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OPINION

The Journalism Complex Has Burned Itself Out

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Ashley Landis, File

This new calendar flip is already shaping up to be a markedly bad one for the press corps in this country. On my first podcast of this new year, I forwarded the idea that recent events had the press in a position of exposure that would torpedo their credibility even more so than in recent years. From faulty election coverage to social media melodramatics and the evidence laid out in the ever-ongoing "Twitter Files," our journalism industry is poised to see 2023 as a watershed year of harsh reality.

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We are not even three weeks into the year, and the issues are already showing. The flailing we are seeing with the reaction to President Jose Biden's classified documents issue is but one measure. After telling us for six months that retaining classified documents is the worst crime a politician can enact, when faced with the paradox of Biden violating the press standard, media outlets are scrambling to come up with differences. But last week gave us some pure journalism gold with a mostly innocuous storyline.

For the entire week, the news cycles were filled with coverage of the social upheaval behind gas stoves in American kitchens. It was as ridiculous as one would expect, yet it went on for days. What was most amazing to watch was that the press complex managed to take both extreme sides on the issue, changing its position by 180 degrees in a matter of a day. It was remarkable to watch, as the news divisions in this country not only exposed how they follow trends and not the facts, but in doing so, many outlets managed to contradict their own reporting as they lied about the developing issue.

To recap with brevity, a commissioner in the Consumer Products Safety Commission forwarded the idea that gas stoves posed a potential health risk and mentioned the possibility of banning the appliances. The press ran with this report, which then generated a public backlash. The administration backed away from this story, announcing there was no plan at all to ban gas stoves. Then the clapping seals of the media turned around to say that anyone suggesting there would be a ban was acting in an extremist fashion and engaging in a baseless culture war. 

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This new position taken in the later days of the week was amazing/amusing in that the press was attempting to say that anyone even suggesting that there was a ban mentioned was to be considered a crackpot. This, despite the verifiable fact that multiple outlets had reported that a "ban" was something mentioned and considered.

The Washington Post was extremely active in this, issuing a pair of columns decrying the way conservatives were making the ban an issue – after it delivered a pair of reports discussing the dangers of these ovens and the need to have them banned. (In revealing fashion, after the idea was mocked, WaPo altered the headline of one of their prior outrage pieces.)

When the evidence was pointed out that the discussion of a ban derived from the late Richard Trumka of the CPSC, the press went into protection mode. They were sure to repeat the talking point from Karine Jean-Pierre, who declared, "And the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is independent, is not banning gas stoves." Small matter. The talk of a possible ban came from Trumka, who was appointed to his commissioner post by – President Biden.

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One of the outlets that best typifies the wild swings in the coverage was seen in The Week. The outlet was right in line with the other news sources in joining in on the chorus of a possible ban on gas stoves.

Following the outcry and mockery, when the press shifted their stance entirely to claim conservatives were making all of this up, The Week followed suit. Suddenly the position and the graphics shifted in their coverage, and now the need to mock those who were reacting to the prior ban coverage was evident. Note the entirely un-subtle way that a MAGA hat has displaced the industrial polluting imagery the outlet originally went with for their prior scare piece.

The whiplash this induced was more than amusing WEDNESDAY: You'd be crazy to have one of these stoves in your home. THURSDAY: These Trumpers are crazy to think anyone is discussing a ban on these stoves.

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Recognizing the shifting foundation the outlet shakily is standing upon, it was with a dose of desperation that they attempted to explain away the contradiction. 

"On the one hand, the drama of equating Second Amendment rhetoric with turkeys and kitchen appliances affords lawmakers the excuse of simply being silly online. At the same time, as Foreign Policy lays out, it can also flatten any subject into the overly simplified 'you're either with us or against us' paradigm that has largely come to define the country's culture wars in recent years."

Even while acknowledging that Senator Ted Cruz and others are having fun ridiculing the attempted government overreach, "At the same time…" there is the severity of fomenting a culture war, you see. Uh-huh. So the problem was not the administration trying to float a trial balloon in an effort to take yet another liberty-infringing step into private lives; it was those damned conservatives rudely ridiculing the effort.

The comedy is seen when the attempt at demonizing an appliance in the home was not the first salvo in a culture war; it was when the conservatives returned fire. One other amusement is the way the press humiliated themselves by going all-in with a policy proposal and then tried to pretend that they never acted out in pure devotional style and were caught off guard. Acting with feigned outrage at the temerity of conservatives who responded to the idiotic proposal is such a neutered stance that it shows how baseless these news organs have become.

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Yes, 2023 is going to be a long year for this industry.

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