Suppression, Deception, Snobbery, and Bias: Why the Press Gets So Much Wrong — And Just Doesn’t Care
By Ari Fleischer
(Broadside Books: 368 pages, $28.99)
Liberals embrace diversity everywhere except the newsroom. While Republicans represent approximately 50 percent of America’s voting population, the U.S. mainstream media is dominated by college-educated Democrats who tailor their coverage to other college-educated Democrats, ignoring or insulting everyone else. This is the central claim of Ari Fleisher’s new book, Suppression, Deception, Snobbery, and Bias: Why the Press Gets So Much Wrong — And Just Doesn’t Care.
Fleischer, who served as White House press secretary under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2003, maintains that the mainstream media’s ideological homogeneity has been enabled by the country’s top journalism schools, which selectively recruit and cultivate progressive cohorts for placement in the most influential news outlets. Moreover, Fleischer asserts that many of today’s journalists, especially the rising ones, are increasingly forsaking factual reporting in favor of agenda-driven advocacy. This mélange of liberal elitism, bias, activism, and overall sloppiness, which is further exacerbated by a 24-hour news cycle, has led to the media repeatedly “getting it wrong” with minimal professional consequences.
Fleischer buttresses his argument with various research studies, including a 2018 study from the Pew Research Center that states:
[The] only group of Americans who say the press understands them are college-educated Democrats. The majority of Americans with a high school education or less feel misunderstood by the news media. Nearly three-quarters of Republicans say the news media “don’t understand people like them.”
Fleischer’s thesis that the liberal media marginalizes anyone who doesn’t belong to their club is hardly revolutionary. Yet his book is engaging largely because he offers a plethora of insightful data to make his case. He compares and contrasts the press coverage of the last five presidents (Joe Biden, Donald Trump, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton) during their first 60 days in office. Trump tops the list for negative coverage, receiving 62 percent vs. Biden’s 19 percent. The Fox News contributor peppers his book with recent examples of slanted reporting and information suppression, including the downplaying of the Wuhan lab’s role in the spread of the COVID-19 virus and the attempted cover-up of the Hunter Biden laptop story.
The book, which was written before the June 24th overturn of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court abortion ruling, juxtaposes the laudatory press coverage that Bill Clinton received for supporting abortion on Roe’s 20th anniversary with the unfavorable reporting that George W. Bush received on its 28th anniversary. In 1993, Peter Jennings of ABC stated that “President Clinton kept a promise today on the twentieth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing abortion.” However, in 2001, Terry Moran, also of ABC, stated that “George W. Bush made antiabortion conservatives happy, re-installing a Reagan-era policy that prohibited the funding of family planning groups that provide abortion counseling services overseas.” Clinton’s pro-choice policy was praised because it dovetailed with the mainstream media’s agenda, and Bush’s pro-life policy was dismissed because it contradicted it.
Fleischer believes that the media’s existing liberal bias and derision of everyone else reached stratospheric levels during the Trump campaign and presidency. The media’s full-on war against Trump and his supporters ran the gamut from serious narrative fabrication, such as the allegation that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians to steal the 2016 presidential election, to a never-ending series of efforts to make him appear racist, unsophisticated, or foolish. Fleischer cites CNN’s reporting of Trump’s participation with former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a ceremonial feeding of the koi fish on the Akasaka palace grounds. While Trump followed Prime Minister Abe’s lead by pouring a spoonful of the fish food into the water before emptying the full contents of the box, CNN cut the footage in such a way that Prime Minister Abe is shown pouring a delicate spoonful followed by the boorish Trump dumping the full box. In the wake of Prime Minister Abe’s violent assassination on July 8, CNN’s efforts to demean Trump’s quiet moment with him appear even more acutely mean-spirited.
Fleischer maintains that, even though Trump is no longer in office, the liberals’ disdain for him and his supporters shows little sign of abating, with the mainstream media continuing to label them as “deplorables,” “racists,” and “rednecks” who aren’t smart enough to think for themselves. That Fleischer’s book contains extensive coverage of Trump is not just a reflection of the recency of his presidency. Rather, it is a confirmation of the extent to which the Trump movement has changed the landscape of the Republican Party and become an integral part of the political zeitgeist.
Fleischer concludes his book by posing the question of whether the press is willing to and capable of eradicating its bias so that it can return to the practice of neutral fact-based reporting. He suggests that the revamping of journalism is feasible, assuming a holistic commitment from journalism school admission officers, reporters, and media executives to embrace differing perspectives.
Suppression, Deception, Snobbery, and Bias is an engrossing data-driven book that delineates the mainstream media’s bias toward college-educated Democrats and the diminishing role of fact-based reporting in favor of needle-moving advocacy. Fleischer is to be commended not only for tackling this topic, but for remaining optimistic that the media can be reengineered to be more reflective of all Americans and consequently worthy of their trust.