A few years ago, some waggish citizen of the internet decided he would take bits and pieces from horror film “The Shining,” score them to Peter Gabriel doing “Solsbury Hill” and create a trailer for a wholesome, fun, feel-good father-and-son tale, called “Shining.” Everything seen in the trailer really was taken from the movie, but to edit is to distort.
Or even to create, as we saw in CNN and ABC’s town halls this week. Polls show the American people hold similar views of Trump and Biden; an Economist/YouGov poll of likely voters last week put Trump’s favorability at 45 percent, Biden’s at 50. In the top battleground states, Biden enjoys a polling lead of 3.9 percent, according to the RealClearPolitics.com survey. Yet the networks this week were determined to make it look like America despises Trump and adores Biden, which is why its fakest-of-fake-news “Town Hall” discussions were arranged so that questioners could rain hellfire on Trump and provide opportunities for Biden to appear decent, mature and empathetic.
CNN and ABC’s response, if you asked them about this, would be, “Hey, these are real people! We didn’t tell them what to say!” No, you merely decided which ones would get airtime and which ones wouldn’t.
Anyone who has ever done a vox pop interview in the street knows an essential fact about the pop and their vox: they’re pretty strange. If you actually invited 200 random citizens to sit in a room together with a leading political figure, threw a microphone into the mix and then backed out of the room, it would be about 10 seconds before you found yourself listening to a guy who claimed Trump (or Biden) had planted AIDS-infected radioactive vampire chipmunks in his kid’s preschool, and demanded to know what Washington was going to do about this important problem. You’d have to Tase the guy to get the microphone out of his hand.
A news network can’t choose random citizens and let them say whatever they want because it wouldn’t be a productive exercise (unless you let people do this for a thousand hours and edited out the 999 of it that was garbage) and also because the program would make America look so bad that half of us would take a bath with a toaster after watching it, and the resulting decline in viewership would be bad for TV ad rates.
So someone has to edit reality, to screen the questioners and their thoughts in advance. Doing so involves taking on a heavy responsibility to present some semblance of what a cross-section of American voters is thinking about and asking about. In other words, to be fair. CNN and ABC failed spectacularly.
But only if you think they were trying to be fair. We all know that isn’t the case. CNN is simply a partisan advocacy group that has almost no interest in accurately representing reality and expends virtually all of its energy on attacking Trump and propping up Biden, and it assigned Anderson Cooper, who this summer labeled Trump a “thug” on live TV in one of his many gratuitous attacks on the president, to host.
ABC’s town hall was even worse, hosted by former Democratic political operative George Stephanopoulos, who intervened by hammering Trump on allegations made against him in The Atlantic, on racism, his supposed responsibility for the death toll from the virus. Eight questions were fired at Trump from the left; only one had a right-wing tinge. By contrast, 13 of Biden’s 16 questioners were Democrats and more questions had a left-wing than right-wing basis.
Biden and Cooper were so chummy that at one point when Biden thought the cameras were off, he went over and whispered sweetly in Cooper’s ear. At an event where the pair were supposed to be socially distanced. How come CNN and ABC never bring on Karl Rove to grill a Democrat for an hour?
Depending on how you edit it, an accurate 10-minute newsreel on the Trump era could be nothing but good news: record low unemployment for blacks! Stock market gains of nearly 67 percent since Election Day 2016! Peace accords in the Mideast! ISIS reduced to a shadow of its former self! Iranian terrorist zapped in a drone strike!
Instead, we’ve gotten the opposite of that — four years of frenzied hype about odd claims in Trump’s tweets, Super Bowl-level coverage of every gossipy tome ever written by everybody who ever knew POTUS, and a breathtaking two and a half years of coverage of something that didn’t even happen — the infamous “Russia collusion” fairy tale.
If Trump loses by a narrow margin, he and his supporters will be perfectly justified in wondering whether it was because voters think he failed or because the media relentlessly, selectively edited the reality of the last four years.
New York Post
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