2021 has been a year of extremes in American media

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Around the same time last year, a cruel joke was circulating that the meanest year in recent memory would reset at midnight on December 31, and we would be forced to relive 2020 from the start.

Funny, isn’t it? Not really. But we could tell the joke then because we finally had some hope. The worst 12 months of all time were behind us, with their burnt offerings of deadly pandemic, political bait, violent uprisings, and toilet paper piles. The United States had a new elected president, access to life-saving vaccines and peaceful elections.

We had no idea that 2021 would be determined to steal the apocalyptic crown of 2020. Its opening number? A murderous coup attempt in the United States. Capitol and the rise of the delta variant. His closing salvo? Omicron and the Congressional hearings which revealed that the calls to overturn the election results did indeed come from inside the House.

Energizing the far-right media

Long-term chaos culminated in 2021, draining traditional news gathering organizations while energizing far-right media. Fox News, the social media juggernaut Facebook and a constellation of far-right media have reveled in fears of uncertain times, casting doubt among their supporters over the election results, vaccinations and the alarming wake-up call of “Sesame Street “. Toxic entertainment for toxic times, still in demand, even after their sighted champion lost the White House.

To be fair, the mainstream press in America was already depleted, thanks to coverage of a new hell every hour since 2016. Refuting disinformation (meaning doing one’s job) has made it the target of ‘a president. Who can blame them for heaving a sigh of relief when Joe Biden’s presidential victory promised them respite from politics as usual.

As they revert to politics as a sport ball – what will Senator Joe Manchin (DW. Va.) Ask next? What’s going on with Vice President Kamala Harris’ staff? – the ongoing attack on our democracy has become the new war discovered in the American media. Now we no longer have to wonder what happens when an actor in a two-party system sinks into extremism and takes a significant portion of the media with it.

Meet the Press host Chuck Todd, ABC’s “World News Tonight” presenter David Muir, CNN + newcomer Chris Wallace and other respected journalists and TV commentators who have forged their careers in the Before Times continue to respect the rules of good journalism: the facts, remain impartial, present divergent points of view.

Bilateral journalism

The problem is, “two-sided journalism” as it is now called has outlived the “fairness doctrine” that created it, which was abolished in 1987 under then-President Reagan. . The careful and fair reporting of “PBS NewsHour” and NPR remains a valuable public service, but in this age of extremes, the point-and-counterpoint structure is deeply out of step with the exuberance of politicians like the United States. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) And dummy hanger caps like Rudy Giuliani.

To get to the bottom of it all you have to have a real background, and that’s a problem in a parallel news universe where rescuer Dr Anthony Fauci is a demon, climate change is a hoax and the ingestion of dewormer for horses is safer than a Pfizer bullet in the arm. How do you logically debate the politicization of COVID-19 in a traditional talk show forum without giving a platform to the very people who told these deadly lies?

This is not a problem for those leading the charge. Take Fox News host Tucker Carlson. He is the originator of a three-part series that promotes unfounded and disproved conspiracy theories about the January 6 siege. M

In his adorable interview with “nice kid” Kyle Rittenhouse – the teenager who brought an AR-15 rifle to a Black Lives Matter protest and who was accused of killing two unarmed men and maiming another – Carlson assured viewers that Rittenhouse was a patriot, not a racist. He never mentioned a widely circulated photo of the “sweet kid” at a bar displaying white power signs with members of Proud Boy.

Modern partisanship

And in this compartmentalized universe, no one was there to challenge him. The teenager’s acquittal emboldened would-be vigilantes and mass shooters. Social networks have helped to reach them. The asymmetric nature of media is both a by-product and a fuel of the asymmetrical nature of modern partisanship: as Todd interviews Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on practical ways to survive to the pandemic, Fox Nation host Lara Logan compares Biden’s chief medical adviser to Nazi war criminal Dr. Josef Mengele.

Under these circumstances, even newsrooms that are not under the sway of the far-right cabal would have a hard time finding the right tone, seeing the big picture, winning consumer confidence. But as social media dominance intensifies and right-wing platforms expand, mainstream media is in crisis: CNN’s Chris Cuomo was fired after advising his brother Andrew Cuomo on his control over the damage caused by sexual assaults and scandals – exactly the kind of ethical breach that diminishes confidence in journalism – and local newspapers are fighting for their survival against venture capitalists.

After an overwhelming year, in a tough business at the best of times, it can seem hard to fault the old-fashioned press for not putting the pieces of the puzzle together into a warning siren for our system of government. But it is not enough to hope that 2022 will magically offer solutions to our media crisis or our democratic crisis. It will require rapid and drastic changes. Otherwise, the joke is on us.

Lorraine Ali is a notorious television critic


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