These are dark times, full of dark news and dark prospects. Whether you’re an optimist or pessimist by nature is up to you; I’ve found both those sentiments in politics to be dangerous. But in times like this, there’s something else at play: fatalism. More specifically, fact-free fatalism. It can become so rampant, it ends up feeding on itself – and there are far too many entities out there willing to feed you fatalism at the expense of the truth. This week in particular, that’s become out of control.
The Resistance is, understandably, vulnerable after an exhausting battle and defeat on the Brett Kavanaugh nomination. Unfortunately, too much of the mainstream media sees these kinds of circumstances as an opportunity to score cheap ratings by pushing as many fatalistic narratives as possible, regardless of how inaccurate they may be.
Case in point: numerous major news outlets and pundits are pushing a fake story about Senate Democrats having caved to Mitch McConnell this week on judges. When you look at the facts involved, you see that this was actually a matter of McConnell having to cave to the Democrats. It’s still not a happy story; not at all. But the notion that the Democrats “caved” or “gave up” is simply fiction. Yet even some normally honest pundits are suddenly playing up the notion that the Democrats have simply given up on life.
In another example, multiple major news outlets have run headlines earlier this week suggesting that Republican candidate Brian Kemp has gotten away with rigging the Georgia Governor race in his favor. Many of these stories left out the fact that there was going to be legal action to try to stop him (which has since happened), or the odds of that legal action working (strong). Do we know how this will turn out? Not at all. But those framing it as Kemp having gotten away with it are, once again, pushing a fictional narrative. It’s like saying that a bank robber has “gotten away” with it, even while the police are gaining on him.
These aren’t isolated instances. At one point today I turned on MSNBC for about fifteen minutes, and I lost track of how many dishonest narratives I heard about the midterms. They used one outlier poll after another to paint the Democrats as having already lost the Senate, and in trouble in the House. Why? The media knows that right now, the Resistance is vulnerable to, and in danger of becoming addicted to, fatalism. For all we know, next week MSNBC might decide to use the outlier polls on the other end to try to convince us that the Democrats are suddenly making a major a big comeback. For the record, all three cable news outlets pull this kind of crap with the polls on a regular basis. It’s only ever legitimate to quote the polling averages; never just one poll.
This isn’t simply to complain about the mainstream media’s loose relationship with the facts when trying to fit them into the most ratings-friendly narrative possible. This is to remind you that the media is trying to do this to you. You’re being targeted. You’re being fed as much fact-free fatalism as possible, under the assumption it’ll prompt you to stay tuned in. This is almost a form of ratings-driven gaslighting. All I’m saying is that – particularly in a week like this – you should take the mainstream media narratives with a rather large grain of salt.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report