I suppose it’s to the better if readers of mainstream news outlets like the Providence Journal provide clarity about the political narrative that the journalists are deliberately pursuing, but it’s still disconcerting to see it put into practice. Consider Amanda Milkovits’s front-page article in yesterday’s paper.
The entire story is an expression of concern that the presidency of Donald Trump might — and not for reasons of actual policy, but just by rhetoric — set back Rhode Island police in their interactions with Rhode Island residents who are racial or ethnic minorities. On that question, one can only opine that progressives’ and journalists’ desire to keep reinforcing this narrative may indeed have that effect, whatever President-elect Trump may do.
On the specifics, though, check out this paragraph:
Trump chose Stephen K. Bannon, who embraces the white nationalist movement, as his chief strategist. Last week, Trump announced he wanted Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions to be his attorney general. The national Fraternal Order of Police called Sessions an advocate of law enforcement, while others criticized him as a hard-liner on immigration and race. The Brennan Center For Justice at the New York University School of Law has called Sessions the country’s “most anti-immigrant senator,” and his nomination for a federal judgeship was blocked by the Senate in 1986 over allegations that he had made racist remarks.
A reader with no additional information would think that Trump is in the process of appointing unambiguous racists to run the federal government. I’ve touched on the smearing of Bannon already, but in Milkovits’s handling, the attack on Sessions is more egregious. As always, note the passive voice: “others” have “criticized him as a hard-liner on immigration and race”; “his nomination for a federal judgeship was blocked… over allegations.”
For a little bit of depth, take a look at J. Christian Adams’s description of one of the people leading the charge on the Sessions “allegations.” Click over for the details, but Adams concludes that “the media rushed to press using Gerry Hebert as THE credible source on perhaps THE ONE TOPIC where Gerry Herbert kinda should be scratched off as a possible source” — that is, the racialist smearing of somebody on the other side, politically.
Adams’s suggestion applies to the media generally. As I started by suggesting, it sure helps that the Providence Journal is intent on illustrating just how much readers should interpret bias into its reporting.