Dana Milbank Says It's Democracy Versus Authoritarians

Dana Milbank Says It's Democracy Versus Authoritarians

Joy Reid talked to Dana Milbank last night about his piece in which he points out the media gave as
much negative coverage to Joe Biden as they did Trump.

“I notice the response to many media Beltway people to your piece was to fight with you about being mean to their particular media entity, right? People yelling at you on Twitter, saying you said mean things to Politico,” she said. “That’s not the point.”

“I felt you keep trying to make the point about not saying mean things about one media outlet’s coverage. You wrote, ‘Biden is attempting to salvage democratic norms. People are using fascist tools of deception and voter disenfranchisement, neutrality in the struggle is not a virtue.’ I high-fived you on Twitter. i want to let you talk about what this media is doing inside your view that’s helping authoritarians thrive.”

“I didn’t mean to suggest it’s a problem of outlet, this one is better than that,” Milbank said.

“Sure, some are better than others. That’s not the point. This is — i mean, think about it. Comparing the last four months of 2020 when Donald Trump was threatening to not honor the results of a free and fair election and ultimately didn’t honor them the results of a free and fair election– he was embracing the Proud Boys and white supremacists, he was embracing Qanon and sabotaging the post office. At that period of time, he got similar to even more favorable coverage than Biden gets today. So I think that’s astonishing.

“Look, people in my business — and I support this notion we like conflict, we’re combative and we like to hold the powerful to account, but we’re in a different game here and it’s not Democrats against Republicans but small ‘d’ democrats against authoritarians, and as you noted in the beginning, in many ways we’re losing the struggle. I agree with reporters not being partisan but we should be partisan when it comes to democracy. We should be partisan when it comes to the facts and I think that’s where we need to take a stand.”

“I’ve long said the media’s only real bias is towards change and conflict, right?” Reid said to Jason Johnson.

“Donald Trump was entertaining for Beltway journalists and open and gave lots of leaks, his administration gave data and conflict-driven content. He was a content creator and so there was — whereas what I remember when Barack Obama was in, the media generally disliked the Obama administration even though they were not doing anything dangerous, he couldn’t even wear a tan suit. The media would go ballistic because he wasn’t accessible and seen as cold and not really accessible. There was no access.

“My challenge here and this goes back to the way the media operated in the ’20s with Mussolini, is that the media underplays the danger when a political party is out of step with democratic norms and they overstate the horror when a Democrat generally or somebody who is more of a normal politician does anything that makes them annoyed or irritates elite journalists. I’m worried that tendency will help the Trumps of the world and always hurt the Bidens.

“And that’s not good for our democracy.”

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