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media watch
America Shouldn’t Have an Aristocracy

Over at USA Today, Glenn Reynolds notes that the slavishness of the press establishment toward the political establishment sometimes reveals itself in reporters’ bizarre unconscious assumptions:

The United States Constitution provides that “No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States.” But somebody needs to explain this to the courtiers in the Washington press corps.

The latest offender is National Journal reporter Ron Fournier, who — discussing the possibility of Hillary Clinton being indicted for her secret private server and mishandling of highly classified information — observed on MSNBC’s Morning Joe: “Legally though, there’s a big bar that you have to get over to prosecute anybody for these crimes, much less somebody who is running for president. … I do understand that when somebody is running for president, there is a higher bar you have to get over because we can’t have a system in which we are constantly charging people who are running for president of crimes. … Politically, there are severe questions about her judgment that voters really have to look into. Legally … there is a higher bar you have to get over before you prosecute somebody who is running for president. That’s just a fact.”

As Reynolds points out, journalists surely know with one part of their brains that politicians like Rick Perry and Scott Walker were deliberately targeted in political prosecutions, but that there was very little among the respectable press about this. The media doesn’t apply the same standard across the board, perhaps less out of malice than of genuine political blindness. Most elite reporters think of Secretary Clinton as a serious leader, and of people like Perry and Walker as trashy pols.

Moreover, as Reynolds suggests, this isn’t just a problem in terms of political fairness, or even in terms of the press abdicating its responsibility to “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.” It’s a danger to American democracy and order, because as the public recognizes that elites increasingly disregard the rules that bind everyone else, our most important institutions—including courts and the media—start to lose legitimacy.

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