“I’m not going to be bullied and backed down just because the president of the United States thinks I’m an enemy of the American people,” said the heroic Tim Carpenter, Statehouse bureau chief and special projects reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal. “Maybe others on the panel have a different perspective, but for me, I have felt the pushback from readers, and I’m not giving into it.”
Carpenter was one of four panelists at a Free State Festival panel event, “Enemy of the People? Newspaper Reporting in the Era of #FakeNews” in Lawrence on Saturday. The question of whether these journalists were, in fact, enemies of the people hinged on the question of whether their news was fake.
As reported by the Lawrence Journal-World staff, “Several panelists said the fake news mantra often comes from people who have a political motive to weaken the power of the press.”
These panelists rather missed the point. “I think everybody in the business understands what I just said,” argued Chad Lawhorn, editor of the Journal-World. “If you make it up and get caught, your career is done.”
Making it up isn’t the issue. What is at issue are the everyday tools of media bias: strategic omissions, editorials disguised as news, relentless promotion and/or destruction of a given idea or candidate. Those who complain may seem to have a “political motive” because those on the right are the ones who notice. They are the ones being ignored or disrespected.
The Sentinel documents these abuses daily. On Saturday morning, for instance, the Kansas City Star failed to report on Donald Trump’s house-packing speech in Springfield on behalf of Josh Hawley. How to account for that?
At the end of 2017, the Sentinel summed up the more elaborate “fake news” of the previous year. No story was more consistently misreported than the Brownback tax cuts. The bill, signed into law in 2012, cut income tax rates and exempted non-wage business income for LLCs, S corporations and sole proprietorships. The latter provision, The Star conceded, was “aimed at job creation.”
And Lord knows, job creation was needed. In the dozen years leading up to the bill’s passage, the only employment sector in Kansas that experienced net job growth was local government. Fewer Kansans were employed by the private sector in 2012 than in 2001. Surrounding states with lower tax rates were all performing better.
Almost as one, the media portrayed those pre-Brownback years as something of a golden age. To sell the Brownback plan as a failure, they suppressed much information about its successes. And just as they were beginning to bore themselves with gratuitous Brownback bashing, the Republican Congress proposed a tax cut of its own. Now the national media chimed in with literally hundreds of mindless, ideologically driven articles warning Republicans about the failed Kansas experiment. Fortunately, the Republicans in Congress were not as susceptible to propaganda as the readers of the region’s newspapers.
Kris Kobach quickly took Brownback’s place as the media’s chief media whipping boy. To sell the idea that Kobach, now a candidate for Kansas governor, is some kind of crazed, racist, nativist immigrant basher and vote suppressor, the media have to downplay or ignore all unpleasant news about illegal immigration and voter fraud.
In December, for instance, the Star failed to report the arrest of sixteen illegal aliens and one naturalized citizen in a sophisticated identity theft scheme. More troubling, at least 100 illegal aliens had already received their official non-driver’s license in this scheme through the one license bureau in Gladstone.
From the media’s perspective, public schools can do no wrong. North KC School Superintendent, Dan Clemens, has to be glad the media feel this way. The arrest in April of former Winnetonka High School campus supervisor Joshua Miller represented the sixth time since March 2016 a North Kansas City School District employee was busted on sex related charges. At least five of the six have been arrested. The media failed see any pattern, and Clemens never got his name in the paper. By contrast, the Star ran more than 90 editorials and articles on Shawn Ratigan, a one time Catholic priest who took creepy pictures of clothed children.
For the newspapers’ dwindling and increasingly liberal readers, “hate” sells. It makes for a great read, but only if the hate emanates from people these readers hate. For instance, the Star ran more than 50 articles on Adam Purinton, the drunken loon who shot and killed an Indian man in an Olathe bar thinking he was Iranian. State and national media gobbled this story up as well.
In the absence of real hate crimes, the media rushed to report alleged acts of racial vandalism as real even though the evidence for the same was shaky from the start. When such crimes were found to be hoaxes, as they usually were, the media chose not to look for motives, let alone patterns.
Not surprisingly, the media had little interest in hate crimes that did not fit their agenda. The arrest in Kansas City in August of Fredrick Demond Scott, an African American, for the assassination of five middle-aged white men and one white woman attracted zero media interest beyond the metro and very little within, despite Scott’s expressed desire to “kill all white men.”
At the Sentinel we do not think the media are the enemy of the American people. Rather, we think they are the enemy of half the American people.