About the news business, G. K. Chesterton once wrote:
It is the one great weakness of journalism as a picture of our modern existence, that it must be a picture made up entirely of exceptions. We announce on flaring posters that a man has fallen off a scaffolding. We do not announce on flaring posters that a man has not fallen off a scaffolding…Busy editors cannot be expected to put on their posters, “Mr. Wilkinson Still Safe,” or “Mr. Jones, of Worthing, Not Dead Yet”…They cannot describe all the forks that are not stolen, or all the marriages that are not judiciously dissolved. Hence the complete picture they give of life is of necessity fallacious; they can only represent what is unusual.
That was written in 1910. If, like Ivy League-educated Ted Cruz, you have trouble with arithmetic, that’s more than 100 years ago. But I thought about that quote today, about the fact that journalists aren’t really in the business of reporting the usual or the unexceptional, after I read an article on Politico, a news outlet that has become the flagship of group-think Beltway journalism. The headline of the article was this:
Now, the article was as much about the dedicated and earnest folks in Kentucky trying to give people accurate information and “sell Obamacare at the state fair,” as it was about the fear and confusion people are experiencing over the new law. But the headline was written to emphasize the “fear and confusion,” rather than champion those who are trying to allay the fear and clear up the confusion. Get it?
But that isn’t my biggest gripe about the article. In a piece that was obviously meant to highlight the real fear and confusion that exists over a fairly complicated government effort to help citizens get insurance and to prevent private insurers from screwing them at every turn, in a piece that ran over 900 words, there was one sentence—14 words!—about why there is so much fear and confusion about the law. And that one sentence was the next-to-last sentence in the piece:
And the opponents of the law are doing ample advertising on the other side.
That was it. After nearly 900 words about all the fear and confusion surrounding ObamaCare, that was all the writer had to say about what has undoubtedly caused much of that fear and confusion. That’s all the writer had to say about a massive and expensive disinformation campaign that various conservative interest groups and various right-wing pundits and various Republican politicians have waged for years now.
And the writer didn’t even bother to identify who “the opponents of the law” are, or mention that the “ample advertising” has been, at best, speculations about the horrors to come or, at worst, outright lies about what the law means. It’s as if a journalist was reporting on all those fleeing folks in Nairobi, Kenya, people frantically exiting a shopping mall full of fear and confusion, and the journalist never mentioned what the fuss was all about, never mentioned that terrorists had been shooting up the place.
I suppose the only excuse for such shoddy journalism is that right-wingers have been so diligent, so persistent in their war against ObamaCare, that it isn’t worth reporting on anymore. It’s commonplace. It’s mundane. The campaign of disinformation and lies against the Affordable Care Act is so normal and unnewsworthy that journalists don’t even bother to highlight it, much less identify the perpetrators or offer readers any details about how effective and destructive the campaign has been.
Right-wingers lying about ObamaCare is now like Chesterton’s man who has not fallen off a scaffolding, an event so usual, so ordinary, so run-of-the-mill, that it is ignored by journalists:
Hence the complete picture they give of life is of necessity fallacious.