Media Criticism

Jake Tapper: 'We Are Not the Resistance, We Are Not the Opposition'

CNN anchor warns his fellow journalists that truth, not political positioning, is the best approach in the age of Trump

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Not #TheResistance ||| L.A. Press Club
L.A. Press Club

Even before Donald Trump leveled a Jack Lambert-style hit onto the collective psyche of The Fourth Estate, journalism awards galas were schizophrenia-inducing adventures for those of us willing participants who nonetheless maintain a heightened sensitivity to media pomposity and political class elbow-rubbing. It was nearly a lifetime ago, and I still shudder involuntarily at the memory of hundreds of working reporters standing to sing "God Bless America" to Dan Rather back in 2001.

In the two years since Trump's famous escalator ride into national politics, the awards-dinner genre's inherent self-importance and ideological homogeneity has been enough to make even the biggest All the President's Men romantic feel at least a little bit like a staff writer for The Federalist. Last night's entertaining Southern California Journalism Awards, for example, began with a first-person plural statement of professional sympathy from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. "I think this is probably [so] well-attended tonight because all of us—no matter whether journalists, or those of us who interact with journalists, who consume the work of journalists—we all feel that there is something bigger under attack than just journalism and news," Garcetti said. "The very values that we stand for, who we are, what we want to be, and whether or not we will come together."

Incredulous-face, ranked: 1) Moynihan, 2) Carlson, 3) Tapper. ||| CNN
CNN

This is pretty much boilerplate for political-class gatherings these days. National Press Club Chairman Jeff Ballou spent a good deal of his remarks last night making the defiant claim that "We ARE the Constitution!" Andrea Mitchell in her speech spent paragraphs cataloguing the Trump administration's violations against basic Washington norms and decency. It's not that she's necessarily wrong, it's that it always feels awkward to be in any room, let alone one populated by journalists, where so many people so vigorously agree on political matters.

That's why the speech given by CNN anchor Jake Tapper, who was accepting the L.A. Press Club's President's Award, was so contextually refreshing and I think nationally relevant to the ongoing push-pull between Trump and the media. Tapper warned implicitly against the journalistic first-person plural, and explicitly in favor of the seemingly obvious yet nonetheless timely reminder that "we really need to stand up and make sure that we get our facts right."

Since it was George Orwell's birthday, Tapper started with that great quote you might have seen online commemorating the occasion:

[citation needed] ||| izquotes
izquotes

The main problem here? There's no evidence Orwell ever said or wrote such a thing. Tapper used that fact as a jumping-off point to reflect on how sloppiness, side-taking, and social media are combining to undermine many journalists' anti-Trump goals:

"We need to rise to the moment and make sure that when we quote somebody we know it's actually correct," Tapper said. "We don't need to give the enemies of the Fourth Estate any ammunition. That means we need to be squeaky clean?we're not the resistance, we're not the opposition, we're here to tell the truth, report the facts, regardless of whom those facts favor one way or the other."

Crazy talk! More from Tapper's speech as delivered (you can read the somewhat different version as written here):

I know it's difficult, and I know that it's easy to get swept up into the stance of opposition when a politician declares war not only on journalism, but on the very concept of empirical fact, and sometimes when that politician declares war on the very concept of basic decency. And we need to stand up for fact and truth and decency.

But when we look our kids in the eye, our grandkids in the eye, in two decades, and tell them what we did during this era, we need we need to make sure that we were also maintaining the integrity of journalism. […]

If the president does something good, we need to report that. When the president does something right, we need to report that. When we tweet every single emotion we have the very moment we have them, we undermine that foundation. And we can't afford to do that in this day and age.

While I'm confident many readers will still be put off by Tapper's set of assumptions here (and a perhaps overlapping group will scoff at his alleged false equivalence), this is a message I'm convinced my professional colleagues need to hear. Anti-Trump fervor is producing bouts of pointless hyperventilation and backlash-inducing error, helping cement anti-media sentiment as the most powerful glue left in the Republican coalition (aside from the taste of power, sweet power). Confirmation bias is arguably the greatest generator of journalistic inaccuracy (mine included), so avoiding the false lure of blanket opposition seems to me a sound strategy for producing fewer false positives.

But then, that could be my own bias talking….

NEXT: Democrats Accuse Republicans of Mass Murder

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  1. “feel at least a little bit like a staff writer for The Federalist”

    I can’t tell if that’s a dig, but you guys reproduce David Harsayni’s articles (who writes for The Federalist). Nonetheless, good article. Jake Tapper is a good egg

    1. Sometimes it’s just a description.

      1. Sometimes, a Cigar is just a Cigar.

        Sometimes, you are eating a bag of dicks.

  2. When we tweet every single emotion we have the very moment we have them, we undermine that foundation. And we can’t afford to do that in this day and age.

    160 character messages hardest hit.

  3. Too late media scum. You have collectively rendered the entire 4th estate moot and disgusting.

    The vast majority of the media showed their leftist stripes starting during the Clinton years and culminating with 8 years of complete masking, cheerleading, and absolute dismissal of all of the egregious violations of liberty and Marxists betrayal put into action by Brak FDR Bama.
    As much as I do not support Trump, what he did to the media is both hilariously good and disastrous at the same time. He routinely called out those lying bastards for what they are. In do so, he also rendered absolutely all news media unbelievable which means I can hardly believe the critical things that any media report on anyone anymore.

    They have made themselves entirely obsolete because both sides of the political divide gobbled up all news media and both sides participated in the partisan cover-up and propaganda that has become media.
    Reason even tries to sway their readers on occasion with erroneous reporting or talking points. They are better than the 99% of dipshit reporters out there though.

    1. Could I get an example of something “they” lied about? And do try to make it a good one and not some nitpicky crap.

      Obviously it’s happening a lot, so surely you can come up with something good.

      1. And the useful idiot chimes in with his “citations please” gotcha.

        Surely you think the media did a good job of covering brak for 8 years. And that’s all anyone really needs to now about you.

        1. I thought they were a bit starry-eyed to be honest, but he really didn’t make too many mistakes, and certainly got his share of insane crap from the right-wing media (which is media, which lies all the time).

          1. ‘he really didn’t make many mistakes.’

            Too funny.

      2. Off the top of my head there was the big one from CNN where they said that Comey was going to refute Trump’s assertion that the FBI director had assured him three times that he was not under investigation. That turned out to be wrong. The Washington Post saying that Russia hacked our electric grid, which they had to quietly retract. And more recently there was the CNN article saying that the Senate was investigating a Trump associate, Sacramucci, for payments to the Russians. That fell apart completely and CNN has changed their policy with regards to stories about Russia where reporters now need to get approval from management before filing these stories.

        If you don’t want to accept reality that’s your problem. Keep having those fever dreams about Russia

        1. Or the golden showers thing. That was a lie. Then there was attempting to cover all of Hillary Clinton’s lies and crimes via top secret clearance with dismissal and distraction. There was covering for brak’s gun running scheme, covering for whatever happened in Benghazi, there was covering when brak bombed americans on foreign soil without due process. No one ever called out brak for being a puppet for the fed and mega banks . When the emails surfaced with direction on what to say about tarp from the FED officials, that did not make it on the news. When brak had 7 wars going in 7 countries, I don’t recall Rachel Maddow getting real upset. When Bark’s surveillance police state became even more frightening than under bush, CNN and Tom Brokaw really didn’t pipe up much. There really is no limit to the amount of political deception and propaganda that was carried out by the US media. They are basically Pravda.

        2. To be fair, most of that could be explained by reckless disregard for factual evidence or incompetence, and not necessarily lying.

          1. Exactly. Hanlon’s Razor can be attributed to most of government, as well as most of the media.

        3. All nitpicky.

          1. Extrajudicial killing with drones is probably a million times more totalitarian than lying about crowd sizes and it’s shocking how almost no one called him on this crap. I cannot fathom an argument to the contrary but feel free to try

          2. Pretty sure there are a few Yemeni that would debate the point.

          3. “The murder of American citizens by the President on entirely ideological grounds, absent any pretense of due process, is kind of a nit-picky thing to complain about”

            – LITERALLY Tony

          4. Self-delusion can be a tough nut to crack for people like Tony

      3. How about “if you like your current insurance plan, you can keep it.”?

        1. fast and furius, drone killings, tea party IRS thing, Government services admin party in vegas, government shutdown where he only shut down certain things just to be petty and inconvenient, Gm bailout even though they paid off their loan with another tax payer line of credit, DOJ reporter harassment, Iran cash ransom, Loretta lynch was not investigated or fired, brak practically fomented the race riots with his rhetoric, MF Global ponzie scheme with John Corzine-he went scott free, Snowden and coming down on whistleblowers, the pigford subsidy scam, seth rich, silverton mine, solyndra, his whole transparency thing was a massive fraud, secret service hookers, VA Scandal, Obamacare compete failure, fomenting ISIS with regime change and driving the ridiculousness around tranny bathrooms, gay cakes, minimum wage untruths, and of course, pimping the climate change hoax to give money to more international bureaucrats.

      4. Dewey Beats Truman.

      5. CNN’s Crowley claimed Obama called Benghazi a terrorist act, when he did not.
        The press claimed Trump was under investigation. He was not.
        Hillary’s email set-up was similar to her predecessors (it was not)
        Trump being pissed on by hookers
        State Dept officials resigned en masse to protest Trump

        1. Obama did call it a terrorist attack. Trump is under investigation. Hillary’s email was set up similar to Colin Powell’s. Trump probably watched hookers piss on each other. I don’t know about the last thing.

          You’re simply wrong on probably everything.

          1. Am I misremembering all the hoopla about the Youtube video?

            Or Comey’s statements about a Trump investigation?

            Or Colin Powell’s leaked email tearing into the Clintons, stemming from his unhappiness at how she kept dragging his name through the mud to save herself?

            And when you think the Trump/hookers thing happened without any evidence, it undermines what little good will I’m willing to extend you that you will argue with us in good faith

            1. After all the thousands of lies Trump has told, in general, about Obama (remember birtherism?), and about Hillary, it’s just fucking rich for you to be here saying these things.

              On top of it you’re just wrong about the facts. You’re way fucking down the rabbit hole.

              1. You are saying I’m wrong to equate Obama and Trump’s lies because of the volume and obviousness of Trump’s lies, yes? That journalists get a pass for Obama because Trump is just so bad? I reject that and think that the media should always be somewhat adversarial, which didn’t happen nearly enough during the Obama years and deserves to be called out. But we can disagree on that premise. That’s fine

                However, you are not refuting any of what I just said and are instead attacking me personally and saying I’m wrong. That’s lazy

              2. “After all the thousands of lies Trump has told”

                And you have the balls to ask for citations?

          2. Obama did call it a terrorist attack.

            No, he didn’t. Factually.

            Trump is under investigation.

            He might be. Neither of us knows if he is or isn’t. He ABSOLUTELY wasn’t when he was said to be. Factually.

            Hillary’s email was set up similar to Colin Powell’s.

            No, it wasn’t. Not even close. Factually.

            Trump probably watched hookers piss on each other.

            I mean, he might have – but the dossier claiming he did was pure invention, and the sockpuppet media knew that even while they pimped it.

            What a surprise, that the habitual liar is lying habitually!

          3. Obama did call it a terrorist attack.

            Only after he went on Letterman blaming it on a video, and subsequent information that came out showed that to be bullshit.

            Trump is under investigation

            So you’re saying Comey lied under oath?

            Hillary’s email was set up similar to Colin Powell’s.

            LOL, no. Powell never had a private server set up in his home to receive classified emails.

            Trump probably watched hookers piss on each other.

            Your wishful thinking is not fact.

            You’re simply wrong on probably everything.

            Physician, heal thyself.

      6. OK, if your Google is broken – – – –
        Three CNN journalists, including the executive editor in charge of a new investigative unit, have resigned after the publication of a Russia-related article that was retracted.
        Thomas Frank, who wrote the story in question; Eric Lichtblau, an editor in the unit; and Lex Haris, who oversaw the unit, have all left CNN.
        The story, which reported that Congress was investigating a “Russian investment fund with ties to Trump officials,” cited a single anonymous source.

        1. If only FOX News were held to such standards.

          (They’re not always truthful just because they never acknowledge when they’re lying, which is all the time.)

          1. The funny thing is that nobody here is holding up Fox as a paragon of journalistic integrity. You’re going to have to dig a bit deeper if you’d like to survive this little foray. Or you could just climb down from the hill, admit that 90% of the media, (that includes Fox and your idols at CNN and NBC), is shamelessly partisan, and live to fight another day. Try to cling to what little intellectual integrity a leftist has left at this point.

            1. Never gonna happen

      7. http://thehill.com/media/33956…..retraction

        From today. Literally today.

  4. There are two sets of truth in this country, though, and the believers in one set think Jake Tapper is an agent of evil along with all the rest of the real journalists who don’t suck Trump’s whatever on a constant basis.

    Journalism is up against an often far more powerful foe, propaganda, and yeah it’s a fallacious false equivalence to say both sides deploy equal amounts of it.

    Propaganda is, in my opinion, the worst problem this country has, and I wonder if it’s not enabled by our faith in the first amendment–if it’s not made all the more insidious by the implication that truth is actually subservient to the value of letting everyone have their say, however crazy.

    1. truth is actually subservient to the value of letting everyone have their say, however crazy.

      Well, that’s how it should be in the law anyway. You should make any judgements about what people say.

      Even if it was a good idea to have government regulate the press more, do you really want some Trump nominee in charge of deciding what’s true and what isn’t? There are very good reasons that should appeal even to people who aren’t libertarian nutjobs for keeping the government out of these things.

      1. I’m practically a first-amendment absolutist, which is part of the reason I like to explore problems with unlimited free speech.

    2. Journalism is up against an often far more powerful foe, propaganda, and yeah it’s a fallacious false equivalence to say both sides deploy equal amounts of it.

      Journalism is little better than propaganda.

      1. That’s what victims of right-wing propaganda always say.

        It should be an easy test. Do you get your information from a set of poorly sourced outlets that all reference each other, each of which I could name and count on two hands? Or do you get your information from reliable, mainstream sources the sort of which everyone in the world, except the Republican base in America, trusts?

        1. You know Tony some of us remember when NBC was caught faking “news” by blowing up Chevy trucks.

          http://articles.latimes.com/19….._gm-pickup

          You tell me what is propaganda and what is news. I haven’t trusted any TV news show since.

        2. I seem to remember a power outage recently that was immediately linked to the Russians and debunked within a day, but not after everyone uncritically reported it first. It was pretty indicative of where the MSM is at this point with regards to citing each other and not evaluating their sources, their possible motivations for leaking, and their reliability so long as Trump or Russia happens to come up

          1. If it’s retracted within a day, it’s not propaganda, it’s a mistake.

            You people aren’t getting this, are you?

            1. I did not call it propaganda. You are assuming we are all a hivemind and you can guess all of our beliefs immediately. You are wrong. I don’t believe it’s a vast conspiracy. I believe the media has allowed their own beliefs to guide them towards particular narratives and ignore potential problems in their stories. It’s shoddy journalism and it has a real effect on how events are perceived. The retraction does not get the press of the initial story and doesn’t really register in people’s minds as much as the visceral reaction of seeing “RUSSIA IS TRYING TO KILL US BY CUTTING OUR HEAT OUT IN THE WINTER”

    3. Journalism is up against an often far more powerful foe, propaganda,

      here’s the problem

      you’re conflating “Journalism” with “news”

      News is just ‘reporting the facts’. =

      e.g. things like

      – quotes people actually said,
      – the results of votes that were taken, and how certain pols voted
      – whether stock prices rose or fell and by how much
      – the number of people killed in X place when Y totally-not-a-terrorist-muslim blew-himself-up-after-screaming-“Allahu Akbar”,
      and so on

      “News” is stuff that is the same regardless of which news source you get it from. News is the stuff you can *confirm*

      When you say journalism, you actually mean “news”.

      “Journalism” by contrast, is fundamentally no different from propaganda. Its simply the spin that any given publication SUPERIMPOSES on the raw information. Its the editorial twist that tries to create a ‘story’ around the news which conforms to their ideological bias.

      And this is pretty much the way it has always been. Newspapers began as propaganda mouthpieces for political parties and were openly partisan. the period in history where news-media pretended to be “objective” has been a fairly short window in time, and i think the media’s recent tilt back in the direction of hyper-partisanship is in fact a return to historical normalcy.

  5. Tapper is probably among the least-awful @ CNN, but CNN as a whole is a stinking sewer. They seem to think they deserve a pat on the back for intellectual bravery simply because they’re not quite as retarded as the ‘Salon/Huffpo/ThinkProgress’-crowd.

    They keep people like him around as cover while the Toobin’s/Statler’s/Don Lemon’s continue to echo the verysame garbage the hyperpartisan outfits do.

    I’ll take this sort of sanctimonious professional self-congratulation more seriously when i see them correct previous stories based on ‘anonymous sources’ which later turned out to have zero basis in fact. Instead, its become the go-to M.O.

    1. I like how they staged the muslim protest in London. That video footage seemed like honest reporting to me.

      1. their defenses of that thing amounted to =

        “Its Not Staged If We Didn’t Actually Hire the Protestors Ourselves!”

        they didn’t really even deny that they took images of a dozen people and tried to make it look/sound like it was some spontaneous gathering of hundreds;

        they do so much slimy shit that any handful of examples is insufficient to accurately characterize how dishonest they’ve become. It was never ‘good’, but pre-2016 you could at least rely on the basic outlines of stories to be based in some objectively-confirmable facts.

  6. journalism awards galas were schizophrenia-inducing adventures for those of us willing participants who nonetheless maintain a heightened sensitivity to media pomposity and political class elbow-rubbing.

    You see Reason commenters, the cocktail parties!!!!! meme works!

  7. That means we need to be squeaky clean?we’re not the resistance, we’re not the opposition, we’re here to tell the truth

    Yes.

    And we need to stand up for fact and truth and decency.

    How about just the first two, Taps.

    But when we look our kids in the eye, our grandkids in the eye,

    Stop it.

    When we tweet every single emotion we have the very moment we have them, we undermine that foundation

    Very much this. The journalistic obsession with Twitter also undermines much of whatever little credibility many of them have left.

  8. It ain’t hard;
    Do your research, confirm the facts, cite two or more named, reliable, verifiable sources.
    (Hint: the New York Times and the Washington Post are no longer reliable sources. I fact check the dates on their front pages. Neither is CNN.)

    1. How are you supposed to push a narrative if you do all those things?

    2. When they embarrass Trump by quoting his tweets verbatim, is that not doing real reporting? Aren’t you just mad that they don’t lick Trump’s ass?

      1. I have never seen any indication that Trump is embarrassed by his tweets. Please cite your sources.
        I am not mad about any of the madness; just sad for the country.

        1. Sad because we have a mentally unstable vulgar ignoramus in control of the nukes, or because the NYT prints things that are critical of him from time to time?

          1. Tony|6.26.17 @ 7:37PM|#
            “Sad because we have a mentally unstable vulgar ignoramus in control of the nukes, or because the NYT prints things that are critical of him from time to time?”

            Sad that we have a mentally unstable vulgar ignoramus making up lies on a BBS.
            Fuck off, asshole.

  9. “Both” parties publish platforms. That these are THE important thing can be gleaned from Nick’s interview with the GOP fat chick in the spring of 2016. She was emphatic about nobody changing any of that. Since The Don got the job everything he’s done has been to sell that crappy platform. Same goes for Hillary, and libertarians WISH Gary and whutzisname had bothered to study the LP platform. Throughout the entire campaign, candidates strenuously avoided quoting platform planks. Before WW2 newpapers everywhere published at least the highlights of many platforms. But now that the LP has one, ALL platforms have become unthings just as LP candidates are unpersons. Those are what we need to contrast. Looter candidates are simply sales staff doing what they were hired to do.

  10. Are you all mad?

    This wasn’t a good speech–it was a furtherance of the disastrous policies the media is destroying itself with.

    He says that they should tell the absolute truth, that they should check and recheck and not use anonymous sources—so that they give no ammo to the people calling them out for their lies, partisanship, and inaccuracies(for ‘inaccuracies’, read ‘lies’, just do so in a polite voice because, at reason, we pretend that the leftist media is only ever ‘mistaken’ or ‘incompetent’ when their malicious lying is exposed).

    And he begins this with a fake quote from Orwell.

    So, he did none of the things he exhorted the audience to do.

    Hear the echoes? That’s the sound of more readers leaving.

    1. He used the fake quote to illustrate the agenda over substance problem that’s characteristic of pretty much all reporting today:

      “The main problem here? There’s no evidence Orwell ever said or wrote such a thing. Tapper used that fact as a jumping-off point to reflect on how sloppiness, side-taking, and social media are combining to undermine many journalists’ anti-Trump goals:

      “‘We need to rise to the moment and make sure that when we quote somebody we know it’s actually correct,’ Tapper said.”

  11. It is Donald Trump who proclaimed the media to be “the enemy of the American people”. Given such a statement, it becomes difficult for people in the media not to see him as their enemy, since he has proclaimed himself to be exactly that. But yes, it remains their job to report things as impartially as possible, and doing so scrupulously could be the best way of proving the President wrong.

  12. Trump wasn’t the first to say it, by any means. The liberal media is indeed the greatest enemy of the United States and we need get them replaced with some professional journalists. In liberal journalism schools, students are taught that their job in the media will be to “shape public opinion”. No, folks, you’re supposed to be reporting objective news … you can’t both “shape public opinion” and “report objective news”. Liberal journalists think their job is to promote the liberal orthodoxy.

  13. What he meant to say.

    “…we’re not the resistance, we’re not the opposition,” we are a wholly owned subsidiary of the DNC.
    ~~Jake Tapper

  14. Self serving nonsense. Jake Tapper is the face of our angry delusional treasonous media which exists solely to topple the government because it was unable to steal the election

  15. Both Tapper and “Tony” proceed from anti-Trump sentiment rather than objectivity. Tapper paints himself and his colleagues as victims “when a politician declares war not only on journalism, but on the very concept of empirical fact…”

    Granting that much of what Mr. Trump says/tweets is “over the top” and “in your face” it’s still criticism, not warfare. “Empirical fact” is not what journalism delivers, its data is not verified in the sense that research (even ethnographic research which it most closely resembles) is verified and empirical research acknowledges “alternative facts”, i.e. it knows that other data not observed are likely out there.

    Today even the customary ethical lines re verifying sources have been blurred by Tapper, CNN, and the profession in general (no one is running around ala Jason Robards, Jr. in “All the President’s Men shouting, “Let’s nail it down! Let’s get it right!”). The Scaramucci debacle didn’t happen in a vacuum but in an atmosphere rife with mis-, mal-, and non-feasance.

  16. To be fair, most of that could be explained by reckless disregard for factual evidence or incompetence, and not necessarily lying.
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