The ‘truth-speaking’ of US mainstream media has gone ‘out of the window’ under Joe Biden

Joe Biden and media microphones

In a recent interview, Phoenix Media Co-op asked for media expert Justin Schlosberg‘s opinion on the US mainstream media’s apparent fawning over Joe Biden. And he said it was “unsurprising”, adding:

It’s almost bizarre to actually think about the complete contradiction in the way in which journalists position themselves. They’ve gone from one extreme to the other. So they’ve gone from an administration where they saw it as their job – rightly or wrongly – to literally attack every single thing that the president did and pay zero attention to the slightest thing that may have cast him in the slightest positive light.

That’s not to suggest in any way that I think that Donald Trump was in any way good for America, or for the world, or for anyone. It was clearly a catastrophic presidency. But… it’s exposed the ideological underpinnings of the mainstream broadcasters and press. Because… as soon as they got their man [Joe Biden] into power, all of that ‘we’re going to speak the truth to this administration, we’re not going to be cowed, … we are journalists – we don’t just read off the script of the president’ – it’s just out of the window. …

‘It just happens over and over again: the media get exposed and then they just carry on doing the same thing’

Schlosberg also spoke about how this shift fits into a pattern. The mainstream media sometimes acknowledges its failures and weaknesses; but it then returns back to old habits. As he stressed:

What’s really interesting… is just how unable mainstream news organisations and institutions are to learn lessons from the very recent past.

He explained:

So the classic example of this was if you go back to 2004, when the New York Times printed this remarkable front-page apology, basically saying ‘not only did we get the story of weapons of mass destruction wrong, we failed in our duty as journalists to properly interrogate the government and we are very, very sorry’. …

It was about six years later, with the WikiLeaks cablegate*, where they just did exactly the same thing. They, almost en masse, read off the government’s script; they completely overlooked the disclosures within those leaks that had huge public-interest significance; and they fell into exactly the same trap.

And it just happens over and over again: the media get exposed. The financial crisis is another example. They’re exposed; some journalists come out and acknowledge it and apologise, and… reflect; and then they just carry on doing the same thing.

*Biden vs Assange

As DW points out, WikiLeaks Cablegate in 2010 “made WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange public enemy Nr. 1 in the United States”.

Today, the UK is controversially holding Assange in the maximum security prison of Belmarsh, as the US government continues under Joe Biden to push for his extradition. The journalist could face 175 years in prison if the US succeeds in prosecuting him.

Public pressure is mounting on Biden, however, to stop US extradition efforts.

Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges has summarised Assange’s persecution as “an egregious assault… on press freedom”, and has slammed “how the institutions that purport to care about freedom of the press have been complicit” in this persecution.

More about the interviewee

Schlosberg is a senior lecturer and assistant dean at Birkbeck College, University of London. He previously chaired the Media Reform Coalition and co-founded the Truth Defence anti-misinformation collective. He has also written and contributed to numerous books on the media, including 2019’s Bad News for Labour. Antisemitism, the Party and Public Belief.

We’ll be releasing further clips from his interview with Phoenix Media Co-op in the coming weeks.

Main article image via Gage Skidmore/(CC BY-SA 2.0)