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I'm not immune to the worries of irresponsible radicals using social media to disseminate absurd ideas based on half-truths or outright fabrications. It occurs, it is reckless, and it is hazardous.
But, although I would never argue against the necessity for caution in the face of the deadly whispers of internet conspiracy theories, I will always be much more concerned by the insidious disinformation that pours purposely from the wellspring of this country's main media.
For example, the Washington Post published a clear smear story last week on Florida's Republican Governor Ron DeSantis and his state's forthcoming law that would bar teachers from teaching the new religion of gender and sexual orientation in class - stuff like this:
Elementary school counselor. This is who kids are supposed to trust. I would never let her near my kid pic.twitter.com/Re5SK1BwGx— Libs of Tik Tok (@libsoftiktok) February 10, 2022
The Washington Post is one of those lapdog media friends, with London-based writer Adela Suliman penning a nearly 900-word propaganda story that, after citing the bill's strident, active opponents, featured the following claim:
"DeSantis's office did not respond to a request for comment on the bill."
That statement caught the eye of Christina Pushaw, press secretary to Governor DeSantis.
It's pretty obvious you talked to progressive activist groups and wrote your entire article based on their talking points, then contacted us immediately before publication at 5:20am (assuming we wouldn't answer immediately at that time) so you could check that box. We see you.— Christina Pushaw 🐊🚛 (@ChristinaPushaw) February 9, 2022
Suliman reacted to Pushaw's worry by stating that she is located in another country and hence couldn't help the odd timing of her request. But this really shows to the true source of the fury.
A 900-word story on a prospective new law in the country's third most populated state isn't something a reporter can churn out in one evening. Something like this requires research, pre-writing, interviews, revisions, additions, editing, and other steps. Suliman's whole study was clearly done remotely, given that she works from London. But she didn't call the Governor's office until only hours before it was scheduled to be published?
Why was the administration left out of her study? Why would you not seek out comments and thoughts from both sides if you're producing an impartial study of a proposed law?
It's undeniable that Suliman wrote her whole post after researching it only from a progressive standpoint. The first attempt to add the administration's opposing position occurred barely two hours before the piece went online, indicating that the main writing and editing had already been finished long before the "request for comment."
Pushaw refers to it as "unethical journalism," and she is correct. But there's more to it than that. It's the stale status quo of a media complex that long ago redefined its mission as advocacy above investigation. It's not about asking questions; it's about moving stories forward. Fairness approaches such as "reach out to all sides" have degraded into nothing more than boxes to tick rather than values to uphold.
As a consequence, faith in a sector that plays such an important role in the maintenance of free, democratic institutions has completely collapsed.
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