Blog Ipsa Loquitur

The Senate’s acquitted the President for crimes even Republican senators seem to understand he committed. I keep thinking about this December 2019 interview with Chuck Todd, the host of Meet The Press. And I keep thinking about Jay Rosen’s summary of why The Christmas Eve Confessions of Chuck Todd portend so poorly:

A key premise for Meet the Press is symmetry between the two major political parties. The whole show is built on that. But in the information sphere - the subject of Chuck Todd’s confessions - asymmetry has taken command. The right wing ecosystem for news does not operate like the rest of the country’s news system. And increasingly conservative politics is getting sucked into conservative media. It makes more sense to see Fox News and the Trump White House as two parts of the same organism. As these trends grind on they put stress on Meet the Press practices. But it takes imagination to see how the show might be affected- or changed. In place of that we have Chuck Todd pleading naiveté.

So what will they do now? My answer: they have no earthly idea. This is what I mean by an epistemological crisis. Chuck Todd has essentially said that on the right there is an incentive structure that compels Republican office holders to use their time on Meet the Press for the spread of disinformation. So do you keep inviting them on air to do just that? If so, then you break faith with the audience and create a massive problem in real time fact-checking. If not, then you just broke the show in half.

There is simply nothing in the playbook at Meet the Press that tells the producers what to do in this situation. As I have tried to show, they didn’t arrive here through acts of naiveté, but by willful blindness, malpractice among the experts in charge, an insider’s mentality, a listening breakdown, a failure of imagination, and sheer disbelief that the world could have changed so much upon people paid so well to understand it.

Meet The Press isn’t unique. This playbook—and the problems created when one party has lots its damn mind—is common to a lot of the press.