Rush Limbaugh was the harbinger of the alt-right press of today, starting out in the 80’s with his clarion conspiracy call decrying the mainstream media. He assured us, from his vicodin induced haze, that only he knew how “they” were out to get the ordinary Joe, the forgotten American, and only he could balance the scales with the purported truth he was imparting. Along came Drudge, Fox News, and finally the internet and social media, which collectively blossomed into the alt-right press platform of today, complete with alternative facts, and yes, that world is indeed one to be reckoned with. Daily Beast:
An army of basement-dwelling amateurs with more skill and time on their hands than research interns at the big networks started to pick apart what might have been unchallenged reporting at one time. They had a method to distribute what they found. There was a new empowerment for the right. Something Dan Rather found out the hard way.
An icon of traditional journalism, Rather also is the most famous victim of the new order. In 2004, he had a story blown apart after a right-wing blogger, Harry W. MacDougald, first questioned, then examined, and then destroyed the credibility of documents he’d presented on then-President George W. Bush’s service in the National Guard.
MacDougald had noted that the typography in Rather’s documents was proportionally spaced in a way that would not have been possible without laser printers which were not available until after the memos were allegedly typed. After MacDougald’s criticisms were reviewed by experts and following an internal investigation at CBS News, producers Mary Mapes, Josh Howard and Mary Murphy in addition to Senior VP Betsy West were all terminated or resigned. Dan Rather’s career never recovered. He retired from anchoring the CBS Evening News in March of 2005 (arguably earlier than planned) and, in the process, confirmed that it was time for everyone to take this new media seriously.
Rather-gate was an impressive feat on the part of alternative media, which in that day and age didn’t equate to the alternative reality that it has since become in the Age of Trump. It’s always been argued, and rightfully so, that partisan views should be championed by partisan voices. As long as the ethics of journalism are maintained, that is a lofty and laudable goal. One of these conservative voices, the Washington Free Beacon, even managed to impress the likes of Mother Jones when its investigative journalism in 2014 resulted in obtaining a secret list of donors’ pledges to the progressive Democracy Alliance—a feat akin to one of us laying hands upon the Koch brothers’ political ledgers. This was legitimate. This was real news. So what happened in the long windup to Trump? Original reporting stopped, let along investigative reporting, and it all became opinion.
The right has stopped being investigative, stopped being reporters and journalists…occurring precisely at a time when vigorous reporting [was] most desperately needed.
Sure, the conservative media has solid opinion writers and deep-thinking essayists by the handful. And within that hand are diverse opinions, notwithstanding recent, glaring errors in judgment at some outlets. There is depth. There is talent. However, there is almost no original reporting.
Lack of original reporting and opinion writing led to an explosion of tabloid level conspiracy theory, masquerading as journalism, nowhere so much as Fox News. The alt-right didn’t want to work as hard as the Free Beacon had and so it took the path of least resistance, opinion writing, criticizing the left and the MSM, and selling fiction as fact.
The void they’ve [Free Beacon] left has been filled by the tin-foil hat portion of right-leaning media. You are far more likely to find a camera crew with a microphone-wielding reporter from InfoWars these days than from any mainstream conservative outlet. You are far more likely to see writers for ostensibly right-wing websites trying to discredit Roy Moore’s accusers than report out their accusations. You are far more likely to see conservative television hosts dismiss the president’s transgressions than critically question his aides about them.
These individuals and outlets do make the news. But it is primarily when they’re being mocked for the outlandish conspiracy theories they peddle, or cover they offer, as opposed to any serious citations of their stories.
The truth will always out is more than just a platitude, it is a verite. As biased as the MSM is supposed to be, ratings are not just the most important thing, they are the only thing, and a credible conservative journalist with a genuine scoop will be reported everywhere, as was seen when Matt Drudge broke the Lewinsky/Clinton scandal, or the aforementioned Rather-gate incident. If you can prove it, it will sell. This is still America, Trump notwithstanding. We’ll always jump on the band wagon of the seeming underdog, if the underdog is right.
In the days ahead as Trump Russia heats up, the alt-right press would find it in its best interests to return to the standard of the Free Beacon, and to do some original, credible journalism; and so would we all, for that matter.