Still waiting for journalists to learn

It’s not happening. They’re doing their best to normalize racists while calling it “journalism”. Read this NPR interview with Breitbart editor Joel Pollak, in which he fawns over Steve Bannon to a ludicrous degree, and the interviewer fails to call him out.

INSKEEP: I mean, let me just stop you there because I do want to ask about something that you said. You were talking about facts and data and how he ran Breitbart. Why did he make Breitbart the platform for the alt-right?

POLLAK: You know, all I can speak to is the content on the website. And the only alt-right content we have is a single article out of tens of thousands of articles, which is a journalistic article about the alt-right by Milo Yiannopoulos and Allum Bokhari, which basically went into this movement and tried to figure out what it was about. That’s not racist. That’s journalism.

Inskeep presumably thinks of himself as a journalist. Pollak has just maligned all of journalism, and has also outright lied in this interview (Bannon: We’re the platform for the alt-right.), and what does Innskeep do? He let’s it slide and he changes the subject.

No. That’s not how you do it. You do your homework ahead of time, and when you ask why Bannon made Breitbart the platform for the alt-right, you’ve got sources and quotes to back up your assertion, so that when a liar like Pollak makes such a ludicrous and patently false claim, you use that information to fucking pound him into the ground. You don’t change the subject. The interviewee has just exposed his fundamental wrongness, and you tear into that. Shove it in his face and make him address it, don’t let him dodge it. Your job is not to provide a pleasant, soothing environment for the guest, it is to probe down into the guts of the topic to extract some germ of insight, which might be very uncomfortable for him.

Inskeep seems to have an abstract notion of what journalism should mean as he later says:

INSKEEP: I want to mention, you know, actually putting controversial opinions out there is a perfectly fine idea. We’ve had David Duke on this program, but we fact-check, we try to question, we put in context.

Right. So where’s the instant fact-check on Pollak’s lie? Innskeep goes on to try and address a Breitbart article that praises the Confederacy, but then Pollak uses that as a springboard for more bullshit.

POLLAK: I think that we can talk about individual articles out of the tens of thousands at Breitbart, but, you know, NPR is taxpayer-funded and has an entire section of its programming, a regular feature called “Code Switch,” which, from my perspective, is a racist program. I’m looking here at the latest article, which aired on NPR, calling the election results “nostalgia for a whiter America.” So NPR has racial and racist programming that I am required to, I’m required to pay for as a taxpayer.

So that’s our story. NPR, which has just in this segment demonstrated a complete lack of any kind of teeth, is the racist news source, while Breitbart, which is an unremitting stream of hate endorsed by the KKK and the Daily Stormer, is journalism. Who cares about facts? Not modern journalism, it seems.

Oh, well. It’s not like Bannon is literally Joseph Goebbels.

Here’s a quote to keep in mind:

For those covering Trump, the lesson is that adversarial journalism, not access journalism, will better serve the public interest.

Adversarial journalism? What’s that? I don’t think I’ve seen much of that in the wild lately. Maybe it’s gone extinct.


  1. multitool says

    I’m trying to find specific words or actions of Bannon that reveal him to be a racist but not having much luck.

    His politics suck for sure, but could someone post a link that actually proves anything? So far it’s just people being outraged referring to other people being outraged. No direct quotes or actions.

    I am politically Left, but I don’t trust my liberal internet bubble anymore. My bubble told me Trump would lose.

  2. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Multitool, ever hear of political dog whistles?

    Dog-whistle politics is political messaging employing coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has an additional, different or more specific resonance for a targeted subgroup. The phrase is often used as a pejorative because of the inherently deceptive nature of the practice and because the dog-whistle messages are frequently distasteful to the general populace. The analogy is to a dog whistle, whose high-frequency whistle is heard by dogs but inaudible to humans.

    The modern genteel racist used dog whistles,

  3. lostbrit says

    His politics suck for sure, but could someone post a link that actually proves anything? So far it’s just people being outraged referring to other people being outraged. No direct quotes or actions.

    This is part of the challenge the educated, the rational and the liberal face.

    Quite rightly, we ask for evidence of accusations and proof that people are [insert term of choice] often on a case by case basis, because we don’t trust each other.

    This means it doesn’t matter how many people call [whoever] a nasty racist scumbag, we will fall over ourselves doubting the description. We will argue over the terms and demand evidence that the accusations are as bad as might be implied.

    Switch it over to the “other side” in the discussion and they will willingly believe every adverse comment and mobilise in fairly large, united groups based on rumour and hearsay.

    This means lies about a liberal politician are more effective than truthful statements about a right-winger. I am not advocating everyone change into a rabid horde, just that it kinds of implies the liberal left have no chance…. #sad

  4. congaboy says

    Colbert used to say on his show that he hated the truth, because it had a liberal bias. The right wing has actually put that into practice. NPR’s funding has been attacked and reduced by the right, because NPR used to go after them. They would falsely claim that NPR was biased against the right and Congress reduced its public funding, claiming that its programming had a liberal bias; It’s the same false narrative that Pollak used when he said NPR was racist for saying that the election results showed the country was nostalgic for a whiter America. Ratings and funding are the things that drive our media right now, and that is how the right wing wants it, because money (or lack there of) can be used to coerce the press.

  5. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re 1:
    sheesh, trying clicking the link in the OP: (Bannon: “We’re the platform for the alt-right.”)

  6. multitool says

    re: 5:
    Well I did, admittedly late. Maybe that’s proof enough, but it’s still guilt by association with association.

    For the sake of survival though, it’s probably best to regard one apple as poisonous if it comes for a tree of poisonous apples. You are right that we don’t need a case-by-case on this.

  7. consciousness razor says


    I’m trying to find specific words or actions of Bannon that reveal him to be a racist but not having much luck.

    Google his name and you’ll find all sorts of racist shit he’s said and done, not to mention other horrible shit besides racism. There’s a lot which is well-documented all over the internet, at least since he took over Breitbart several years ago. Not trying very hard, are you?

    I am politically Left, but I don’t trust my liberal internet bubble anymore. My bubble told me Trump would lose.

    If your bubble told you Clinton would probably win, based on all of the evidence they could have, they were right and did have that evidence. Indeed, she did win, if what we’re doing is the obvious thing of counting people — they were right about that too. So what is there in any of that to distrust?

    If you believed anyone telling you it is absolutely 100% certain Trump will lose the electoral college (presumably with the same degree of specificity about how close the popular vote would be), which no evidence anyone could gather would guarantee, it’s your fault for believing such nonsense. That’s not a reason to stop trusting people who told you, with the evidence they had and used to inform you as best they could, what they thought was probably true. But even if there is any genuine reason to distrust such people, you can get information for yourself, because it often isn’t that hard and they were not put on this Earth to provide that service for you.

  8. multitool says

    Google his name and you’ll find all sorts of racist shit he’s said and done

    That was the first thing I did before posting. Did you?

  9. multitool says

    It’s not your job to inform me, but it is your job to back up a what you say with evidence. Post one quote and I’ll back down.
    I’m easy; everybody else here can judge the quote.

  10. lostbrit says

    I get the hesitation to run with guilt by association but at a very basic level Bannon was (until recently) executive chairman of Breitbart news.

    This allows a bit of a logical process to happen. 1) Is Breitbart news generally on the racist end of the spectrum? (draw your own conclusions but I’d say yes here). 2) Does an executive chairman have quite a bit of sway in how a modern-media channel presents news? (Yes). 3) Has Bannon forced Breitbart to stop being racist? (no).

    From this, I can only conclude that Bannon is either a right wing racist or ambivalent enough to right wing racists to be the same thing. Its possible since leaving Breitbart he has had a change of heart, but I doubt that.

  11. Greta Samsa says

    I realized that #12 might seem disparaging, though my intention was far from that; I think it’s advisable to challenge your beliefs by considering new ideas (though perhaps that would’ve been a superior phrasing). I don’t know that Breitbart or anti-vaxxers would exist if the behavior was more common. The process is the reason that there are atheists.

  12. says


    Ya I’m working on a post about how I think we can be more effective with these kinds of criticisms. I was inspired to do this after a progressive facebook group I’m part of had posts about name calling. In essence, I think “name calling” is a form of conclusion or assertion, and in order to be effective we need a proper (Bayesian) support for the conclusion. And we probably need to go deep, to where the foundations of the disagreement ultimately lie.

    I think this sort of thing is really important right now. Technically it was really important before the election too, but it’s too late for that now.

    I also think this can be ramped up by being similar to the scientific community. Academic philosophy and such should be doing this kind of practical work, but I’m not sure they are. So we, activist community, should either do it ourselves, or get the academy to do it for us. Or both.

  13. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says


    When I googled Steve Bannon, this was the first link to pop up. Key quote:

    “When two-thirds or three-quarters of the CEOs in Silicon Valley are from South Asia or from Asia, I think . . . ” he didn’t finish his sentence. “A country is more than an economy. We’re a civic society.”

  14. says

    *Of course, blogging is already similar to what I’m proposing, and blog posts often have citations/hyperlinks and so on to other analyses. I’ll have to get more clear about the improvements I’d like to see.

  15. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    It’s a problem of most modern professional journalism. Modern journalism has bought the lie hook, line, and sinker, that a professional journalist should be “balanced” and “neutral”. It’s the same nonsense as “teach the controversy” for evolution and creationism. No; a journalist should not be balanced between bullshit and truth. A journalist’s job is to seek the truth and educate the public, and again, unfortunately, that’s no longer what most modern US journalism is.

  16. says

    Here’s how Breitbart News talked about diversity when Steve Bannon was running the show:

    Headline: Why Equality and Diversity Departments Should Only Hire Rich, Straight White Men

    Headline: Why Coca Cola’s multicultural “America the Beautiful” Ad was Offensive

    Headline: Intel’s $300M “Diversity Drive” is Discriminatory and Wrongheaded

    Headline: Obama Moving to Force “Diversity” on “Rich” Neighborhoods with Increased “Affordable Housing” Plan

    Headline: Jeb Bush Spanish-Language Ad Touts Obama-like Diversity Instead of Patriotism

    Headline: Multi-Cultural England: Are You Feeling the Progressive Diversity Yet?

    Headline: University of Missouri Spending $1 Million for “Diversity Audit” Despite Millions Lost Following Protests

    Headline: Sweden Government Report Blows Lid on Violent “Diverse” School Where Kids Beat Teachers

    Headline: Study: Increased Ethnic Diversity Making Brits Miserable

    Headline: Multicultural Surrender has Turned Britain into a Third World Country

    The headline list is from Media Matters.

  17. chrislawson says

    I’m not much of a fan of blanket adversarial journalism either. It seems to be the standard OP in Australian political reporting and it leads to journalists being more interested in recording an argument than shedding light on a subject. I think it’s important for a journalist to become adversarial if the interviewee is blatantly lying/dodging and refuses to answer fair questions, but they shouldn’t be adversarial just for the sake of it. And in fact, openly adversarial journalism leads to ridiculous encounters where the journalist feels they’ve done their job if they’ve asked some confrontational questions (even if they’re stupid questions) and the interviewee feels they’ve done their job if they’ve fielded those questions even if they didn’t really answer them.

    lostbrit@10: I don’t think it’s guilt by association to judge an editor by the stories they choose to publish.

  18. ck, the Irate Lump says

    The only people on TV that seem to be interested in investigative (adversarial) journalism seems to be comedians. Samantha Bee and John Oliver (and the team that supports them) do some excellent work on their shows, for instance.