No, you're not imagining the media's Pravda-ization
Matt Taibbi is that rare breed — an honest leftist journalist. And make no mistake about his leftism, for this is a man who thinks Noam Chomsky is a great thinker. Despite that serious ideological confusion on his part, Taibbi understands something profoundly important in American politics — namely, that our media have become completely corrupt, and more closely represents the media in Soviet Russia than the media in a free country with a First Amendment. If you haven't yet, you must read his article, "The Sovietization of the American Press."
Taibbi, who has collected examples of Soviet newspapers over the years, so he knows whereof he speaks, says that, in 2021, there is nothing to distinguish the American media from the Soviet press. The important point he makes about the Soviet media is that its world was divided into heroes and enemies. The governing Communist Party was heroic, and anything or anybody that challenged it was part of a vast, evil conspiracy aimed at destroying this heroic party.
After giving examples of the fatuous superlatives that the Soviet media heaped on communist politicians and their actions, Taibbi points out that there is little difference between those words and what we see in today's reporting now that Biden is in office:
Some of the headlines in the U.S. press lately sound suspiciously like this kind of work:
— Biden stimulus showers money on Americans, sharply cutting poverty
— Champion of the middle class comes to the aid of the poor
— Biden's historic victory for America
For Taibbi, the apex of the hagiography that is every major newspaper article today is the Washington Post's recent claim that comedians are finding it impossible to joke about Biden. You may recall, from the Obama era that the media claimed that it was impossible to parity Obama because he was simply too cool. According to Richard Zoglin, Biden cannot be parodied, not because he is too cool, but because he is too normal. His voice, insists Zoglin, is "devoid of obvious quirks," and his manner too "muted and self-effacing" to give comics anything to work with. Taibbi's response to these risible statements is the following video:
As another example of the media's voluntary decision to act as a Soviet-era apparatchik, Taibbi shows the different coverage accorded Trump and Biden when it comes to continuing to deal with Saudi Arabia despite its involvement in Jamal Khashoggi's death. Trump and Biden opted for the same policy, which is continuing to deal with Saudi Arabia for geopolitical reasons. But while Trump was cast as a monster, Biden is praised as a pragmatic realist.
Taibbi explains the technique that the American media use to create the illusion that they are reporting something rather than reciting the party line and pushing a credulous public in a certain political direction:
The old con of the Manufacturing Consent era of media was a phony show of bipartisanship. Legitimate opinion was depicted as a spectrum stretching all the way from "moderate" Democrats (often depicted as more correct on social issues) to "moderate" Republicans (whose views on the economy or war were often depicted as more realistic). That propaganda trick involved constantly narrowing the debate to a little slice of the Venn diagram between two established parties. Did we need to invade Iraq right away to stay safe, as Republicans contended, or should we wait until inspectors finished their work and then invade, as Democrats insisted?
The new, cleaved media landscape advances the same tiny intersection of elite opinion, except in the post-Trump era, that strip fits inside one party. Instead of appearing as props in a phony rendering of objectivity, Republicans in basically all non-Fox media have been moved off the legitimacy spectrum, and appear as foils only. Allowable opinion is now depicted stretching all the way from one brand of "moderate" Democrat to another.
To prove his point, Taibbi highlights reports on the alleged debate about how to handle inflation and the equally fake debate in the media about the $1.9-trillion spending bill just passed. He notes, too, that "[w]e now know in advance that every Biden address will be reviewed as historic and exceptional." There is more in this vein, and I urge you to read it. It is a good and important article.
Years ago, I read an old cartoon showing a couple at the breakfast table. The woman says, "This article says don't believe everything you read." Her husband replies, "Don't believe it." That husband represents half the American public. They've been given proof repeatedly that the media are lying, but they refuse to accept that fact and, instead, continue to believe the garbage they spew. Now that this garbage has risen to the level of Soviet-style hagiography of a demented old man, America is in a deep dive and needs to pull out soon before it crashes.
Image: By Andrea Widburg.