Patterico's Pontifications


Our Bifurcated Media Rides Again

Filed under: General — JVW @ 2:50 pm

[guest post by JVW]

Here is a great lesson in how this country is dividing up into Fox News consumers and CNN consumers (in the interest of keeping this post as succinct as my prolix musings can ever be, let’s for the time being lump MSNBC in with CNN and allow CNN to serve as a proxy for both). Note the lede paragraphs of each site and how they subtly spin the news to fit their own preferred narrative. Bolded emphasis in all cases is provided by me:

Note, all of these quotes below were taken from the stories as they appeared at 1:50 pm Pacific Time, even though this post probably won’t be published until later in the day. By the time you read this, the articles at the links could have been substantially revised

Here’s how CNN sees things:

The Justice Department is dropping the criminal case against President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, whose lies about his contacts with Russia prompted Trump to fire him three years ago and special counsel Robert Mueller to flip him to cooperate in the Russia investigation.

The request to drop the case, filed with a federal judge in DC District Court on Thursday, is a sudden end to a protracted legal battle that’s lately been fertile ground for Trump to attack the early Russia investigation and former FBI leadership he dislikes.

The court must still formally approve the request.

Flynn twice, before two separate judges, affirmed his December 2017 agreement to plead guilty to charges that he lied to the FBI about his interactions with the then-Russian ambassador during the Trump presidential transition. But last year, he fired his original defense team and waged a campaign to try to get a judge to reverse his guilty plea.

Here’s the same breaking news article from Fox News:

The Justice Department on Thursday moved to drop its case against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, in a stunning development that comes after internal memos were released raising serious questions about the nature of the investigation that led to Flynn’s late 2017 guilty plea of lying to the FBI.

The announcement came in a court filing “after a considered review of all the facts and circumstances of this case, including newly discovered and disclosed information,” as the department put it. DOJ officials said they concluded that Flynn’s interview by the FBI was “untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn” and that the interview was “conducted without any legitimate investigative basis.”

The federal judge overseeing the case would have to make the final determination to dismiss it.

The Justice Department’s characterization of the Flynn interview as “untethered to” and “unjustified by” the investigation is also quoted by CNN in paragraphs six and seven of their report, after they have informed us about how much the President and his team have resented the prosecution. Conversely, Fox News refuses to directly characterize Flynn’s testimony as lying, writing merely that he pled guilty to lying but has been trying to withdraw the plea ever since. Fox News, which admittedly has a much longer story than it’s chief competitor, also covers the reports from last week that “FBI agents” (i.e., Peter Strzok) had hoped to entrap General Flynn in a lie, which seems to be a subtle attempt to call into question the legitimacy of the whole operation to begin with. CNN’s story, in turn, points out that “[t]he Flynn filing was not signed by any career prosecutors at the Justice Department. Instead, the motion to dismiss was signed only by the politically appointed US Attorney Timothy Shea,” which I read as a dismissal of the motion as self-serving by the Trump Administration.

I guess that in the end we should celebrate the fact that we have two influential yet divergent media outlets reporting the same story, otherwise we would be China or Venezuela. But it says a great deal about our times that the same news article can be written from two starkly different points of view. It’s an important reminder that “news” articles are no longer designed to be viewpoint neutral, if indeed they ever were.


36 Responses to “Our Bifurcated Media Rides Again”

  1. At the end of the day I prefer the Fox News report, only because they start quoting the relevant document in paragraph two of their story whereas CNN wants to first spend five paragraphs setting you up for their spin on the matter. I think the Fox News story, though certainly slanted in its own way, is somewhat more honest in that regard.

    JVW (54fd0b)

  2. While you’re all here, allow me to suggest that you continue the discussion of the actual events that transpired this afternoon and their legal justifications on Patterico’s excellent post, and use this discussion thread to share your thoughts on how the news media is covering all of this. Just a thought.

    JVW (54fd0b)

  3. The country is divided between Fox News and CNN, MSNBC, CBS, NBC, ABC, The WaPo, NYTimes, etc.

    Also today:

    “Following the standoff between Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Acting DNI Richard Grenell, the House Intelligence Committee published all of the Russia investigation transcripts Thursday evening.

    harkin (8f4a6f)

  4. You left out OANN and BlazeNews and probably a 2:1 if not more advantage in the blogosphere and in websites on the conservative side. Not hating, but among new media the conservative side of the ledger is a lot larger. The algorithms of Facebook and Twitter are on the left’s side admittedly.

    urbanleftbehind (df7abf)

  5. Back in the day, before radio and television, the printing press was the primary means of communication. Then a politician running for elected office had only two means of attracting voters: give a stump speech to a limited audience, which was complicated by the travel constraints of the times, or print a journal to reach a larger audience.

    Thus, by definition, a journalist is a partisan for a particular political movement.

    As cities, counties and states grew and developed, newspapers emerged. These were not overtly political publications, but rather reports on local events, council meetings, festivals, marriages, funerals, the weather, and the like. There is, and always has been, a profound difference between a journalist, who is a political operative, and a reporter, who is a recorder of facts. Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts, remember that old saying?

    Then along came opinion columnists, and they muddied up the waters. Today the distinction beween journalist, reporter and columnist has been lost. It’s all one big sh!t storm now, in print, on radio, television and film, especially on the Internet.

    I actually prefer CNN to FOX, and that’s something I never would have admitted ten years ago. They both have their ideological bent, but that’s to be expected in these hyper-partisan times. I blame the corporate executives, the production managers and the content editors.

    Gawain's Ghost (b25cd1)

  6. Your view of it doesn’t really jib with reality. CNN/ABC/CBS/NBC/MSNBC/PBS have been churning out 92% negative coverage of Trump for 3 years. That’s 6 of the 7 News TV networks. The only one that’s even handed is Fox News The same thing is true in print journalism. Every Major Newspaper follows the NYT/WaPo lead, except for sometimes the NY Post and the WSJ ed-op page.

    I turned on the PBS newshour while driving around and expected an even-handed discussion of DoJ dropping the Flynn case. Instead, the Judy woodruff the only matter of interest was whether trump through Barr had quashed the case. All that FBI misconduct? What a bore. That 20 page DoJ memo? Who cares. You even had the typical PBS News hour slanted discussion, with a hard-core, passionate, aggressive Lefty Lawyer on the onside, and a sorta, kinda, namby-pamby “well, maybe Trump wasn’t involved and it was legitimate” moderate lawyer on the other side. Shades of David brooks vs. Mark Shields.

    rcocean (1a839e)

  7. The highlighted parts of CNN’s account are entirely factual:

    1) Flynn admitted to lying; everyone including Trump agreed that he lied.
    2) Trump did, in fact, fire him for lying. Trump said so. How this is supposed to indicate some kind of bias eludes me.
    3) Trump has, in fact, frequently attacked the FBI in scurrilous terms, recently calling them ‘human scum’.
    4) The statements about what Flynn affirmed in court are also matters of record.

    The parts you highlight in Fox’s report, on the other hand, are vague and content-free propaganda.

    Dave (1bb933)

  8. My point isn’t that CNN and/or Fox aren’t providing plausible recaps of the day’s events, I’m just showcasing the idea that the anti-Trump side wants to lead their story with an onslaught of reminders that Flynn pled guilty to the crime and the pro-Trump side wants to lead with a reminder that the investigation has been controversial from the get-go. I don’t care who thinks one side is closer to the truth than the other; I’m just fascinated that the two reports are spun for their intended audiences.

    If you wanted to look at it in a different light, substitute Bill Clinton for Donald Trump and the Starr investigation for the Flynn/Russia investigation and see how each side would likely handle their ledes. Or Hillary Clinton and Benghazi; it hardly matters the topic as long as it is a divisive one.

    JVW (54fd0b)

  9. This is a great point that clearly illustrates the advocacy media shaping the news, rather than just reporting the news. It seems that every news item demands a reader takes sides, and they’re only too happy to nudge you to the side they want you to be on. This is true for media that leans both right and left.

    Dana (0feb77)

  10. A lot of journalism students over the past 40 years or so went through school thinking they were going to change the world. That’s a damning indictment of modern “journalism.”

    Gryph (08c844)

  11. A lot of journalism students over the past 40 years or so went through school thinking they were going to change the world.

    They were taught that their job is “to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” What a load of hooey, and ironically enough it was a misreading of the author’s original intent.

    JVW (54fd0b)

  12. a reminder that the investigation has been controversial from the get-go

    Except it hasn’t.

    Dave (1bb933)

  13. This is why it’s a good thing to catch the best shows on each of the three major channels which, IMO, are Morning Joe, Tapper and Special Report.

    Paul Montagu (b3f51b)

  14. It became controversial when the president tried to coerce the FBI director to let Flynn skate because he was a close associate.

    Dave (1bb933)

  15. Partisans gonna partisan. You see it here every day.

    NJRob (4d595c)

  16. I realize that Flynn ordinarily would have never gotten this far after pleading guilty. It’s not bad that he is almost certainly going to get out of this. In fact it’s good. The REAL travesty is that these types of tactics are used all the time at lower levels and people make pragmatic plea bargains and plead guilty to things they didn’t do because what is threatened is so much worse. So this is really cool. It’s up there with skydiving over the Grand Canyon with a head full of LSD and having a wonderful safe trip all the way down.

    Lazlo Toth (cbb623)

  17. Most of the Fox shows range from biased in favor of the GOP to quasi alt right (btw, has Tucker gotten a facelift recently?), but the 6 PM news (Special Report with Brett Baier) is generally far superior in informative depth and breadth of topics to anything CNN or MSNBC have on at that hour. What I catch of Bill Hemmer is often good, but I am usually doing other stuff at that time of day.

    Morning Joe used to be good. He did a far better job of explaining why Hillary should have been prosecuted than anyone else in or out of the media. But he and Mika have decided it’s their job to be our morality teachers or something. Their constant sermonizing is too much for me nowadays.

    Kishnevi (64dd45)

  18. They call one “opinion” and the other one “news”, kish.

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  19. I was with you until your last sentence, Laslo. Good God Almighty!!!

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  20. Reading Dave’s comments is pretty damned close to reading Adam Schiff (bad!) or hearing him speak of these things (much worse, on account of the rosy cheeks and bulging eyes). It’s uncanny.

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  21. Partisans gonna partisan. You see it here every day.
    NJRob (4d595c) — 5/7/2020 @ 7:04 pm

    Are you speaking of the “partisans” who have voted GOP for decades but didn’t fall in line behind Trump and proceed to defend him no matter what?

    Radegunda (39c35f)

  22. I love how Lefties always obsess about how ‘Biased’ Fox news is. Its ONE TV News channel. Two of them -MSNBC and the Jeff Zucker News, might as well be run by the DNC. PBS/CNN/ABC/NBC are slightly more balanced than CNN/MSNBC in the same way that Nancy Pelosi is slightly more mainstream then AOC.

    rcocean (1a839e)

  23. The MSM is simply uninterested in covering any story that reflects badly on the Democrats. But its always been like that. Dan Rather – GungaDan aka Big Dan the Reporter man – was publically disgusted at Starr investigating Clinton’s perjury in the Harassment trial of Paual Jones. No “speaking to power” when the Power was in the hands of the Demcorats. Of course, like Walter Cronkite, once Big Dan got bounced by CBS, he reveled himself to be – not the “objective registered independent” he always claimed to be, but a hard-core leftist and Partisan Democrat.

    Of course, anyone with a brain already knows all the Press are hard-core liberals/Demcorats and their coverage in slanted, but dummies always imagine they’re telling the truth about being “Ojbective”.

    rcocean (1a839e)

  24. Sean Davis

    What is amazing about the 53 transcripts released by ODNI yesterday is how many former Obama officials were forced to admit privately under oath that what they claimed in their TV appearances about “collusion” was nonsense and had no basis in reality.


    One would think this would generate a nice reflection.

    harkin (8f4a6f)

  25. Yep, Brennan was Telling us on CNN it was “Worse than Watergate” based on his “inside sources” while telling the Committee he had no evidence at all. But then Brennan has lied constantly during his career, including to congress.

    rcocean (1a839e)

  26. That’s why he’s at CNN. they liked liars, as long as they hurt trump.

    rcocean (1a839e)

  27. @24, do you details on that? looks interesting.

    Time123 (66d88c)

  28. Matt McDermott

    Mike Pence caught on hot mic delivering empty boxes of PPE for a PR stunt.
    __ _

    Matt Whitlock

    Wild to see reporters and media figures I trust retweet this deceptively edited video by
    C-Span has the whole video that showed he’d been delivering boxes for several minutes and made a joke about the empty ones at the very end.

    This is shameful stuff.
    __ _

    Shameful and corrupt, not bifurcated.

    harkin (8f4a6f)

  29. One would think this would generate a nice reflection.

    Apparently, those who’d most benefit would rather have their noses rubbed in it.

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  30. That’s why he’s at CNN. they liked liars, as long as they hurt trump.

    I’m constantly amazed that anyone can seriously claim to be offended by liars and simultaneously put the highest priority on defending Trump, always, no matter what.

    I didn’t learn that Trump is a chronic liar from PBS/CNN/ABC/NBC or CNN/MSNBC. I learned it from observing his frequent self-contradictions and patently preposterous statements.

    If your greatest concern is that someone might “hurt trump,” then the most objective reporting conceivable will offend you, since the truth about Trump is not flattering to him. Which is why he’s always lying about himself.

    Radegunda (39c35f)

  31. So, 20 million Americans US residents lost their jobs in April. Headlines. I wonder if the same attention will be paid in June when 6 million people a week are called back to work.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  32. I’m constantly amazed that anyone can seriously claim to be offended by liars and simultaneously put the highest priority on defending Trump

    Yes. Especially ironic is Trump calling people liars. But then everyone hates Congress, except for their own Congressperson.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  33. Most of the Fox shows range from biased in favor of the GOP to quasi alt right

    I wish that the 3 news networks still carried news. I remember a time when “This is CNN!” was a proud claim, and a brand people trusted. But now everything is Crossfire, or worse.

    I see that ABC now has the beginnings of an all-news channel. Maybe they see a niche.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  34. I wonder if the same attention will be paid in June when 6 million people a week are called back to work.

    But I know the headline will be “12 million still without work!”

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  35. Geesch, Kevin. Now you’re reduced to talking to yourself!


    Ragspierre (d9bec9)

  36. 34… if it bleeds the USA or – bonus points – Trump, it leads…

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

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