The media's ugly obsession

  • 3 October 2018
  • NormanL

We have noted the media were playing an active supporting role in the destruction of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. But we were unprepared for how eager some in the media would be to give air time to the most salacious -- and most questionable -- of allegations. 

NBC News did so with their interview of Julie Swetnick, who initially said Kavanaugh drugged women and participated in gang rapes while a teenager. This particular set of charges came very late in the process and were, almost from the beginning, dismissed by most observers. Despite that, Swetnick got her air time. To call it a train wreck is an understatement:

NBC News noted there were differences in Swetnick’s initial statement and her comments to the outlet, notably her assertion that Kavanaugh spiked punch at the parties so that groups of boys could rape girls.

Swetnick did not confirm that she saw Kavanaugh spike punch, but simply said she “saw him around the punch containers.”

“I don’t know what he did,” she told NBC.

She also appeared to backtrack on her suggestion that Kavanaugh was involved in gang rapes, saying she only saw him congregated with other boys outside of rooms. When Snow asked if she thought the boys were gathered in order to rape girls in the rooms, Swetnick replied “yes.”

NBC went further, checking the sources Swetnick said could back up her story:

She provided four names to NBC News that she said could confirm her descriptions of the parties in the 1980s. NBC News contacted all four: one said they did not remember a Julie Swetnick, one was dead, and two did not respond, per Snow.

Usually, when a story cannot be confirmed, and especially when sources who allegedly can confirm events do not do so, the story does not run.

We would think NBC News would have left Swetnick's story on the desk, and moved on. Instead, they gave her plenty of air time. Why? That's not how journalism is supposed to work.

Writing in New York magazine, Andrew Sullivan gives us some insight into what is happening inside newsrooms over the Kavanaugh nomination. In their pursuit of Kanavanugh, the press has pushed a narrative that is no longer concerned with truth, let alone news. Rather it's become an orgy of baseless accusations:

This is particularly dangerous when there are no editors or gatekeepers in the media to prevent any accusation about someone’s private life being aired, when economic incentives online favor outrageous charges, and when journalists have begun to see themselves as vanguards of a cultural revolution, rather than skeptics of everything.

They are skeptics of a kind. Whenever a conservative utters a sentiment at odds with their dogma, the press pounces.