Drive-By Media Cash In on Impeachment Hysteria

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An unhappy coincidence Thursday morning was, for me, the perfect metaphor for the mass (media) hysteria engendered by the televised impeachment hearings the nation was burdened with last week.

Although Chairman Adam Schiff had only scheduled hearings before the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday and Friday, the programming department at CNN apparently decided to maximize their ratings by touting “Special Coverage” of the impeachment on Thursday as well. At least, that was the message that had been sent to YouTube TV, whose channel guide promoted “Impeachment Inquiry: Special Coverage” on CNN from early morning till mid-afternoon on Thursday.

No doubt, the hosts at CNN (under the tutelage of Never Trump boss Jeff Zucker) were prepared to give their last full measure of devotion to a cause that was conceived in hatred, and dedicated to the proposition that Donald Trump is unworthy of the presidency and must be impeached, so help us God.

But on that Thursday morning, a true tragedy intervened in the form of a mass shooting at a high school in Santa Clarita, Calif. Therefore, for YouTube TV viewers at least, we were treated to the spectacle of CNN circling the shooting scene like carrion-hunting vultures under the banner of “Impeachment Inquiry: Special Coverage.”

The shooting, and more particularly CNN’s fascination with it, reminded us (if we needed reminding) that cable news is built on a business plan of sensationalism, shock and outrage. It also resulted in a palimpsest of comments by CNN host Anderson Cooper and others that were equally applicable to the shooting and to the impeachment coverage that it had replaced.

“There is a numbness to this, I think, in some orders” — quarters? — “as well,” Cooper intoned solemnly. “It’s a horrific numbness of people looking up at a TV screen, seeing this yet again, and it just seems like it goes on and on and on.”

He was talking about the school shooting, and yet his words could just as easily have been about the reaction that many voters have to the latest incarnation of a Democratic impeachment push that has been underway literally since the day after the 2016 election.

Now, we must be careful not to compare the actual tragedy of an act of violence such as a school shooting with the potential destruction of the civil order through an act of political sabotage. They have nothing in common except that both are fodder for our rubber-necking news media, and that is the warning I want to impart.

We already know from the Project Veritas undercover investigation of CNN that the news channel’s president, Jeff Zucker, has a blatant anti-Trump bias, which he has passed on to his employees.

In recordings of daily phone calls captured by the Project Veritas whistleblower, Zucker directed staffers to push the impeachment narrative above all else.

“We’re moving towards impeachment,” Zucker said. “We are at an incredibly important time in history and in this country. … And this is the story, OK? And I don’t want to be distracted by other things. This is it. And I want to be fully committed to it and not take our eyes off this ball. …

“I want to stay with this, our top, top — our own reporters, our own political analysts, the top, the top [unintelligible] we have. Okay, so make sure we’re doing that. All these moves are moves towards impeachment. So, don’t – don’t lose sight of what the biggest story is.”

Don’t worry, Jeff. Your troops got the message, and despite the one day of attention to a tragedy in California, everything returned to normal Friday morning just after daybreak when the latest “shocking” testimony from Trump haters proved that, well, some people hate Trump.

Of course, it’s not just CNN that is hyping impeachment. All the cable news channels and, to some extent, the traditional networks are cashing in on the impeachment hysteria. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews was on to something when he compared the impeachment hearings to the O.J. Simpson murder trial. He was talking about how “people took sides very quickly,” but from the point of view of television news coverage, we also have to see that O.J. and Trump are similar for another reason — they are both good for ratings.

The O.J. trial provided a template for sensationalism that has now lasted for nearly a quarter-century. And even when there isn’t a legitimate news angle, the cable networks are perfectly willing to invent one for the sake of keeping a story alive for weeks or, if at all possible, months.

Examples abound, and sadly they often are the most divisive stories possible, thus accounting for the high ratings as viewers keep coming back to feed their bias. Thus, you had the lengthy coverage of the death of Trayvon Martin, with rank speculation as to the guilt of George Zimmerman, who was ultimately acquitted after claiming self-defense. You had the daily dose of stripper Stormy Daniels for what seemed like months until her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, got so busy defending himself over various charges that he could no longer take time to harass the president over his alleged sexual indiscretions.

In both of those cases, as well as many others, the media fans the flames of doubt, distrust and deceit to ensure that the stories become the focus of endless debate. They are classic instances of what Rush Limbaugh calls “drive-by media” attention, where news reporters arouse passions with dubious reporting and then move on to other stories only after leaving chaos behind in their wake.

Many of the most divisive stories, including the Democratic assault on the presidency, have legitimate angles, of course, but they are also ratings catnip to cable news channels, which lose all sense of proportion when handed a story that has elements of sex, death or violence. The exception seems to be the case of alleged pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, which ABC did a hard pass on in 2015 even though reporter Amy Robach said she had the story nailed down — years before Epstein allegedly committed suicide in a New York jail cell.

Oh, yeah, there’s one other story that the cable news networks don’t seem to want to touch — the remarkable coincidence of Vice President Joe Biden’s involvement in the internal affairs of Ukraine at the same time his son Hunter was cashing in big-time by serving remotely on the board of a Ukrainian energy company. That’s off limits. So is the name of the Ukraine whistleblower who worked with Biden in the White House, even though the law doesn’t protect his anonymity. The whistleblower is a vital fact witness to just what happened between 2015 and 2019, which involved the entrapment of candidate Trump and led to the coming impeachment of President Trump. A fearless free press would stop at nothing to get that story.

Too bad we don’t have a fearless free press.

Frank Miele, the retired editor of the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell Mont., is a columnist for RealClearPolitics. His books — including “The Media Matrix: What If Everything You Know Is Fake?” — are available at his Amazon storefront. Visit him at HeartlandDiaryUSA.com to read his daily commentary or follow him on Facebook @HeartlandDiaryUSA or on Twitter @HeartlandDiary.



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