By Brad Slager
This election year has been so perpetually obtuse, we’re no longer shocked by anything. In 2008, journalists abdicated their investigative roles to usher in the “inevitable” Obama presidency. Today, they’re evolving further away from objectivity, and it’s no surprise to see national press outlets morphing into outright fan clubs for one candidate.
To display this new position they have staked in support of Hillary Clinton, I will endeavor a common media practice: creating a neologism.
A few years back at a party, I met the journalist who created the term “racial profiling.” That I cannot recall his name is a testament to the glory achieved when one makes a successful contribution into the cultural lexicon. There are several such media-made glossary entries, such as “Yuppie” and Stephen Colbert’s “Truthiness,” which is a snarky variant of Norman Mailer’s “Factoid,” and meant to describe questionable media information.
How the Media Purges Apostates
My sure-to-be-glossed-over entry is “Buffalo Purge.” It describes an increasingly popular act among media members, wherein they use group-shaming tactics to either cow an ideological defector into submission, or expel the individual from their ranks.
The term’s source—my pre-fab etymology, if you will—comes from a nature documentary. In footage shot in Yellowstone Park, a pack of wolves pursue a large group of bison. The chase is lengthy, as the wolves size up weaker herd members as targets. Then, from the back of the stampede, a larger bull takes action. He lowers his head and delivers a blow to the haunches of a slower runner impeding his path. The herd then thunders off, leaving the forsaken bison for canine fodder.
This is thick with metaphors for today’s Hillary-besotted media. As the alt-right wolves nip at their heels, the Clinton press needs everyone in lock-step to achieve her election. Anyone seen as impeding the pack will be tossed aside, for the sake of preserving the herd mentality. Examples of this practice are recent, and mounting.
On August 17, famed medic Doctor Drew Pinski made a guest appearance on the KABC talk show “McIntyre In The Morning.” Pinski dared express deep concerns over Hillary’s health and the care she was receiving. Hardly of the conspiratorial vein, Pinski’s comments sound rational and thoughtful, derived from a physician’s experience and empirical knowledge.
A week later, Pinski’s own TV show flatlined. CNN suddenly cancelled the six-year-old show, with a final broadcast on September 22. Of course, the official statement from the network called the cancellation a mutual decision and other balloon gas. But the abrupt mid-season cancellation transpired within a week of Pinski’s KABC appearance. KABC also pulled the interview from their website.
These rash repercussions now look ridiculously reactionary following the medical debacle that was Hillary’s September 11 “episode.” (Who even knows how else to describe what happened to her, given her campaign’s various explanations?)
Days after the good doctor was transformed from practitioner to pariah, The Huffington Post dispatched one of its own in similar fashion—and for similar reasons. Writer David Seaman also reported on the subject of Hillary’s health, discussing (and linking to) a YouTube post that detailed some of Hillary’s physical issues and garnered millions of views. Shortly thereafter, as he details in his own video message, Seaman found his credentialed access to HuffPo revoked and his articles erased from the site.
These could easily be dismissed as isolated (albeit similar) incidents. They are independent decisions from segregated outlets, true enough. But the Buffalo Purge manifests not only in recurring episodes, but also with targets of increasing stature, as ever more journalistic players join in.
Survival Of The Sycophants
On September 7, Matt Lauer presided over NBC’s Commander-In-Chief Forum. Afterwards numerous journalistic sources accused Lauer either of asking tough questions of Hillary (something the evasive candidate is surely not used to), not being tough enough on Trump, or of being guilty of both. The Daily Beast, for instance, declared Lauer guilty of “Firing fastballs at Hillary, and lobbying softballs at Donald Trump.”
The media’s unified uproar seemed more than just criticism. It felt more like signaling, a warning shot to all tasked with interrogating the candidates. Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz, you have been served.
This campaign season, journalists have moved beyond biased broadcasts, massaging off “official” reports, and selective candidate coverage. This time, they are more than comfortable staking out territory firmly on one side, calling out those who stray from the pack. Clinton must be treated with respect, and Trump must be dealt with.
This month, Jimmy Fallon invited Trump to appear on “The Tonight Show.” It was pretty much what you’d expect: The canned jovial atmosphere was spiced with a few choice barbs, but overall it was a harmless and forgettable interlude. The next day, however, Fallon came under fire from all sides of the media spectrum. What had the host done to raise such scorn?
The answer: nothing. He was demonized for not attacking The Donald, or even for simply having him on his program. Fallon—the man who “slow-jams the news” with President Obama—became a bison without a herd because he did what late-night hosts do: treat a politician kindly with lighthearted banter. What’s more, all this outcry took place after Hillary received fawning national coverage for appearing on Kimmel’s program and opening a pickle jar.
All the proof you need that the response was rigged? Consider the uniformity of the hysteria. The media often exposes its reliance on spoon-fed talking points via repetition. Friday outlets from The Atlantic, New Republic, New York Magazine, and even Samantha Bee echoed dismay at Fallon by criticizing how the segment “normalized Trump.”
As David Marcus reported earlier on this site, I had a lengthy Twitter discussion with TV producer David Simon (creator of “The Wire”) about Fallon’s crime. Simon used the leftist-approved accusation, saying Fallon “normalized a racist demagogue with pop currency.” In response, I asked how Fallon could have made Trump socially acceptable during a late-night, 10-minute interview. Surely Trump’s cultural relevance would have taken effect during his own television show—which lasted an hour, in prime time, during a 14-year run. Simon subsequently blocked me.
Homogenizing the Narrative
On September 16, we saw what it looks like when the media runs as one unit. Following a New York City explosion, news outlets blasted Trump for daring to describe the blast as the result of a “bomb,” before authorities classified it as such. At the same time, Hillary was asked for a statement on her plane—and referenced the New York “bombings” in her opening sentence.
A reporter immediately asked how it could be irresponsible of Trump to use the exact same term she had just used. In generations past, this would have been the stuff to distinguish an intrepid reporter and earn them notice. But once this niggling contradictory detail was revealed, CNN edited out Hillary’s use of “bomb” in its video and articles. All simply nod and repeat the approved narrative. Edit as needed.
This is 2016. Some candidates do not receive the interrogations of the past. Some candidates are not permitted to engage in comedic skits following the local news. And all media members are expected to behave accordingly—lest they be driven from the herd.