Column: Beware Arrogance on the 'Democracy Beat'

On CNN’s Reliable Sources on June 19, host Brian Stelter touted the growing new trend in the “objective” media of creating a “democracy beat,” because Donald Trump and his devotees are a constant threat. Stelter described it as a contractor fighting mold and rot in the house.

There’s something obvious and desirable about journalists focusing intently on elections and voter rights and election integrity battles. But there’s always this gelatinous layer of pomposity on top: that the media need to take sides and not allow “two sides” on democracy.

Take Joe Kahn, the newly designated executive editor of The New York Times, who told NPR media reporter David Folkenflik: “you can’t have independent journalism in a non-free society, and we are not impartial about whether or not this nation becomes a non-free society.” 

Here’s the problem: If conservatives believe the Times is not independent and impartial and are not trying to push America towards being a free nation, will this make them on the side with autocracy.

On his Sunday show, Stelter brought on Danielle Belton, executive editor of the website HuffPost, founded by Arianna Huffington, who wrote an entire book titled “Right Is Wrong,” railing against giving the conservative “fringe” a place in news coverage.

Belton belongs to that school, warning Stelter of an “extremist element within the conservative movement that is trying to take over the Republican Party,” and it’s the media’s job to stop it. So “the press, American people, all of us, anyone who’s pro-democracy, pro-free press, pro-equality, this is what we’re up against because these are the things these people do not want.”

Conservatives detest democracy, equality and a free press. Stelter nodded.

Belton stated, “That’s the reason it’s so crucial for the press to continue banging the drum.” This isn’t the right time for you to hide, or to shy away from something. It’s not the best time to ‘both’ sides of something. It doesn’t matter if you are pro-democracy, or pro-free speech.

Democracy is too essential to grant space to both sides, and that seems cleverly designed to match whatever the Left defines as “pro-free press.” Stelter and other liberals who want to crush the reach of Fox News still pose as “pro-free press.”

CNN’s John Harwood seconded the motion on the Stelter show. We should not choose between liberal and conservative. But, we shouldn’t take sides on the Trump era, or this particular circumstance, because that isn’t the spectrum. Truth on one side, lies on the opposite side of the spectrum makes up the spectrum.

You can see the point if it’s narrowed to Trump claiming he won in a “sacred landslide,” but the liberal media want to put the entire Republican Party into that one “democracy beat” issue, and ignore every other pressing national issue.

For example, on inflation, Harwood recently expressed alarm that the media were too harsh: “Those of us in the media act as if it’s Joe Biden’s problem to solve every day. Is inflation something you are going to address? It’s not Joe Biden’s problem to solve.”

Somehow Harwood thinks he’s on the side of “truth” when he claims Biden shouldn’t be blamed for the country’s problems, and it looks again like the fate of “Democracy” is considered synonymous with the success of the Democrats.

At least Stelter noted a new Fox poll asked which party would “do a better job” on “preservation of American democracy,” and 46 percent of registered voters said Republicans compared to 45 percent who said Democrats. Stelter’s guests would probably blame the media for that, too.

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