Why are some liberal journalists so terribly upset about a bit of satire poking fun at them and their sacred cows? Well, you might feel the same way if you had such a tenuous grip on credibility.
Over the past week, there has been an unprecedented amount of anger and disingenuous concern over the obviously fake — but nevertheless hilarious — articles and headlines published by The Babylon Bee, an evangelical Christian satire site. Meanwhile, impeccably liberal comedian Ricky Gervais is under fire for roasting politically active celebrities when he hosted the Golden Globe Awards. What was it that set off so many humor-hating lefty journalists?
In a word: insecurity. The most powerful proof of the emptiness of the “Fake News” media is their absolute insistence on operating in a complete vacuum.
Factual reporting and true morality don’t fear criticism, much less jest. The Fake News media, however, fears nothing so much as mockery, which threatens to bring down their entire veneer of respectability. They know, deep down, that much of their “reporting” relies on deceptive wording and cherry-picked facts designed to advance the larger liberal narrative. It takes only the slightest shift in the ground — the smallest shadow of doubt or exposure of the simplest contradiction — to bring the entire edifice crashing down. The media are well-prepared to fight back against most forms of serious criticism, but those strategies are almost completely ineffective against humor-based critiques.
How better could one explain CNN journalist Donie O’Sullivan taking it upon himself to announce that the only way so many people could be reading The Babylon Bee is that they believe the outlet’s absurdist satirical headlines are real — a truly preposterous assumption. Pretty much everyone knows the Bee is a humor site, notwithstanding the few isolated examples of particularly gullible individuals that O’Sullivan cited as evidence. Furthermore, I don’t believe CNN has ever leveled a similarly ridiculous and unfalsifiable charge against left-leaning satirical “news outlets” such as The Onion or The Daily Show — at least not since Paul Begala lost his spot on Crossfire 15 years ago following a particularly devastating takedown by Jon Stewart.
The deep-seated insecurity of the Fake News media is plainly evident in the way O’Sullivan frames his critique of the Bee’s recent article joking that Democrats had called for flags to be flown at half-mast to grieve the death of Iranian terrorist Qassem Soleimani. “[T]his is the same number of engagements the top NY Times and CNN stories on Facebook had over the past week,” he complains in a tweet lamenting the popularity of the satirical article.
Nor is O’Sullivan the first time of his ilk to take umbrage with the Bee. The New York Times, for instance, boosted left-wing “fake check” site Snopes when it waged rhetorical war on The Babylon Bee this summer.
CNN anchor Jake Tapper is perhaps even more thin-skinned than most of his colleagues when it comes to satire. He recently devoted a segment of airtime to attacking a random Twitter user for producing memes about one of Joe Biden’s many foot-in-mouth gaffes, implying that it was tantamount to foreign intelligence agencies running disinformation campaigns.
The same spirit motivated attacks on comedian Ricky Gervais after he mocked his fellow red carpet denizens for their habit of turning awards show acceptance speeches into uninformed political rants.
“So if you do win an award tonight, don't use it as a political platform to make a political speech. You're in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg. So, if you win, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent and your God and f*** off. OK?” Gervais jibed, to the applause of cinema enthusiasts and reasonable people everywhere.
There was no mirth over at Britain’s The Independent, however, where a columnist fretted that the jokes “overshadowed vital political statements” the celebrities sought to make by hijacking an event intended to celebrate achievements in the field of entertainment.
Here’s a thought: if your news coverage is so biased, or your awards show soapbox speech so vapid, that all it takes is a few jokes to “overshadow” the message you’re trying to convey, then perhaps your arguments aren’t nearly as “vital” as you think.
The defensiveness with which the Fake News media react to even the most lighthearted mockery shows just how much they fear being exposed as the frauds and charlatans they truly are.
Robert Wasinger served in senior advisory and liaison roles in President Trump's campaign and transition team, after extensive experience on Capitol Hill.