I'm not blind to the concerns over irresponsible extremists utilizing social media to spread nonsensical theories that are predicated upon half-truths or outright fabrications. It happens, it's irresponsible, and it's dangerous.
But while you'll never get any argument from me about the need for vigilance regarding the perilous murmurs of online conspiracy theories, I will always be far more alarmed by the insidious misinformation that flows intentionally from the wellspring of major media in this country.
In fact, I find those railing against the hazards of misinformation highly suspect if they aren't spending the majority of their time focused on exposing and thereby forcing a reformation of our mainstream press, written and broadcast. When the very institutions sworn to credibly inform the masses are guilty of repeatedly preferring advocacy over reporting, posturing over objective framing, to the point that the majority of Americans begin with the assumption they are being lied to, that's not a Facebook or Twitter problem.
For instance, this last week the Washington Post ran a transparent hit piece on Florida's Republican Governor Ron DeSantis and his state's pending bill that would prohibit teachers from proselytizing the new religion of gender and sexual orientation in classes – things like this:
The Parental Rights in Education bill also seeks to eliminate the problem of sexually explicit material being discussed in the classrooms of young children. Unsurprisingly, that doesn't sit well with the extraordinarily influential LGBT political lobby. They have declared an all-out war on the potential law, utilizing a nearly-unanimous sympathetic mainstream media to carry their water.
One of those lapdog media allies is the Washington Post, whose London-based reporter Adela Suliman wrote a near 900-word propaganda piece that, after quoting the bill's vociferous, activist opponents, included this claim:
"DeSantis's office did not respond to a request for comment on the bill."
That statement caught the eye of Christina Pushaw, press secretary to Governor DeSantis.
Initially, that just looks like an obvious, all-too-typical progressive media hit job. Suliman sends the request for comment at 5:20 am, knowing that it's unlikely anyone will even see it for another hour and a half. After seeing it, the administration would, if interested, put it in the queue for response where it will sit as other requests are fulfilled. By the time a response is crafted, the time for contribution has passed and the piece has already been published.
Suliman responded to Pushaw's concern by saying she is based overseas and therefore couldn't help the awkward timing of her request. But that actually points to the real outrage here.
A 900-word piece evaluating a potential new law in the country's third most populous state isn't something a reporter cranks out in a single evening. There is research, pre-writing, interviews, revisions, additions, editing and more that go into something like this. And, having admitted she works from London, it is clear that Suliman's entire research was done remotely. Yet she never contacted the Governor's office until just hours before it was to be published?
Why was the administration not included in her research? If you're writing an objective analysis of a potential law, why would you not seek out opinions and thoughts from both sides?
It's beyond debate that Suliman authored her entire piece after having researched it on the basis of a progressive perspective alone. The first effort to include the administration's opposing viewpoint came just two hours before the story went live, meaning the principal writing and editing had already been completed well in advance of the "request for comment."
Pushaw calls it "unethical journalism," and of course she's right. But it's more than that. It's the tired status quo from an entire media complex that long ago re-interpreted its role as one of advocacy over inquiry. It's not about asking questions, it's about advancing narratives. The implementation of fairness methods like "reach out to both sides" has devolved into little more than boxes to check rather than principles to honor.
The result has been the utter collapse of trust in an industry that has such a vital role to play in the preservation of free, democratic institutions.
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