FAIRFAX, Va. — Today’s mainstream media largely consists of a deadly mix of fake, biased and censored news. What was once a slowly shifting media landscape is undergoing a cataclysmic upheaval as more and more Americans seek alternative news and social media sites in the wake of the presidential election.
Emmy Award-winning journalist Sharyl Attkisson came from that world but said she hardly recognizes what it has become today. Six years ago, she cut ties with CBS News after the network increasingly moved away from the hard-hitting investigative pieces she built her career on. For two decades, she watched from the inside what she called “a slow burn” in the media world.
After the 2016 election of President Donald Trump, that slow burn erupted into a fire that is consuming the mainstream media. Attkisson writes about it in her new book, “Slanted: How the News Media Taught us to Love Censorship and Hate Journalism.”
“Something happened in 2016. We were still at least pretending in the news to maintain a firewall between news and opinion,” Attkisson said. “But we collectively let all of that go in 2016. Donald Trump was seen as such a threat to both Democrats and Republicans and the media, that the media in one fell swoop tossed out decades of ethics, standards and guidelines.”
Attkisson packs her book with examples of how this all played out. She includes the time CNN ran a story on the day of Trump’s inauguration claiming Nancy Sinatra was upset that at his inaugural ball Trump danced to her father’s song, “I Did it My Way.” False. Sinatra tweeted “That’s not true. I never said that. Why do you lie, CNN?”
Shortly after that, Time magazine incorrectly reported that President Trump had removed the bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office. It was, once again, fake news. But it went viral.
“The press, all the way up to the New York Times, said they needed to suspend those guidelines to cover a uniquely dangerous president,” Attkisson explained.
She said in the past few years she’s watched as her reach on her social media sites, Facebook and Twitter has been artificially depressed. “I can now see when I upload something on Twitter, and I’ve been on it since pretty much the start, it will get a few thousand impressions. And then I’ll post the same thing on Parler and it will get 2.1 million views. We can now see the impact that Big Tech has had on some of us.”
Just as traditional media dropped all objectivity in 2016, Attkisson said, Big Tech lost it in the weeks leading up to the 2020 election. They are no longer hiding their bias in algorithms meant to suppress conservative content. Most famously, Twitter censored the New York Post’s Hunter and Joe Biden corruption story. According to a post-election survey conducted by the Media Research Center, 82% of voters were completely unaware of Trump’s successes, Biden’s corruption and the far left politics of his running mate, Kamala Harris. One in six, 17%, Biden voters said they would not have voted for Joe if they had known about one or more of these stories.
Attkisson says there is no doubt the press inappropriately covered this past election. She recalled how in the weeks and months leading up to the election, the media was warning us about possible interference from Russia and China.
“Any rational journalist would have gone into this election on high alert looking for any mischief,” Attkisson said, “whether committed by the Biden campaign, the Trump campaign or by foreign entities. Instead, we have this unprecedented election where one person is ahead by a lot on election night and then in the next few days, as counting is stopped, and then started, and observers are blocked, the other candidate pulls into a strong lead. That doesn’t mean there was fraud, but it certainly is reason for the media to be skeptical. Instead, the media collectively shrugged their shoulders and said, ‘Who cares? It’s over.’”
Attkisson said she’s confident that Americans aren’t blindly accepting the narrative of biased media outlets. She points to the fact that Trump got 11 million more votes in 2020 compared to four years ago, much of it from the African-American and Latino communities.
Attkisson warns Americans not to live in what she calls “the box” of the internet news world. “It is not a real reflection of is going on in society. It is designed to give you a certain picture, to make you feel like you are an outlier.” She describes it as a “managed reality” that doesn’t reflect the reality of our outside lives. She urges Americans to “stay grounded in the friends and families and trust what you see there.”
Catherine Mortensen is the vice president of communications at Americans for Limited Government. Mortensen is a former TV news anchor, elected official, Capitol Hill communications director and spokeswoman at the National Rifle Association. Readers may send emails to email@example.com.