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The free press is a threat to the country

: Laura Hollis on

And the national press wonders why it is mistrusted, and even despised?

Sen. Tom Cotton was among the first to suggest that the information China was releasing regarding the novel coronavirus emerging from Wuhan might be inaccurate. Cotton raised the specter that the Chinese national virology laboratory in Wuhan could have played a role -- even if inadvertent. For that, he was ridiculed. Cotton is a Republican, so his statement was the press's cue to trot out the tropes: This was just some wacky conspiracy theory. His accusations have already been "debunked." He's a war hawk pitching a "fringe theory" bought into by all the other right-wing kooks who also suspect foul play or grievous error in China.

None of that was journalism. That was just repeating Democratic National Committee talking points and dutifully disseminating the propaganda of the communist Chinese government.

Journalism would have been doing what National Review's Jim Geraghty, YouTuber Matthew Tye and Scientific American's Jane Qiu have done: digging through news reports from online Chinese news agency Caixin Global; going through scholarly journals to find papers on viruses in bats being studied at the Wuhan virology laboratory; discovering advertisements for research positions at that same laboratory that require expertise in coronavirus strains in bats; interviewing scientist Shi Zhengli (called "bat woman" or the "bat lady"), who actually went into the caves in the Yunnan province (hundreds of miles from Wuhan, in the Hubei province) where the horseshoe bats that likely carry this virus live -- a different type of bat than those sold in the Wuhan wet market, by the way.

All of that was discoverable through research. Discovering it would have been journalism. But actual journalism would have proven Sen. Cotton correct. And we can't have that.

Similarly, it would have been journalism to actually investigate the claims about corruption within the FBI, and the dangerous politicization of the FISA surveillance warrant process that Rep. Devin Nunes warned of two years ago. He was roundly criticized and his warnings pooh-poohed. And yet, when inspector general Michael Horowitz's report proved Nunes correct, there were crickets. No "We were wrong." No bombshell revelation. Just silence from the Fourth Estate.

 

It's so much easier to simply repeat what you've been told to say, and what all your politically simpatico friends in the business are saying. And it's much more fun to nudge-nudge-wink-wink and laugh with one another at how morally and intellectually superior you are to the average American than it is TO JUST DO YOUR JOB.

The press is disbelieved -- and even loathed -- because it has lost its credibility. This has happened by virtue of its own actions. Members of the press blame Trump for the public's antipathy toward them (big shock -- they blame Trump for everything), but like most modern unpleasant political phenomena, this didn't start with Trump. He simply made visible that which has been going on, largely unacknowledged, for decades.

The national press is pushing back. We should appreciate the press, it claims, because Trump is an aspiring fascist, and that's why it "covers" him like a swarm of hornets.

YAWN.

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Copyright 2020 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
 

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