By Dave Andrusko
You would expect a pompous self-important newspaper like the Washington Post—the one that ominously reminds us “Democracy Dies in Darkness” (aka without the Post)—to repost the entirety of the Reuters Memorial Lecture delivered at the University of Oxford February 16 by Post Executive Editor Martin Baron.
Not just because it is the latest in an endless stream of Post self-congratulatory stories about its “courage.” Not just because Baron devotes most of the 3,755 words to expressing his absolute loathing for President Trump. And certainly not just because it ends with “But we have been reminded over many months now that, as journalists, we need more than a soul. We also need a spine. I am pleased to report that we have that, too”—an applause line for fellow journalists to clap to, if ever there was one.
No, I believe the Post laid this on its readers to remind them that they must believe that the wall defending them from the evil Trump administration is manned principally by the men and women who work at the Post and the New York Times.
But, of course, since Baron is as far removed from Middle America as the earth is from Neptune, he probably doesn’t understand (or chooses not to understand) that his whole speech is one long attack on the people who voted for President Trump. For all its pretty words about respecting the democratic process Baron’s is a thinly veiled assault on an electorate that he believes isn’t as smart as the newsroom at the Post.
There are 40 points that could be critiqued. Here are three.
#1. The crux of the speech is woe is us, but we’re carrying the day there even though much of the electorate (or more specifically, Republicans) wouldn’t know a “fact” if it bite ‘em. This was a chronic weakness, Baron tells us slyly, but aggravated by (guess who?) Donald Trump.
He is 4/5ths of the way into the address before Baron asks whether the media bears any responsibility for the massive public distrust of its behavior. Of course the real answer is no—the Post is “right,” “fair,” and “clear”—but perhaps the Post could be an itsy bitsy more “transparent.”
That by the way is lifted from a Post reporter’s speech at the Newseum, the “Taj Mahal of journalism” (to quote media critic Jack Shafer), a seven story tall building “with 250,000 square feet of exhibit space, 15 theaters and an adjoining multistory Wolfgang Puck restaurant” (to quote a Post columnist ) which is closing in on bankruptcy.
#2. After accusing President Trump of everything but the Brink’s robbery, Baron piously assures his listeners
Let me pause here to say I am not expressing a view on the results of the presidential election or the president’s policies. I have deep respect for our democratic system and the public’s right to select whomever they prefer to lead the country.
People have their own reasons for voting as they do.
Speaking of transparency, this is so transparently false I have to wonder if the audience was able to suppress tittering. His contempt is boundless for people outside the Beltway. And
#3. Baron offers the usual quote from the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan who once quipped, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” Baron adds, “What if people believe they are not only entitled to their own opinion but to their own facts? Where does that lead?”
He cites (what are for him) telling examples. Here’s the first:
A Politico/Morning Consult poll published in October showed that nearly half of all American voters – 46% — believe the news media fabricate news stories about Trump and his administration. Three quarters of Republican voters believe that.
Get it? If nearly half the public thinks the news media makes up stories about President Trump, it’s not their opinion (based on solid evidence, by the way) but rather an example of creating “their own facts.”
Whose fault is this? Well, largely (who else?) President Trump. It’s staggering: there is not even a hint, not a syllable of self-examination from Baron. For example, could the news media have its own agenda to which it tailors the “facts”?
That couldn’t be, not when the media is (to the Martin Barons of this world) the fortress holding back the onslaught of the barbarians.
You can read the entire speech (if you can get through it) here.
Please do, because it is the quintessential example of the media bubble that movers and shakers like Martin Baron inhabit.