The Fourth Estate enjoys no special immunity from the law of diminishing returns.
The louder Don Lemon, Anderson Cooper, and Andrea Mitchell scold voters for daydreaming of committing heresies against democracy in the voting booth on November 8, the firmer viewers press that internal mute button in their minds. A liberal-bias Laffer Curve demonstrates that the more journalists allow their preferences to override objectivity, the more viewers filter out spin from information and tune out advocacy. CNNMSNBCNewYorkTimesPoliticoetc persuades the public that they harbor deep biases. They don’t necessarily persuade readers and viewers to adopt those biases.
Ratings and revenue tells us as much. So, too, does polling.
The momentum clearly shows a Donald Trump surge. Not every national poll shows Trump going from -12 to -2 in a matter of days as the ABC News/Washington Post survey does. But nearly all show Trump moving in the right direction (up).
The electoral map, with polling indicating Trump ahead, even, or within the margin of error in Nevada, Iowa, Florida, New Hampshire, Ohio, and other states Barack Obama twice carried, shows multiple paths to victory.
A few weeks ago, Nate Silver projected Donald Trump with a 12 percent chance of winning. Earlier this week, an overconfident Daily Beast headline screamed “Donald Trump Can’t Merely Be Defeated—He and His Deplorables Must Be Crushed.” The condescending tone greeting the heretofore unthinkable prospect of a Trump victory on MSNBC and CNN now evokes an “all is well” Animal House quality.
At a certain point that guy in Vladivostok watching Soviet State TV added a laugh track in his living room. It can’t happen here? It already did. Trump enjoying more than a puncher’s chance the weekend heading into the Election Day indicates the waning influence of the American media. When the boy cries wolf enough times, everybody tunes out.
It’s not as though journalists fail to boost Hillary Clinton for a lack of effort. They try too hard.
From Politico’s chief politics reporter Glenn Thrush sending Clinton’s campaign manager an article on his candidate prepublication for his input (“please don’t share or tell anyone I did this”) to Los Angeles Times stringer Steven Borowiec calling for Trump’s death in a tweet this week, journalists behaved as fire-breathing partisans (as opposed to covert partisans) this election cycle.
The debate moderators seemed far from moderate. Megyn Kelly violated the cardinal rule of journalism by becoming the story in taunting Donald Trump over his insults of Rosie O’Donnell and others in a Republican primary forum. Martha Raddatz attempted to turn the second presidential debate into a handicap match by arguing with the Republican nominee on foreign policy. CNN talking head Donna Brazile leaked questions — Who at the network let the once and future DNC chair see them? — to Clinton ahead of her debates with Bernie Sanders.
Trump, at perhaps his worst moment rhetorically during the campaign, whined of a “rigged” election. WikiLeaks surely offers evidence of this, from Brazile forwarding debate questions to the Clinton camp to Clinton strategists calling for the manipulation of those surveyed within polls back in 2008. But Trump’s complaints came across as setting up an excuse for losing before the tabulation of a single vote. Reality shows that the harder the media tries to rig the outcome, the harder it becomes for the media to rig the outcome. Trump’s solid standing days before the election suggests as much.
“Obviously, there’s opinion journalism. But if you’re trying to write for the news section, your job isn’t to have opinions. It’s to report the news,” Roger Aronoff, editor of Accuracy in Media, tells The American Spectator. Aronoff sees one silver lining in this ominous cloud. “In a way it makes it a clearer picture and supports what we’ve been long arguing,” i.e., reporters abandon objectivity in favor of pushing an agenda.
The media works best when it exposes the shady acts of the powerful. When the press exposes itself, it doesn’t work at all.