Opinion

It’s no wonder conservatives don’t trust the media

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If you aren’t a conservative, I suppose it can be difficult to understand the source of conservative antipathy about the media.

To the outsider, conservatives can often come off like whiny complainers, decrying the “liberal media” as “fake news” when they just don’t like what the news reports.

Well, with all due respect to those people, their confusion is not surprising. If you are a popular jock in high school, you really don’t have any idea what it is like to be bullied, because you are not the target of the torment. It is hard to understand the effect when you aren’t the target.

Conservative frustration with the media didn’t just suddenly appear out of thin air, it came after decades of exposure to unfairness and bias.

That bias takes many forms. The most talked-about and the kind that drives conservatives the craziest is editorial journalism. This typically takes the form of a news article or broadcast that claims to be a neutral appraisal of a situation that instead has a clear, hostile and left-wing perspective.

This rank dishonesty and unfairness generates an immense amount of frustration, and rightly so.
Another form it takes is less nefarious, but no less problematic. It is also the most common. I call it subtle bias. In this, a reporter genuinely attempts to be fair-minded and neutral, and report the straight facts. They’re good people and good journalists.

But they are also, privately, ideologically left-wing. That may not come out in unfair coverage, but it does become apparent in the types of questions that they ask, the types of stories they are interested in, and the types of issues they focus on. This internal bias keeps them from asking critical questions and pursuing stories potentially threatening to the ideology they hold.

This doesn’t inspire as much anger, but it does produce frustration in conservative circles. Frustration in the reporter’s inability to recognize this more than anything else.

But perhaps the most maddening version of this is in the promotion of “conservative” voices in the media.

Somewhere, in a newspaper editorial board meeting, very liberal editors are sitting around bemoaning the loss of right-leaning readers, and in a desperate act of tokenism, stumble on the idea of having a conservative columnist on staff as a means of proving their fair-mindedness.

But the chosen conservative is almost never a person who reflects the actual sensibilities of the general right-wing audience. No, the chosen writer or television pundit who is promoted is almost always a liberal’s idea of what a conservative should be, rather than what a conservative actually is.

The latest example of this problem lives at The Washington Post, where the editors have consistently proven this rule true. Since late 2010, their idea of what a conservative should be is personified in Jennifer Rubin, who writes the Right Turn blog, which is — supposedly — opinion from a right-wing perspective.

At no time has Rubin ever sounded all that conservative, of course. She has made a living attacking not only the people who most represent the movement, but also the very ideas that the movement holds.

Commenting recently on the vitriol faced by President Donald Trump’s spokewoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Rubin had the following to say on the Joy Reid show Sunday:

“Sarah Huckabee has no right to live a life of no fuss, no muss, after lying to the press — after lying to the press, after inciting against the press. These people should be made uncomfortable, and I think that’s a life sentence, frankly.”

A life sentence of being harassed and made to feel uncomfortable for serving as Trump’s press secretary?

In the same appearance Rubin urged pressure on Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski to vote against a Trump Supreme Court pick:

“You vote for this, Ms. Collins, Ms. Murkowski, you have voted to criminalize abortion — this is on you. And we’re not going to accept these nonsense excuses […] No! It has to be all-out, on the ground in those states.”

This is conservative opinion?

At every turn we are forced to deal with voices like Rubin, or Joe Scarborough somehow claiming the mantle of our ideology and worldview, only to ultimately attack that worldview constantly.

When all we seem to see in the media is outright bias, subtle bias, and then phony versions of ourselves being hostile to and misrepresenting our beliefs, is it any wonder we are a bit angry about it?

Matthew Gagnon of Yarmouth is the chief executive officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. A Hampden native, he previously served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C.

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