Legacy media love to foment “gotcha” stories, especially when involving conservative elected officials – no matter how disingenuous and dishonest such reporting must be, as the Baton Rouge Advocate’s Mark Ballard demonstrated recently.
The leftists that dominate the media’s ranks as stock in trade attempt to foist a false double-standard when evaluating liberals and conservatives. Sometimes it’s praising the former while condemning the latter for similar actions, even when the balance of evidence weighs greater on the validity of the latter’s actions. A current example involves widespread media condemnation, accompanied by authoritative pronouncements decrying anything other than adopting this conclusion as untrue, of the idea often forwarded by Republican that 2020 elections had more than non-trivial infirmities associated with them, yet great credibility is granted to the proposition with nary a shred of proof that the same Republicans now threaten to “steal” elections later this year. Indeed, the media uncritically parrot Democrat assertions that it is “dangerous” to question the integrity of a past election with identifiable problems, yet without recognizing any irony attached to it think it laudatory to use the same adjective concerning an election that hasn’t even happened.
Ballard provided another type of example, where media allege conservatives argue for one thing, but then happily accept and promote the other. He used this tactic when discussing the reaction of some Louisiana congressional Republicans to projects announced spun off from the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act, which all but Sen. Bill Cassidy voted against. Their promoting this spending Ballard implies denotes hypocrisy because they rejected the bill.
Never mind that Louisiana House Republicans repeatedly said well before the bill passed over their objections, where 94 percent of them opposed but 97 percent of Democrats supported to get it though the House of Representatives, that they didn’t have a quarrel with portions of the bill that addressed roads, coastal protection infrastructure, and broadband, but that the vast majority went to wasteful and unneeded items, and had a smaller bill singled out the kinds of items they mentioned as meritorious they would have approved of that. GOP Rep. Mike Johnson issued a typical reaction then, noting the bill only devoted nine percent of intended spending towards highways, that at least a fifth of it would require deficit spending, and he and others would be happy to vote for smaller and paid-for package shorn of items expanding government.
And Ballard knew this; he wrote about it then. That part he barely echoes in his recent piece, where he does admit, by way of referencing a letter back then from the state’s GOP representatives plus Republican Sen. John Kennedy, “they approve of infrastructure spending,” but spends the rest of the article flogging the opposite and false narrative that they now publicize spending they supposedly opposed, phrasing it as money they “jumped in front of despite voting against the” act.
He focused on GOP whip Steve Scalise and his party counterpart Rep. Garret Graves, the area’s Republican congressmen, both of whom applauded projects the kinds of which they had supported all along. Scalise in particular had stirred up opposition to the bill in his role as the GOP’s second-in-command in the House, and Ballard asked for a comment which Scalise’s office ignored. That turned into a snub when a few days later NBC News ran a similar kind of story and Scalise’s office did provide a comment for that one, reiterating that Scalise had long supported the flood protection projects and had backed previous legislation that provided funding for them. “What he did not support is tying necessary infrastructure needs to unrelated, Green New Deal policies Democrats put in their $1.2 trillion dollar bill,” it reiterated.
It’s dog bites man when a lawmaker who consistently supported spending government money on something sees it come to fruition. But it becomes a partisan screed when a journalist instead goes with a distorted version selling it as some kind of “gotcha” – a tendency all too common with the news production of Ballard, who not only writes stories about politics but serves as the decision-maker about which stories receive coverage, which is important to note as media bias often comes not as much from the contents of stories but from choices in what stories to cover.
By way of example, Ballard’s team now has written as many stories manufacturing hypocrisy among the state’s GOP congressional contingent on the IIJA – one – as it has spent exploring what did Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards know and when he knew it concerning the burgeoning scandal in the State Police over the coverup of the killing of motorist Ronald Greene, where the known facts make it highly unlikely Edwards didn’t know a lot and early on, but tried to suppress information as he was in the middle of a bruising reelection campaign. Even the unabashedly left-wing Louisiana Illuminator website has published a more critical view of Edwards’ actions. (At least the Advocate’s editorial team has been minimally more outspoken against Edwards’ stalling.)
This kind of journalism explains why trust in media continues to fall. The latest global survey shows only 39 percent of Americans trust the media, a drop of six points from the previous year, triggering the continuous shedding of jobs, revenues, and circulation particularly in the newspaper sector. The attentive public willing to look past partisan blinders isn’t stupid, and stories like Ballard’s it sees as skewed news presentations only serve to increase media skepticism and accelerate the industry’s downward spiral.