When actress Meryl Streep made her speech attacking President-elect Donald J. Trump at the Golden Globes on January 8, she also made a plea to join in support of a group few people have heard of — the Committee to Protect Journalists, or CPJ.
Unfortunately, the CPJ has switched much of its focus from protecting journalism to attacking Donald Trump and his supporters.
The stated goal of the CPJ is laudable: promoting freedom of the press by making sure reporters working on dangerous stories in dangerous countries are safe. It was that sort of work that led business guru Peter Thiel—the former PayPal CEO who is now part of the Trump transition team—to give CPJ a “substantial check” in 2009. At the time, Thiel said, “Technology can have positive and negative aspects. I want to help the CPJ defend the rights of online journalists.”
However, CPJ has given up any pretense of fairness.
According to a “media watchdog” like Joel Simon, the threat to reporters is Donald Trump.
In his clearly stated article titled, “Donald Trump threatens press freedom worldwide,” Simon declares that “Trump has consistently trampled on America’s First Amendment tradition.”
How has Trump been able to stamp on press freedom in Simon’s eyes, before Trump has even been sworn in?
Trump’s sin, according to Simon, is that “Trump has insulted and vilified the press and called individual journalists dishonest and sleazy.”
Simon goes on to list outlets that he believes had their feelings hurt — whom, Simon says, Trump:
… has systematically denied press credentials to outlets who have covered him critically, including the Washington Post, BuzzFeed, Politico, the Huffington Post, the Daily Beast, Univision and the Des Moines Register.
Simon is stretching the truth to claim that these news outlets were denied coverage throughout the campaign. This reporter was at one of Donald Trump’s final campaign stops in Iowa, just before the general election, and spoke to McKay Coppins, a notoriously harsh Trump critic who was part of the traveling press pool.
Coppins wrote for Buzzfeed—one of the publications Joel Simon says was “systematically denied press credentials”—when he penned articles such as 2014’s 36 Hours On The Fake Campaign Trail With Donald Trump. After the election, Coppins was hired by The Atlantic.
The outlets named by Simon went far beyond covering Trump critically. These media companies immediately set out to diminish Trump, distort his message, demean him and his supporters personally, and destroy his campaign. They didn’t even hide this.
Take the Huffington Post, another outlet CPJ’s Simon says was denied media access. About a month after Trump announced he was running, HuffPo took the extraordinary step of not reporting about Trump’s political run in their politics section, as they explained in A Note About Our Coverage Of Donald Trump’s ‘Campaign’:
…we have decided we won’t report on Trump’s campaign as part of The Huffington Post’s political coverage. Instead, we will cover his campaign as part of our Entertainment section. Our reason is simple: Trump’s campaign is a sideshow.
A few months later, as Trump was dominating in the run-up to the GOP primary, HuffPo was shamed into covering him, with a petulant piece titled, A Note on Trump: We Are No Longer Entertained.
Eventually, the Huffington Post, unable to stop Trump’s momentum, took the extraordinary step of posting the following disclaimer to every article about him:
Note to our readers: Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist, birther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.
If you believe the media watchdogs would think, logically, that this crossed a line–guess again. Benjamin Mullin, writing for well-known media watcher Poytner, actually defended HuffPo’s name-calling screed that would be attached to every Trump article. Mullin characterized this bias as “pushing up against traditional notions of journalistic neutrality.”
If you want to understand how these self-proclaimed media watchdogs think, remember—Joel Simon of the Committee to Protect Journalists says that Trump is a threat to the First Amendment because he wasn’t happy with the coverage from the Huffington Post, which he called mere “criticism.”
In response to the rhetorical question, “Why not hew to a more straightforward editorial stance and let readers draw their own conclusions about Trump?” Mullin doesn’t apologize for the media’s attempts to poison the well against Trump, but actually defends it as part of the mission to help inform readers. Mullin writes:
Being fully upfront and honest with readers is a mark of our respect for their ability to think freely and for themselves. Withholding certain bits of information out of a fear that it will brainwash readers is the opposite.
But of course, the HuffPo disclaimer is, in fact, “withholding certain bits of information” — specifically anything positive.
Another news outlet that the Committee to Protect Journalists director Simon says was treated unfairly is the Washington Post, which published an op-ed by Dana Milbank titled, “Donald Trump is a bigot and a racist“:
Let’s not mince words: Donald Trump is a bigot and a racist.
Some will think this an outrageous label to apply to the frontrunner for a major party’s presidential nomination. Ordinarily, I would agree that name-calling is part of what’s wrong with our politics.
Milbank’s attack shows the attitude of the establishment press—including the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Joel Simon and Poytner writer Mullin—towards Trump.
The mainstream media believe Donald Trump is a unique threat, on the scale of Hitler, Stalin, and Chairman Mao. Sound like hype? It’s not. This is from the Poytner article:
What makes Donald Trump deserving of this kicker, in your mind? The Huffington Post publishes items about individuals who’ve said lots of unsavory things — Hitler, Mao Zedong, Josef Stalin — but none of them include kickers detailing their misdeeds.
He is a unique figure in American politics, and in some ways the American people know him well, and in others they’re just getting to know him.
Starting from that premise, it’s anything goes. Journalistic standards be damned, the establishment media sees themselves on a mission to save humanity, so of course they aren’t going to apply the same standards to Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.
Committee to Protect Journalists director Joel Simon agrees with this assessment and admits to The Hollywood Reporter that he sees Obama—who has repeatedly gone after whistleblowers and maintained a wall of secrecy that even CPJ was forced to admit was horrible—is entirely different than Trump:
What’s fundamentally different is the overt hostility with Trump, the attacks on individual reporters, the threats to weaken libel laws. There’s a heightened rhetoric that is different.
Given this fervor to save America from the evils of Donald Trump, how does the media handle the fact that Trump won the election?
Simple, says Simon. The problem is that people have figured out they can route around the mainstream media.
A recent article by Simon called, “Journalism’s delivery system, not the coverage itself, is broken” said that the public’s inability to make “informed decisions” is proven “not only by the shocking Trump victory, but also by the Brexit vote” because the people have learned to”:
…get their news through social media feeds. The Washington Post or The New York Times may be perfectly balanced in terms of their coverage of each candidate, but such efforts make no difference when readers are more likely to access individual stories affirming their political biases through their Facebook feeds.
Yes, argues Simon: the New York Times and Washington Post have been perfectly fair, but the people just missed it.
President Obama made this exact same point, back in July 2015 when he appeared on The Daily Show, bemoaning the fact that the country isn’t united behind one ideology:
“Overall, I think the problem with our interaction with the media is overstated,” Obama said, adding that with the “Balkanization” of the media it’s hard for the country to get one common conversation “around something other than the Super Bowl.”
Obama said that it’s tough to get people to do an “hour-long special on urban America” because it’s “tough to get everyone focused the same way.”
It never seems to occur to politicians like Obama or pundits like Simon that the “hour-long special on urban America” might not appeal to viewers, because they don’t want to be preached at by the leftist media any more, especially when that preaching contradicts what they see with their own eyes. People have seen the media’s coverage of stories like Black Lives Matter and have decided that media isn’t worth their trust.
Simply put, people like Simon, Streep, and Obama do not understand the mood of the common people.They fail to comprehend Americans who have watched the establishment media try to force narratives like “Hands up! Don’t Shoot!” down their throats, only to have the reality turn out to be far different than the picture painted by the media.
The liberal establishment doesn’t get it, but judging by Breitbart News’ leap to the 45th most widely read website in the country, the American people sure do.