The Wall Street Journal editorial board slammed the mainstream media’s “conformity” to false political narratives throughout 2021, calling out its most notorious offenders for pushing stories that reflected a particular set of values and typically favored Democrats.
In a Thursday editorial, the board listed the year’s worst media “narratives” that ended up being proven wrong, from liberal outlets initially refusing to consider the lab-leak theory of the origins of COVID-19 to the clear advocation of the Steele dossier as proof of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign, and argued they were the reason many Americans no longer trusted the media.
“The year 2021 that ends this week wasn’t the return to normalcy that President Biden promised, but it was invaluable in one respect. This was the year when the conformity that characterizes American politics and media was exposed for its mistakes as never before,” the board wrote.
“By conformity we mean the progressive political and media consensus that forms quickly around an issue and then reinforces itself no matter the competing arguments or new information,” it added.
The board argued that such conformity was about a shared set of political values and preferences that led to the same conclusions being reached about a particular event from those in the progressive media, who reinforced the “narrative” of a story. It specifically pointed to The Washington Post, Bloomberg, The Financial Times, The New York Times and The Atlantic as examples.
“Politicians and the press feed the narrative with leaks and the stories they pursue—or, as important, what they don’t pursue. Disagreement is rare to nonexistent because the cost can be ostracism or lost careers,” the board wrote, such as when New York Times opinion editor James Bennet was ousted for publishing a 2020 op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., that called for using the military to control riots.
“Only when it is exposed over time as false does the conformity break, and typically only if there are negative political consequences for Democrats,” it added. “The saving grace is that sometimes reality is impossible to ignore, and 2021 was the year this happened on some of the biggest events of our time.”
The board noted multiple stories in which the media pushed a particular narrative that turned out to be false or premature, including declaring the lab-leak origin theory of the coronavirus was debunked, claims that lockdowns stop the spread of coronavirus, the Steele dossier and Russia collusion narrative, arguments that vilifying police would prevent crime, and the rush to defend actor Jussie Smollett over his false claims of being the victim of a hate crime.
“The reason so many Americans don’t trust the media is because they’ve learned from hard experience that the consensus they are told is unassailable truth will often turn out to be false,” the board wrote.