We now have two major polls carefully measuring public reaction to the close of the Robert Mueller special counsel investigation that concluded there was insufficient evidence to charge Donald Trump of conspiracy with the Russians or of obstructing justice in a cover-up.
Public reaction to Attorney General William P. Barr’s summary is interesting.
About 40 percent still think President Trump committed a serious crime and about the same do not, with the rest undecided. A third say Trump was exonerated, 40 percent say not, and 31 percent are unsure.
The large size of the unsure group is best explained by the fact that Americans have seen President Trump convicted in the court of public opinion for two full years of constant barrage by almost all mainstream news media insisting the president is guilty, of something or other.
Washington Post news media critic Paul Farhi courageously broke from the news-pack to explain that Barr’s decision was a “thunderclap” to the “mostly liberal” mainstream media which had saturated the news about Trump collusion for the past two years.
The so-called Russiagate had been a news media “obsession” since Trump’s election with the independent Tyndall Report finding the ABC, CBS, and NBC evening news dedicating 332 minutes last year to the collusion story, second only to the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings, plus hundreds of hours devoted by CNN and MSNBC.
According to the Republican National Committee, the Post, The New York Times, CNN.com, and MSNBC.com published an additional 8,507 articles on the Mueller investigation. Indeed Post and Times stories about supposed Trump and Russian contacts were instrumental in forcing the investigation back in the first place and won them a shared, prestigious-journalism Pulitzer Prize.
Social media receive much of the blame but Google gets its news secondhand from elite media like The New York Times and Washington Post as do television, professors, and teachers.
Did the mainstream news regret their obsession with Trump that cost him control of Congress? Dean Baquet, top editor at the New York Times countered, “I’m comfortable with our coverage.”
Pulitzer-award Guardian commentator Glenn Greenwald responded that it would be foolish to expect “an iota of self-reflection, humility or admission of massive error” from the “standard liberal outlets” who accepted “whatever they were told by the CIA & FBI.”
Left-leaning Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi worried about the bias now revealed to all: “Nothing Trump is accused of from now on by the press will be believed by huge chunks of the population.”
Or consider how the news media keep quoting President Trump saying that there were “fine people” on both sides of the Charlottesville extremist alt-right riot that resulted in a protestor’s death. But mostly the mainstream media suppressed that Trump added he was “not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists because they should be condemned totally.”
Or consider Post token conservative columnist Megan McArdle in a totally different context recently asking why young people today are “obsessed” with safety, troubled by a sense of threat, and are anxious and depressed. Where does she say this comes from? It comes from the media making local stories appear as national news, making kidnapping and mass shootings on the other side of the country look like they are the norm.
Children “are put on constant guard against malevolent strangers” but are not provided the necessary context required for accurate news that there are 55 million schoolchildren but that only about 10 of them are killed each year by shootings.
“If the media gave less airtime to minuscule risks and more airtime to major ones; if schools stopped terrorizing kids with mass-shooting drills; if parents stopped fretting about their children walking a few blocks to a playground,” McArdle concluded, the kids could turn out right.
The mainstream media news pretty much shape how we see the world and when this is fueled by prejudice, partisanship, sensationalism, and spite, a reckoning cannot come too soon and as the facts of the Mueller report sink in hopefully this will help advance that day.
Donald Devine is senior scholar at the Fund for American Studies. He is the author of "America’s Way Back: Reclaiming Freedom, Tradition, and Constitution" and "Reagan’s Terrible Swift Sword: Reforming and Controlling the Federal Bureaucracy." He served as President Reagan’s director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. He can also be followed on Twitter @donalddevineco1. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.