In Search of a Good Villian

Looks like I am in good company with my take on how the media treats Hillary more harshly than Trump. This past Labor Day weekend, Paul Krugman wrote an excellent piece, aptly comparing this year’s media coverage to that of 2000’s election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. In it, Krugman observes:

Yet throughout [the 2000] campaign most media coverage gave the impression that Mr. Bush was a bluff, straightforward guy, while portraying Al Gore — whose policy proposals added up, and whose critiques of the Bush plan were completely accurate — as slippery and dishonest.

Sound familiar?

Krugman astutely highlights and dismantles the absurd suggestion that Hillary is somehow the more crooked candidate, but like Matthew Yglesias, he seems to suggest that individual journalists can’t resist publishing an interesting hypothesis, even when said hypothesis is unsupported by the facts.

So I would urge journalists to ask whether they are reporting facts or simply engaging in innuendo…

Like I wrote in my earlier piece, I suspect publication bias is only a small part of the problem. While journalists are certainly writing pieces that simply engage in innuendo, why are those pieces deemed “fit to print” without the facts? My argument is that it’s not just the writers, but also the editors, the publications and the entire news industry that is in the business of promoting narratives rather than facts.

I’m not alone. Shortly after Krugman’s piece was published, Craig Mazin countered with a series of tweets pointing out this election’s overarching narrative bias.

The problem journalists face is one of narrative dependence. They need narrative to tell news stories. Not facts, mind you. Stories.

Mazin goes on to describe what I think is a compelling theory that Hillary makes a better storybook villain than the obviously crooked Trump.

The Boring Villain doesn’t require you to uncover anything, or make a shocking discovery.

Whatever you choose to believe – that journalists can’t help but write salaciously or that a larger narrative bias at play, you should be aware that the media is not covering these candidates fairly, and also (as Krugman puts it):

…focus on the facts. America and the world can’t afford another election tipped by innuendo.