MATTHEWS: Modern journalism goes from questioning public figures to shielding them 

FILE - A sign at Twitter headquarters is shown in San Francisco, Friday, Nov. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

One of the things anyone who wants to be a journalist should implicitly understand is that the desire to question official narratives and public figures should be baked into your DNA. 

Then-Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who helped break the Watergate scandal and who are considered OGs (the best of the best at what they did) in Media World, would not have found out what they did had they acquiesced when they were told to back off or had they been biased in favor of Republican politicos to the point they worked to protect them rather than dig into their activities. 

But things are much different in 2022. Though there are many fine journalists out there, mainstream “objective” journalism is in a sad state of disrepair, corrupted by the desire to push preferred political angles rather than report the news from a neutral perspective and allow readers to decide what to think for themselves. 

Worse yet, a growing number of journalists are openly advocating for public figures to be shielded from scrutiny, citing the possibility that those figures could be subjected to harassment. 

For instance, self-described “extremism expert” Melissa Ryan, who authors a newsletter called “Ctrl Alt-Right Delete,” was not pleased that independent journalist Matt Taibbi, who was given what’s been called the “Twitter Files” from Twitter CEO Elon Musk, was helping expose former Twitter deputy general counsel Jim Baker as a partisan actor who advocated for suppressing the New York Post’s Hunter Biden story in October 2020. 

“Taibbi, and by extension Musk, is basically inciting harassment and potentially against another former Twitter employee now,” Ryan wrote after Taibbi published the first series of the Twitter Files on his Twitter page. “An employee who was apparently only just fired.” 

To say boiling Baker down to merely “another former Twitter employee” was quite the downplay, especially when you consider Baker was once an official at the Department of Justice and the general counsel for the FBI from January 2014 to December 2017. 

Why is his FBI connection so important in this context? Because the Twitter Files also revealed that there were “confabs” between the FBI and DHS with Twitter execs prior to the 2020 election and just after revolving around supposed “election misinformation,” with a heavy emphasis on suppressing the Hunter Biden story because they said it contained information gleaned from “hacking.” There were also (erroneous) allegations that the story was “Russian propaganda.” 

In response to Ryan’s tweet, NBC News senior reporter Ben Collins snidely condemned Musk’s tactics and suggested that questioning “private citizens” should be off-limits because it benefited conservatives. 

“Elon’s team is just creating new Main Characters for Fox News to accuse of treason by implying they did some sort of high crime but never actually saying what the crime is,” Collins proclaimed. 

“This is about creating pariahs to launch a mob against in order to, ironically, suppress their speech,” Collins, who has a record of advocating for censoring right-wing content on social media platforms, went on to say. 

“Previously, private citizens were collateral damage in these sorts of infowar campaigns,” Collins wrote in another tweet, also downplaying who Baker is. 

“But now private citizens appear to be the very target of them: random people inside a company they can blame for societal change they don’t like, citing an email they think is too neolib,” he concluded. 

Baker is neither a “random” person nor should he be considered a “private citizen” if he was actively colluding with his former FBI associates to suppress content critical of a presidential candidate. 

Since when did journalism go from “we must question authority” to “we must shield them from being questioned by right-wing partisans who we don’t like” on grounds that it allegedly puts them in harm’s way? 

This type of pseudo-journalism should be rejected and condemned outright by serious folks in the profession because this is not what actual journalism is supposed to look like… at all. 

North Carolina native Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym Sister Toldjah and is a media analyst and regular contributor to RedState and Legal Insurrection.