Journalism

The White House Correspondents' Dinner is Just Nerds Again, as it Should Be.

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It's a good sign that I didn't recognize anyone during the White House Correspondents' Dinner broadcast until halfway through. In the previous eight years Hollywood celebrities parachuted into the nation's capital to strut up a red carpet and mingle with various tuxedo-clad political barnacles. That kind of hobnobbing woefully gives hope to impressionable student council presidents that if they work very hard and spend six hours a day on LinkedIn, they too may one day sit at the cool kids' table with Leonardo DiCaprio.

Fortunately that's over now. Donald Trump, a man so intensely unlikable that satellites spontaneously redirect their orbits to avoid him, has rent asunder the unholy alliance between politicians and coolness. Celebrities skipped this year's White House Correspondents' Dinner to attend Samantha Bee's rival Not the White House Correspondents' Dinner instead. The president refused to let journalists lob verbal tomatoes at him, so instead visited a rally in Pennsylvania to promote his ambitious agenda of getting more Americans to wear bright red hats.

Absent Hollywood big shots and White House carbuncles, journalists attending the dinner this year by default had to discuss journalism—and the ominous threat President Trump poses to it. Jeff Mason of Reuters said, "Freedom of the press is a building block of our democracy. Undermining that by seeking to delegitimize journalists is dangerous to a healthy republic." Bob Woodward gathered applause with, "Mr. President, the media is not fake news." And during his keynote address, Hasan Minhajs veered away from jokes to warn, "Donald Trump doesn't care about free speech. The man who tweets everything that enters his head refuses to acknowledge the amendment that allows him to do it."

Usually the White House Correspondents Dinner looks like a cross between prom and a Comedy Central roast, but this time the enmity between the White House and the press manifested in some sober reflections on the Fourth Estate. Speakers celebrated the First Amendment, and warned of the menace which government might pose when it's no longer run by a liberal philosopher king.

Journalists sounding the alarm about the president have a point—Donald Trump is America's answer to Silvio Berlusconi. If he had an attention span greater than that of a cocker spaniel, I would be seriously worried about his threats to open libel laws. It's unnerving that he expels syndicates from White House briefings when they displease him, and that he routinely lambasts the media as "fake news" and enemies of the American people.

That said, perhaps part of why Americans have such abysmally low opinions of the media in polls is that journalists keep describing themselves as objective, even-handed seekers of truth—they certainly styled the profession that way at this year's White House Correspondents Dinner.

In economics Public Choice Theory says that politicians have basic human impulses even after getting elected—they want to keep their jobs, they want to get invited to parties, and they want people to like them. They don't turn into selfless Vulcans after they're sworn in. Journalists aren't magically exempt from the same cognitive bias or groupthink that effects all other humans (although a lot of them seem to think so.) Glenn Greenwald espouses a different school of thought: that journalists should try to be evenhanded, but also own up to their biases so that people can make informed assessments of their reporting.

This year's White House Correspondents' Dinner looked less giddy than years past; more of a vocational awards ceremony than a nexus of pundits and starlets. In that capacity balance may have been restored to the Force. Donald Trump, loudmouth authoritarian though he is, kicks up mushroom clouds of hostility every time he interacts with reporters. So at least for now, journalists are antagonists to government—as they should be.

For more on the White House Correspondents' Dinner, watch below.

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NEXT: My new Learn Liberty article on the constitutional rights of non-citizens

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  1. Celebrities skipped this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner to attend Samantha Bee’s rival Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner instead.

    Ugh.

  2. what would be the point of any Republican going to that? It;s just a bunch of smug leftist lame-os, who think they are funny, so why bother?

    Speaking of not funny — only my prog friend / SJW types would find this funny — he showed it to me last night and was laughing is ass off. SJWs would put us all in a gulag if they could…Most of us only dream of putting the wealthy in a gulag, Comrade Ja has actually gone and done it #fyrefestival

    Yet he’s the same guy who is PC on everything. If Holocaust jokes are Literally Hitler, then how the hell do you laugh at a Gulag joke? Gulags are Concentration Camps by any other name

    1. Come on, now. Stalin wasn’t Hitler. To make that Socialist omelette he only needed to break a few Poles. And Baltic Staters. And his own Russians. Etc.

      1. Hitler threw people into camps because of their race, religion or sexual orientation. Stalin wasn’t as evil. He threw people into camps indiscriminately.

        1. This is one of my favorite arguments when I point out how stupid hate crime laws are. Who is more dangerous to society: A murderer who only preys on gay people, or a murderer who preys on the entire population?

  3. Bernie Maxsmith really let himself go

  4. I hope Andrew enjoyed his evening of cocktails and C-span

  5. The media is confusing the symptoms for the disease. The media’s problem isn’t Donald Trump undermining and insulting it. Nobody in America is waiting for Donald Trump to tell them their opinion of the media they’re constantly exposed to. Donald Trump declaring the media is the enemy of the American people doesn’t suddenly make people who would be happy to nod along with CNN suddenly hate it.

    The media’s disease is rot from within. It’s so thoroughly undermined its own reputation that nobody but the media itself really cares if Trump decides to attack it, or play favorites with access. Even the non-media left doesn’t actually care, it just likes having a club to hit Trump with; if it were Clinton attacking Fox News, they’d just be nodding along.

    If you can imagine a world where, say, John Stossel is hired as the regular, named-in-the-title anchorman of one of the Big Three networks’ evening news and no mainstream news source covers his being hired to that job as “controversial”, then you’re imagining a world where the media could be safe from a Trump. Because that would mark a news media balanced enough to be trusted by the American people. All it would have to do after that is approach a reasonable level of sobriety over sensationalism.

    1. I keep remind people that Trump (and his propagadist, Bannon) is the predator in this – and predators go for the weak and the lame.

    2. The public’s trust in the media and views on bias have not budged since Trump arrived on the scene. He is the result of their problems, not the cause. That rests entirely on them and their insane coddling of Obama and refusing to hold him accountable for anything.

      The Jonathan Gruber thing was the worst influence, in my opinion, and that was only one of many awful incidents. Here’s a guy, the “architect of Obamacare”, who is going around giving speeches where he’s bragging about lying and misleading everybody about Obamacare, and about how they relied on the “stupidity of the American voter” to pass it. It takes years for these speeches to come to light, and it is some random conservative who does it. The press at first ignored it, then Obama and Pelosi said “we don’t even know him!” despite blatant evidence saying otherwise (he was also paid $400,000 for his help) and the press sided with them! It was never addressed. Obama was never pressed about it. The end.

      Then there was the IRS scandal. The praise for the Bowe Bergdahl ceremony in the Rose Garden. The press taking Obama’s word at face value concerning the totally-not-ransom pallets of cash for Iran on a secret plane just coincidentally taking place at the same exact time they released an American prisoner. The list goes on and on…

  6. These self congratulating overwhelmingly liberal idiots can’t help themselves in attending every circle jerk they can find in between their bullshit ‘journalism’ and government rub and tugs.

    Don’t they have some war to lie to us about? Maybe some newly invented form of statism to shove down our throats? Maybe some ‘victims’ to parade in front of a camera for likes and clicks? How about the next election, have they told us who the winner is yet?

    1. Because you won the election, you are not going to be roasted for being a giant asshole?

      Not you, you did not win shit. You might have voted for the guy who did, but you are just as bad a loser. One who does not even get to go to a party.

      1. I didn’t vote for The Great Orange Hope. Nor would I ever.

        I also don’t attend parties full of tyrants. Hosted by team Red or Blue. However they justify their tyranny, through sympathy or fear, they’re still just a bunch of limp biscuit puppets who never bother to look up.

  7. Damn, didn’t you say you were boycotting it, but you watched it anyway?

  8. “Hasan Minhajs veered away from jokes to warn, “Donald Trump doesn’t care about free speech. The man who tweets everything that enters his head refuses to acknowledge the amendment that allows him to do it.”‘

    Sigh.

    No!

    The First Amendment doesn’t “allow” Donald Trump-or anyone else-to say whatever they want. It forbids the government from interfering with that person doing so-and that distinction matters. That Hasan Minhajs seems not to understand that and that he was the keynote speaker at this charade is what troubles me and I think many others.

  9. So the mainstream media spent the last eight years deifying a feckless president. As was mentioned, their job is to speak out about presidential shortcomings, but until the recent unpleasantness, they found none. Now they come impartially roaring back to life. Where have you been MSM? Do you wonder why you have lost credibility?

    1. Exactly. And the stuff they complain about now isn’t even the bad stuff. His idiotic saber-rattling with Russia drew nothing but praise. The MSM is completely useless for opposing the misuse of power.

  10. What a shit article. You’re repeating the MSM’s claptrap without the slightest hint of skepticism.

    The First Amendment freedom of the press does not forbid the president from criticizing the media, nor does it require him to talk to them. This is complete bullshit, and reveals the entitled mentality of the MSM. They have nothing to offer in the way of investigative abilities, writing abilities, or even basic honesty; all they have to offer is access, and the reputation earned by their predecessors which they are quickly eroding with their dishonesty.

    In the past few decades, there have been many times when the president was held accountable by the free press for his misdeeds. None of these depended on attending press conferences with him or his spokespersons. None of them depended on the president having nice words for them.

  11. Criticizing the media is now an assault on the first amendment. Got it. I suppose this is from the same line of thinking that not paying for someone else’s stuff is denying her “access” to it.

  12. Khomeini was right. There are no good comedians in Islam.

  13. Wow.

    This whiny load of garbage was worse than the actual events.

    And here–

    Speakers castigated the First Amendment,

    FTFY

    The people who try to find ‘ethical’ reasons for using physical violence against people who have opinions they don’t like don’t get to even pretend that they support the fist amendment.

  14. And when are you going to decry the ‘Presidential prayer breakfast’ and other such unconstitutional establishments of religion?

    Or do you not want to piss off your conservative followers, who WANT a theocracy?

    N_J

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