American Media is Dying

via Huffington Post

Too often we fall under the presumption that the pearl-clutching market has been cornered by conservative blowhards, eager to shriek at the sight of nipples, vulgarity and (gasp) Holiday Parades excluding Baby Jesus. But it’s worth remembering that even left-leaning so-called progressives still retain the capacity for fanning themselves and falling over at the sight of a stray “fuck.”

In case you aren’t up to date on media gossip (I suspect you aren’t), former Politico contributor and fuck-slinger, Julia Ioffe, has been relieved of her position for a tweet she sent containing the words “fucking” and “Donald Trump’s daughter” in them. You can guess where this is going. The tweet was deleted, but because this is the internet, not really.

Yikes. But also, as Ioffe later notes, doesn’t Trump imply the same thing fairly regularly? Sure, it’s not…great. But is it a fireable offense? Politico seems to think so.

It’s worth pointing out that Ioffe was already ending her tenure with Politico and moving on to The Atlantic, a publication who, like your cool parents, will let you cuss so long as you don’t do it in front of your grandmother. This sort of renders Politico’s cutting of ties as more of a “you’re not breaking up with us; we’re breaking up with YOU!” than anything else.

Of course, I’m being glib. I suspect the real reason Politico broke ties with Ioffe has less to do with the word “fuck” (though that plays a part) and more to do with her insinuation that Donald Trump would have sexual relations with his daughter. They say as much when they note that:

Gratuitous opinion has no place, anywhere, at any time — not on you Facebook feed, your Twitter feed or any place else. It has absolutely zero value for our readers and should have zero place in our work.

Okay, sure. That last point I can get on board with. Politico should probably not run a headline that asks, “Is Donald Trump Fucking His Daughter?” because they are not the National Enquirer. But let’s not forget that the National Enquirer was once nominated for a Pulitzer. Also, gratuitous opinion is certainly of value to your readers. In an age where everyone and his brother can blog about what happened, the cold hard facts have become less of a commodity and more of a free-flowing river. Everyone can take a dip. It’s what people say about the river that matters these days. And true, Ioffe’s opinion was worded in a way seemingly unbecoming of someone who calls herself a professional, but “professionalism” more and more these days reeks heavily of being unoffensive for the sake of preserving readership.

The notion that writers and contributors for Politico shouldn’t share their “gratuitous” opinions on Donald Trump ANYWHERE is fucking ridiculous. Namely because it’s an impossible wink-nudge sort of request that the editors have to know is neither possible nor probable. But also because it undermines the spirit of journalism. As Gawker once reported (in response to Trump’s criticism of Politico no less), media is bias. Reporting the news is only half the job. Disseminating and, yes, offering opinion on the news is the other half. And lest you fall under the spell of Politico’s strategically worded criticism that Ioffe’s opinion are “gratuitous,” remember that this is, in and of itself, an opinion.

What qualifies as gratuitous really depends on the beholder, as it were. That Ivanka Trump is getting her own office in the White House (the fact that started all of this) IS worthy of speculation of nepotism. The inclusion that it might also be because she’s fucking her dad is, while incendiary, also a point of speculation. Is it true? Probably not. But to dismiss it because it’s vulgar is to subvert the entire notion of journalism. And one has to wonder how much of a part the wording of Ioffe’s tweet played in Politico’s opinion of it. Would she have been fired if she asked “Does Donald Trump have a ‘special relationship’ with his daughter?” The whole thing is remarkably arbitrary and centers a whole lot around old ideas of public decency and respect, two things the President-elect has quite thoroughly quashed all on his own.

I want to be clear. I’m not advocating for a fuck-frenzy revolution amongst old guard media outlets, speculating wildly left and right about the proximity of Trump’s tiny hands to his daughter’s nether regions. What I am saying is that the minute we start firing our reporters and writers for offering gratuitous opinions, we lose some of the power that journalism holds. We erode the confidence in the idea people have on the free market of opinion, and we give power to people who once feared being exposed for the monsters they are. Firing Ioffe does nothing but play right into Trump’s pleas that the media be nicer to him. Rather than give him what he wants, it’s important, now more than ever, to reject that.