When did the media stop speaking truth to power?

From NSA spying to ridiculous COVID-19 regulations, the modern media displays no skepticism, curiosity, or concern about the exercise of government power

The media has always tilted left. Legendary anchors from Morrow to Kronkite had liberal sensibilities, but they also exhibited a deeply held skepticism of authority and saw “speaking truth to power” as one of their key job functions.

They weren’t alone in this. The older generation of reporters weren’t prone to take what the government said at face value. Instead, they questioned everything and everyone, but somewhere along the line, that changed.

Today’s media and so-called journalists lap up government claptrap like a kitten spilled milk, reciting talking points as if they were facts, and displaying little or no skepticism about even the most ridiculous pronouncements from our elected leaders.

There are countless examples, but this trend has been on magnificent, undeniable display throughout the coronavirus pandemic. From the very beginning, the media was almost entirely silent as governments around the world instituted never-before-seen or even tried restrictions on daily life.

Businesses closed by fiat. Orders to stay at home or face penalties. Churches shut down. Gatherings banned.

The United States has been through a Civil War, countless natural disasters, and even other pandemics without such broad based restrictions, but, this time, basic questions — Is this legal? Are there alternatives? What are the unintended consequences? — were never asked.

Other than raging at President Trump or anyone else who dared question the lockdown orthodoxy, the media meekly accepted ever more draconian restrictions with an almost religious fervor. In fact, the very leaders instituting the most severe restrictions — Cuomo, Newsom, Whitmer to name a few — were instantly championed and promoted into household names.

Now, almost nine months later, they’re still at it. Cancel Thanksgiving? Sounds good. Ban dancing in private homes? It’s science. What about Christmas? Don’t ask.

There might be some excuse if this lapdog behavior was limited to a rare, deadly pandemic, but it’s been an increasingly worrisome trend for almost a decade.

In 2013, Edward Snowden revealed that the government had massively abused it’s power by instituting a clearly illegal program to collect the records of every cell phone call over the course of two administrations. There were more than enough editorial and investigative reporting angles to fill several books. Who knew? Who set it up? What legal authority did they have? Who approved it? Can it be misused?

The media wasn’t all that interested in these important details. We still don’t know the answers.

Instead, they covered the drama surrounding Snowden himself and his refuge in Russia, but rarely did they question the underlying premise that this was the only way to protect Americans from another terrorist attack, or whether or not there were other, less intrusive alternatives.

Nor is this laxity in the face of government overreach an isolated incident: There was a similar collective yawn in response to the Afghanistan Papers in December 2019: The Pentagon was caught lying about vital strategic and military information over the course of close to twenty years?

No big deal, let’s get their opinion on whether or not we should still be in Afghanistan and how many troops we should send to Syria!

Even when the government turned its attention on journalists themselves, issuing warrants, spying on reporters, and cracking down on leaks, the media remained largely silent, meek in the face of threats to its own existence.

More recently and perhaps even more troubling, journalists have turned their fire on each other. Threatening other reporters, refusing to run stories they disagreed with, berating editors. These tactics haven’t been limited to conservative outlets or reporters either. Matt Taibbi. Glenn Greenwald. Matt Yglesias. The list is growing by the day.

What is driving these disturbing trends?

First, newsrooms are increasingly populated by a younger liberals that bear little resemblance to the generation that came of age in the 1960s. They do not share a passion for free speech or an innate skepticism of authority. The older generation witnessed first hand government power used to enforce brutal policies like segregation and prosecute an unpopular war in Vietnam. They implicitly understood how horribly wrong the government could go. Younger liberals don’t seem to share that distrust. Instead, they increasingly believe the government is the answer to every problem.

Second, news organizations are increasingly globalist and corporatist, owned by massive corporations with interests closely linked to government. In the 1950s, Eisenhower warned of a military industrial complex. Today, there’s an emerging media-government complex with a revolving door between journalists and politicians, powered by massive entertainment and technology empires seeking to advance their global business goals.

Where do we go from here?

Unfortunately, these two trends aren’t likely to change anytime soon.

The only answer: Question everything, every time. Take nothing at face value, and do not trust without verifying first. You know, the way the media used to do.

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