Thursday, November 10, 2016
This sober cbs News article contains many soul-searching observations about journalists. Rarely do I read such a radical, self-critical article that lays things so bare:
This is all symptomatic of modern journalism's great moral and intellectual failing: its unbearable smugness. Had Hillary Clinton won, there's be a winking "we did it" feeling in the press, a sense that we were brave and called Trump a liar and saved the republic.
So much for that. The audience for our glib analysis and contempt for much of the electorate, it turned out, was rather limited. This was particularly true when it came to voters, the ones who turned out by the millions to deliver not only a rebuke to the political system but also the people who cover it. Trump knew what he was doing when he invited his crowds to jeer and hiss the reporters covering him. They hate us, and have for some time.
And can you blame them? Journalists love mocking Trump supporters. We insult their appearances. We dismiss them as racists and sexists. We emote on Twitter about how this or that comment or policy makes us feel one way or the other, and yet we reject their feelings as invalid.
It's a profound failure of empathy in the service of endless posturing. There's been some sympathy from the press, sure: the dispatches from "heroin country" that read like reports from colonial administrators checking in on the natives. But much of that starts from the assumption that Trump voters are backward, and that it's our duty to catalogue and ultimately reverse that backwardness. What can we do to get these people to stop worshiping their false god and accept our gospel?
We diagnose them as racists in the way Dark Age clerics confused medical problems with demonic possession. Journalists, at our worst, see ourselves as a priestly caste. We believe we not only have access to the indisputable facts, but also a greater truth, a system of beliefs divined from an advanced understanding of justice.
You'd think that Trump's victory — the one we all discounted too far in advance — would lead to a certain newfound humility in the political press. But of course that's not how it works. To us, speaking broadly, our diagnosis was still basically correct. The demons were just stronger than we realized.
The rest of the article is equally illuminating. It explains a lot — not only the incorrect polls, but the voting surge for a candidate who almost every "learned" source dismissed. ("Hillary received the endorsement of nearly every newspaper and magazine that issued one.")
Not since Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan has so much anti-establishment angst been generated in the usa. (The recent Brexit vote was a European manifestation of this phenomenon.) This angst is going to take a long time to play out.
Update: Thoughtful analysis by a Democratic Party insider 2016-11-12
Update: Thoughtful analysis by a Republican 2016-11-14
Update: Another Democratic analysis 2016-11-22