Monday, July 1, 2019

Interview: Brent Bozell says "we seem to have an insatiable appetite for the bizarre"

Editor's note: This interview was originally published in April 2017.

This is the final article of my discussion with Brent Bozell. The first and second articles are available.
Story by Joseph Ford Cotto
Like actors on tour, issues enter and exit America’s political stage. Debate rages, then quells, and is often forgotten -- if not rewritten -- in the pages of history.
One topic that manages to remain en vogue, though, is media bias. Both sides of the aisle claim that powerful press agencies have stacked the cards against them. They say it is all but impossible for the whole story to be told because certain individuals have no interest in truth. 
Where there’s smoke there must also be fire, correct?
An interesting, not to mention important, question for our day and age. The dawn of Donald Trump's presidency ignited a firestorm of scrutiny toward media figures. There has likely never been a time during which so much distrust and hostility flows at our supposed 'guardians of democracy'.
 When the public no longer, on a general basis, places stock in the watchmen-and-women-on-the-wall, it does not take a clairvoyant fellow to see that dark storm clouds are on the horizon.
Brent Bozell has watched with a keen eye as this situation unfolded.
"Founder and President of the Media Research Center, Mr. Bozell runs the largest media watchdog organization in America," his Politico biography reads. "Established in 1987, the MRC has made “media bias” a household term, tracking it daily and printing the compiled evidence biweekly in its well-known Notable Quotables, as well as the daily CyberAlert intelligence report on the internet. His most recent book, Whitewash: What the Media Won’t Tell You About Hillary Clinton, but Conservatives Will, was released in November of 2007. His previous book, Weapons of Mass Distortion: The Coming Meltdown of the Liberal Media, was released in July of 2004. 
"In 1998, Mr. Bozell launched, an online news service with an emphasis on investigative journalism. has become a major internet news source with a full staff of journalists in its Washington, DC metro bureau, with other correspondents around the world. In October 2006, Mr. Bozell founded the Culture and Media Institute (CMI), whose mission is to thwart the efforts of the liberal media to subvert America’s culture, character, traditional moral values, and religious liberty."
Bozell recently spoke with me about several matters pertaining to the American media. Some of our conversation is included below.


Joseph Ford Cotto: Regardless of however one should define 'fake news,' why do so many Americans believe outlandish, unconfirmed claims made by outlets that often have less-than-stellar track records?
Brent Bozell: Why do the National Enquirer and all those other trash tabloids sold in check-out lines make fortunes of money, with readerships that absolutely dwarf other print, even television media? Because we seem to have an insatiable appetite for the bizarre. We know what we're reading is nonsense, but we like nonsense if it's entertaining. As Donald Trump might say, Sad!

Cotto: Some in the mainstream -- or 'establishment' -- media have come to view 'fake news' as an offensive term. Do you believe that this perspective is justified by the facts?

Bozell: Yes and no. Yes, if it isn't fake, as defined above. But cry me a river about the complaints. The news industry -- my interviewer excepted, of course -- possesses an arrogance surpassed only by their cousins in the entertainment media. How dare you question my work! is their body language while they spend every waking moment questioning everyone else. It's high time our political leaders called them out.

Cotto: In our day and age, where individuals seem to care about evidence-based journalism less and less or are inclined to dismiss reportage on account of suspected bias, do investigative reporters still have a meaningful role?

Bozell: These days the term "investigative reporting" is an oxymoron, and that's a shame. Just how many investigative reporters pursue a story blindly, perfectly open to all the facts? They just don't. They look for the facts that will buttress their suppositions. That part is human nature, I suppose. You investigate something because you have a hunch about it. The problem is the conclusion. Do you get to bottom of it looking at all angles, or do you produce a report that supports your supposition only. Watergate describes the former. Rathergate the latter.

There's a second issue here. When do reporters investigate? During the Clinton years there was an alphabet soup of scandals. Name me a single one that was resolved, where the press got to the bottom of it. Ditto Obama. The IRS scandal. Benghazi. Solyndra. Etc., etc. Why has there not been resolution on any of them? If you look at the components of the IRS scandal -- perjury, destruction of evidence, conspiracy, persecution, prosecution, censorship -- it absolutely dwarfs Watergate. Crickets. But Reagan? Bush? TRUMP? The investigations never stop.