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home : opinions : opinions
February 22, 2020

1/16/2020 7:30:00 AM
Our View
Kentucky student backs down cable's Goliath
Gregg Walker and Richard Moore
Publisher and Columnist

It was a sweet and important win for the average person and for accountability when, as we report in today's edition, cable giant CNN agreed last week to settle a defamation suit filed by Kentucky high school student Nick Sandmann, who counterpunched against the network for painting him as a racist.

And not just as any racist, Sandmann's lawsuit asserted, but as the face of an unruly hate mob of racists who physically assaulted, harassed, and taunted two different minority groups who were just minding their own business last year at the Lincoln Memorial, you know, singing, praying, holding hands, and doing that Kumbaya thing.

Only none of it was true, which is so typical of the mainstream media. It was so much fake news, the most valued currency of the corporate media, based on an edited and shortened version of video that concealed the much larger reality of the incident.

In fact, as the unedited video made clear not long after the edited version went viral, it was Sandmann and his classmates, in Washington, D.C., for a March for Life, who were minding their own business, if not singing Kumbaya, while a group calling themselves the Black Hebrew Israelites hurled racist taunts at the students and a Native American protester harassed and confronted Sandmann.

Details, details. But those were details the dishonest media suppressed, driven as they are to portray anybody wearing a Make America Great Again hat (as Sandmann was that day) as a violent, immoral, racist low-life.

Unfortunately for CNN, the never-let-facts-get-in-the-way-of-your-politics network, the low-lifes grew tired of being called low-lifes and decided to fight back. Now CNN and others who followed in its footsteps will all soon pay the price.

And pay the price they should. As Sandmann's attorneys argued, the whole fiasco could have been avoided if only CNN and others would have engaged in a little old-fashioned investigative journalism. You know, beat the streets, do the research, gather the facts, and tell the truth. It's a pretty simple formula.

Now none of us will probably ever know how much the network was willing to fork out to make this go away, but it must have been a pretty penny, and other networks who played the same game of charades are no doubt readying their checkbooks.

The case is important for American society on multiple fronts, but, most important, it shows not only that the American people can hold the mainstream media accountable for its dishonesty and bias but they are probably the only ones who will.

Amazingly, it was a 16-year-old and his family who fought back and won, and it was a huge win, with the potential to remake and transform the media's ethical landscape. That's critical in the new media age in which we live.

Once upon a time, generally speaking, the mainstream media served as the people's watchdog - the Fourth Estate - whose mission it was to hold big government and other big institutions accountable. It served that role as late as the early 1970s, when Woodward and Bernstein were tracking down and exposing the sins of the Nixon administration.

But even then there were cracks in the concrete. The news world was changing and not for the better. Two important and intersecting trends overshadowed all others.

First, the advance of technology and the Internet helped to concentrate media (see below), but it did even more damage by accelerating the news cycle. Bob Woodward has observed that, during the Watergate investigations, it took weeks and weeks to prepare one major story, if not longer, while, in these days of the Internet, editors want to know in the morning if you can post a story by noon.

That inevitably leads to less fact-checking, to more reliance on single and not necessarily reliable sources, to cutting investigative corners - all in the name of getting the story out there first, even if it isn't an accurate one.

It was just such sloppiness that helped cause the great media fail in the Richard Jewell case, when the Atlanta security guard was tried by the media as a suspect in the 1996 summer Olympics bombing, only to be later exonerated. CNN settled in that case, too.

But a second, more sinister trend has emerged since then. That is, as national media competition has disappeared and media conglomerates have consolidated their economic power- in part because of technology - the media's alliance with the people has fallen apart.

No longer is the mainstream media the people's watchdog. Along the way, the mainstream media became a big institution itself, and it's pretty hard to hold big institutions accountable when you too are a corporate mega-power in need of accountability, sitting in the same political sauna as your big institution brothers and sisters.

Big media, like big government and big business, is a globalist enterprise, populated and funded by massive multinational corporations, and, like all such institutions, they harbor their own agendas, usually globalist, liberal ones.

These days, those agendas are increasingly driving news stories, not facts as in the past. And those agendas are the major reason for media catastrophes. Sloppiness might have been the biggest factor in the Jewell case, but these days it's the determination to push a particular agenda forward that is the main culprit.

The national news media no longer sees facts as facts, but as so much pliable putty that can be shaped and reshaped to fit a needed narrative.

And that bias was exactly what was going on in the Sandmann debacle, as Sandmann's lawsuit pointed out. Sure, CNN's work was sloppy: They ran without fact-checking an edited video, when a plethora of contradicting evidence was all around them.

And, yes, CNN's reporters may have wanted to beat their friendly colleagues at The New York Times or at NBC, but most important was the narrative they wanted to embed as truth across the American landscape, that Trump supporters wearing MAGA hats are racist and violent and immoral and even deserving of violence because they dare to believe differently than CNN.

CNN's analyst Bakari Sellers even said it straight up in a tweet about Sandmann: 􏰃"He is􏰂 a deplorable. Some ppl (􏰂sic) can al􏰂so be p􏰅unched in t􏰀he face."

And yet, though the mainstream media shills for big business and big government, and engages in brazen dishonesty and bias to make the narrative come out right, they still pretend to be purveyors of truth and objectivity.

Troubling for them, though, the public has seen behind this curtain for a long time. The media can spin its stories, but people know when they are being plied with placebos, when the message of the media does not fit the reality of the world they live in every day, and when its medicine does nothing to make their lives better.

Donald Trump's rise only hardened this skepticism and outright hostility of a dishonest media, and it was about time.

Now the fight of a 16-year-old to hold the cable Goliath known as CNN accountable has given us hope that we can indeed fight back to reclaim our press, to remake a more objective media not driven by partisan agendas. Nick Sandmann's fight will likely inspire others whose lives have been smeared and even ruined by the media of this country.

Charles Glasser, an attorney who teaches at New York University and the Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York, recently told the conservative Daily Signal that he did not want to see a slew of big-money awards in this case or in others to follow, given the fragile state of the journalism industry. He said he would like to see a public apology instead.

We respectfully disagree. Big media corporations will never be swayed by apologies, but they sure do understand money. Even Glasser recognized that CNN settled because potential jurors in civil cases will likely punish media misconduct big time.

"The sympathy out there and the attitude of the American jury pool no longer sees reporters as Woodward and Bernstein crusading, but instead they think of Jayson Blair and Sabrina Erdely, who make things up to suit their own agenda," Glasser said, citing the New York Times' Blair, who routinely made up stories, and the Rolling Stone reporter whose story about a student who claimed to be raped was false.

That's the good turn in all this. The threat of average citizens standing up to media giants, and using America's due process system to do it through juries who have their eyes wide open, is the very thing that can make the media more accountable.

It's the only thing that can, actually. Sandmann's triumph is symbolic to be sure. But more than that, it's a very needed call to ever more action against a national corporate media that long ago went rogue.





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