Opinion: Journalism is under siege


Go ahead and laugh. It is funny, after all.

Indeed, it recalls one of those old Warner Brothers cartoons where Wile E. Coyote gets blown up by the very same Acme dynamite he bought to blast the Road Runner with. Only this time, it’s James O’Keefe and his so-called Project Veritas who wind up mutilated and powder burned, holding up a little placard that says, “Ouch.”

O’Keefe, you might recall, is the darling of Fox “News” and other outposts of right-wing, alt-reality who became famous for deceptively-edited videos designed to embarrass Democrats, news media and other bete noires of conservative extremists. But he’s never embarrassed any of his targets as badly as he habitually embarrasses himself.

It happened again Monday when The Washington Post unmasked an apparent Project Veritas operative who had tried over the course of two weeks to induce the paper to bite on a false story. Jaime Phillips approached the Post with the sensational claim that Alabama senatorial candidate and accused child molester Roy Moore got her pregnant and induced her to have an abortion when she was 15.

The Post never ran that story. Phillips’ scheme was foiled when routine background checks turned up multiple lies, inconsistencies and red flags. Afterward, Post reporters tailed her to the offices of Project Veritas.

The official slogan of The Washington Post is, “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” But just for today, the paper should change that to: “Beep-Beep (really bad word)!”

Yet if this is funny — and it is — it’s also revealing. These people actually project their scuzzy values and motivations onto the rest of us. Apparently and incredibly, these geniuses thought a responsible news organization would run that cockamamie story without checking the source or caring whether it was true. It likely made sense to them because it’s something they would have done.

Take it as superfluous proof: Journalism is under siege. Just days ago, Donald Trump rage-tweeted his latest assault on CNN, saying it represents America “poorly” to the world. The so-called president’s attack on a free and independent press prompted this rebuke from former CIA chief Gen. Michael Hayden. “If this is who we are or who we are becoming,” he tweeted, “I have wasted 40 years of my life.”

That assessment is beyond sad, but these attempts to cripple news media are now an everyday thing. In mid-November, Alabama voters were robo-called by a “Bernie Bernstein,” who claimed to be a Post reporter offering a cash reward for tips damaging to Moore. Bernie Bernstein, should it need saying, does not exist.

The thinking behind this campaign to delegitimize journalism could not be more transparent. As the far right has apparently concluded it cannot win elections without suppressing votes, it now seems to have decided it cannot win political debates without suppressing facts.

This is an attempted coup against reality itself. What Project Veritas and all the other merchants of mendacity seek is a world without memory, a world where all facts are always in controversy and nothing is ever truly knowable unless it serves their ideological ends. The people of such a world are manipulable. They believe what you tell them to. They are anchored by nothing.

That’s the world some of us already live in. If the rest of us are not mindful of our news sources and vigilant of our biases, if we forget to repeatedly ask ourselves how we know the things we know, it’ll be our world too, soon enough.

For the record, “veritas” is a Latin word. It means “truth.”

Writes for The Miami Herald.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Opinion: Remembering Barbara Bush, grieving mother

My mother and Barbara Bush were contemporaries. Despite coming from very different backgrounds — daughter of a Kansas farmer and daughter of a New York City businessman — they had a common experience, a very human link. It’s a sad connection that I suspect also has many a woman feeling fondly toward Bush, who died Tuesday at 92. Both...
Opinion: Paul Ryan is the ultimate party man

The mistake about Paul Ryan, the one that both friends and foes made over the years between his Obama-era ascent and his just-announced departure from the House speakership, was to imagine him as a potential protagonist for our politics, a lead actor in the drama of conservatism, a visionary or a villain poised to put his stamp upon the era. This Ryan-of-the-imagination...
Commentary: Fossil fuels — curse or blessing?
Commentary: Fossil fuels — curse or blessing?

Earth Day turns 48 this year and thousands of activists will “recycle” their calls for greater government control over energy resources and infrastructure. Is that a cause we should support or oppose? The question is important because abundant, affordable and reliable energy is vital to human flourishing, and government regulations put...
Commentary: This Earth Day, pledge to recycle all that you can
Commentary: This Earth Day, pledge to recycle all that you can

As Americans celebrate Earth Day with tree plantings, community cleanups and other eco-friendly activities, support for recycling has never been stronger, yet there remains a lot of room for improvement. The Recycling Partnership estimates that if every U.S. family recycled properly, we would double the current recycling rate and capture 22 million...
POINT OF VIEW: Scott should partner with Parkland teens

What is the purpose of the Florida governorship if not to uplift Florida’s youth? That’s a question that should vex Gov. Rick Scott even after signing major gun legislation, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, to address the worst high school shooting in U.S. history. A wise governor would recognize the political...
More Stories