A black and white photo of Joe Biden in the foreground, and tweets about Joe Biden's economic accomplishments and failures in the background.

Pressing Issues

Why Aren’t Biden’s Victories Winning Him Any Points?

Thanks to this administration, our job numbers are booming, international diplomacy is being restored, and we have our first Black woman Supreme Court justice. And yet the D.C. press corps portrays Biden as a worse president than his criminal predecessor.

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I’d like to put cotton candy in public school lunches and then get paid to wonder why everyone has cavities.

I’d like to pour poison down the drain and then profess confusion at the number of dead fish in the river.

I’d like to punch everyone in America in the left arm, hard, and then conduct a scientific study into the mysterious epidemic of arm-bruising.

I’d like to spend a year and a half screaming at the top of my lungs that the sky is falling, and then deride the general public for wearing hardhats everywhere.

Then maybe I’d be ready for a prime-time CNN gig or an editorial page spotlight or a regular column in the papers of record.

Is there anything more ridiculous than watching elite journalists pretend to be unaware of the impact of their words?

Is it that shocking, though? Is it shocking that people believe the economy is terrible, inflation is inevitable, life is worse than ever under President Joe Biden? Is it shocking that people think former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election, masks and vaccines don’t prevent Covid, and crime is skyrocketing?

Political reporters and pundits have spent months dumping on Biden for things that would seem trivial, as if Biden’s predecessor wasn’t a seditionist bigot, picking apart every press release for signs of incipient weakness and casting every achievement in “just asking questions” language to imply it could be better. They’re both-sides-ing headlines, elevating anonymous critics with no reflection of the merits of what they’re saying, and commissioning stories implying deep opposition to Biden’s policies when that opposition usually adds up to the same angry Trump voters they already talk to nonstop.

They’ve spent months deep-throating the firehose of Republican disinformation about teachers indoctrinating straight white children to believe they’re gay or racist, or both. They’ve spent months reporting on every crazy utterance at Trump’s rallies (remember windmill cancer? Or his diatribes about the water pressure in his showers and toilets? Although now we know why he was on about that) and every grammatical abortion posted online by the five worst members of Congress as if those were serious people with prescriptive policies for what ails the country.

They’ve spent months regurgitating GOP talking points that America’s cities have been destroyed by Black Lives Matter mobs who force Our Brave Small Business Patriots out of their stores at gunpoint and are let off by soft-on-crime DAs and judges who fear repercussions from “overly woke” legislators.

The nightly news is a nonstop horror show of “cancel culture” stories depicting innocent mistakes like using an expletive in the wrong social media account as cause for ostracizing, as if children arguing with parents about their problematic behavior is some new phenomenon that arose spontaneously from the ether.

And now the same people peddling this nonsense want to know why everyone’s bummed?

Job numbers that under Trump or George W. Bush would have been touted as the miraculous works of angels were greeted with headlines like this:

Booming Job Growth Is a Double-Edged Sword for Joe Biden

An actual aversion of nuclear war with Russia and a staggering amount of aid given to government and civilians in Ukraine gets headlines like this:

Biden’s Handling of Ukraine Conflict Imperils Energy, Foreign-Policy Pledges

The swift confirmation of America’s first Black female Supreme Court Justice in the face of nonsensical, obstructive Republican opposition gets headlines like this:

Three GOP Senators Will Vote for Ketanji Brown Jackson. Don’t Call It Bipartisanship.

Elite journalists love to disavow the role they take in shaping the public perception of current events, insisting they hold up a dispassionate mirror to the concerns of the world around them, without political bias of any kind. But they’re incredibly resistant to recognizing their own role in the process of political messaging, reckoning with its effects, acknowledging failures, or changing their ways.

We’ve heard a lot about the dangers of deliberate disinformation. In media industry circles it’s a commonly accepted talking point that the evil, evil internet in general and social media in particular have made Americans much more likely to believe lies and conspiracies.

But watching moral panics (e.g., Critical race theory! Trans kids playing sports!) unfold now in much the same way as they did 30 years ago (e.g., Rainbow parties! Satanic music!) it’s not hard to see that the way journalists amplify bad information, whether knowingly or unknowingly, hasn’t changed one bit.

A right-wing mailing campaign or Facebook post gets passed around local parents’ groups and heats up a school board, and local news uncritically reports their hysterical claims. This leads to national conservative media discussions on Tucker Carlson or Sean Hannity, where they usually cast some innocent teacher or coach as an insidious pedophile.

A couple of days into the Fox News rotation, the rest of the D.C. press sucks it up and holds panels of four Republicans and one centrist to “debate” the “ideas” that are somehow, all by themselves, “making their way into the mainstream.”

By dinnertime, editorial analysts are polling whether the message of whatever unhinged thing the GOP is pushing has “caught on” or “stuck” or “made an impact” or whatever language they’ve asked pollsters to use to produce the story they think is “out there.”

This is the way lies have been spread by the GOP for decades. From Ronald Reagan’s tales of welfare queens and Anita Bryant’s dire predictions of gay recruitment in schools, whatever is causing Republicans indigestion is deemed to be a national emergency for which Democrats must answer.

When they do acknowledge the lopsided nature of their coverage, it’s usually with some kind of language about the way Democrats versus Republicans coordinate and disseminate their messages. Left-leaning columnists love to bag on Dems for not “fighting back” or having the right slogans or coming up with ideas that “resonate,” based on what they read about Democratic incompetence in the very same publications that ignore Dems when they’re not slagging them off.

Meanwhile the Republican Party is full of actual pedophiles, insurrectionist traitors, people who want to CANCEL interracial marriage and legalize child wedlock, and indoctrinate students about how slavery actually frickin’ ruled. This is the stuff they’ve copped to, and let’s not even bring up the cocaine orgies.

And the same journalists who want to hold themselves up as the only thing keeping democracy from dying in darkness are hiring democracy’s attempted murderers to provide “analysis” and “commentary.” All while pretending to practice an innocence that would shame a cherub about the most meager consequences of their daily actions.

Why do people believe the country’s in the toilet in the midst of the strongest economic recovery this century?

Maybe because you keep telling people that everything sucks, every hour, on the hour, between traffic and the weather.

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