the risks and ineffectiveness of the Covid vaccines. Some of the 2020 lies have now ended - especially about school closings, more recently about masks - but the 2021 lies are only getting worse as the data around vaccines goes south on what seems like a daily basis.
In the most crucial test of their willingness to ask hard questions since at least the Vietnam War, the world’s elite media outlets have failed absolutely. And they can no longer hide that failure.
Instead they are trying to pivot away from it by focusing on the follies of Jan. 6, which ultimately come down to a few memos by delusional courtiers hoping to curry favor with Donald Trump, and a couple of thousand idiots wandering around the Capitol. The Iranian Revolution this was not.
Which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t call it out, or punish the perps. The Capitol trespassers should be criminally charged and given appropriate sentences (which means they should mostly be free by now).
I know Tucker Carlson feels differently about Jan. 6 than I do, too. We disagree. I think Tucker is making too many excuses for what happened.
But Tucker has me on anyway! Tucker doesn’t tell his guests what to say, or demand that they meet ideological purity tests to come on. Neither does Joe Rogan.
That’s why Tucker and Joe are the two most powerful sources of information in the United States at this moment. Joe Rogan. A comedian and MMA commentator. But his audience can feel him asking the right questions, acknowledging that he does not all have the answers, searching for the truth - and that search is incredibly powerful, even if it sometimes pulls him down blind alleys.
Now the elite media has taken its most dangerous turn yet. Instead of acknowledging their failures and trying to understand why so many people - perhaps a majority of Americans - neither respect or trust them, many reporters are now openly asking for censorship of dissenting views and news outlets.
They cheer when social media companies, which have audiences that dwarf any other media outlet, ban speech that they don’t like. On Wednesday, the New York Times, in a news article, complained that those platforms offer podcast listeners access to information that does not fit its preferred narratives:
The new research underscores the extent to which podcasts have spread misinformation using platforms operated by Apple, Google, Spotify and others, often with little content moderation.
“Content moderation.” Big Brother itself could not have come up with a sweeter-sounding way to say “censorship.”
I cannot begin to tell you what a betrayal of the most core principles of journalism this is. Truly it leaves me sick to my stomach. Bizarre, unprecedented, use whatever words you like.
Also short-sighted, not just because the wheel eventually will turn and Republicans regain control (and by eventually I mean in about 10 months, if the polls hold), but because anyone not in the bubble of media and academia can understand the hypocrisy here. These people make a living on speech, but they want to deny that right to anyone whose speech they don’t like.
They’re losing. The house of cards is collapsing.
What happens next, I don’t know.
But I know this: the search for truth - the chase for the realities that businesses and governments would rather hide for their own benefit - will never end. Journalism will never die, no matter how hard journalists try to kill it.