If you want to spot agendas at play, look for the “mash-up.” Propagandists love to assemble these catchy montages of clips, all carefully selected to point to a pre-determined conclusion. The Cable Gamer was not surprised to see CNN’s Brian Stelter promoting a Fox News mash-up from Media Matters–as partisan and biased a source as the internet has to offer. It’s another sign that Stelter has given up on journalism and is now a partisan activist, because he knows as well as anyone that a “mash-up” can be edited to make any point you like. It’s all about what you include, and more importantly, what you omit.
It surprised us that the Washington Post would make a Fox News mash-up in the Media Matters style, yet they did. That a news organization would fashion coverage in the manner of a partisan political operation is disturbing enough, but it’s small potatoes compared to their Erik Wemple’s seemingly endless attack on Fox News, and its morning program in particular. Column after column offers a transcript of some snippet from that day’s Fox & Friends, designed to reinforce his insistence that it’s pure propaganda for Trump.
Clearly, it’s not hard to find two minutes in any three-hour news program where somebody says something nice about Trump. It’s especially easy on Fox & Friends. So Wemple is making as pointless a point as your Cable Gamer can imagine. Basically he’s making a slow-motion print-media mash-up. Instead of putting a dozen clips into a video, he’s just publishing the cherry-picked bits one at a time, each in its own column. As with the mash-ups, he never fails to make his point, because he just omits what doesn’t comport with the pre-selected meme.
On Tuesday Wemple gave us a Q&A with people at a diner near a military base reacting to Trump’s Afghanistan speech. A pretty safe bet there: a live remote on Fox News down the street from a military base. Sure enough, the people in this segment had a positive view of the speech, and that’s what Wemple wrote up. But what did he omit? This:
It’s very hard to imagine how we win a lasting peace in Afghanistan if we couldn’t do it with 100,000 troops. Now we’re gonna have about 13,000. … What does a victory look like in Afghanistan? We’re gonna be in Afghanistan until we take the long dirt nap ourselves. Is that really what the American people thought they were getting? They thought they were getting drain the swamp, not clear the desert.
Why didn’t Erik Wemple include this analysis by Laura Ingraham in his column? Because he says right at the top that Fox & Friends “hews most closely to state-run media,” and this contradicts his point. So he leaves it out. What readers don’t know won’t hurt the meme.
One day later Wemple wants readers to believe that Fox & Friends didn’t dare question Trump’s comments about the media, so he writes:
Considering that “Fox & Friends” is part of a news network, you might suppose that such rhetoric would chill the program’s co-hosts. Or at least prompt some neutral coverage of such a contention. But no way…
And in the exchange he quotes, there is no pushback against Trump’s comments. Yet once again, it’s not so much what Wemple says, it’s what he doesn’t say:
EARHARDT: He pointed to the media up there. He said all those guys, basically on the platform or in the rafters, and the whole crowd, this huge crowd turns around, they look at the media, and they go “Boo!” And one guy in particular was pointing—
DOOCY: They had an anti-CNN chant going for a while.
EARHARDT: He called out specific networks too.
BRIAN KILMEADE: It doesn’t make me comfortable, to be honest. I don’t feel comfortable with 15,000 people turning around, screaming at me. You know, you could have another President, another leader pointing at you. How would you feel if you had to leave that arena then?
Is this outraged alarmism a la Don Lemon or Morning Joe? Hardly. But then, neither was it the slavish “state-run media propaganda” that Wemple was selling. So, it ends up on the cutting room floor. In the best tradition of Media Matters and the other mash-up specialists whose expertise is cherry-picking of the most selective, disingenuous kind.
It’s like that fellow Tom Kennedy said: It’s not what you say that counts, it’s what you don’t say. And with Wemple what he doesn’t say tells us an awful lot.