The Prostitution of Jim Acosta
Picture this: a nation consumed by a fever-pitch of irrational, emotively-driven self-righteous indignation. The deafening cries of its disgruntled masses are ratcheted up by a type of media elite. This kind of journalist picks and pryes at the scab of political discontent in the hope of uncovering, perhaps, a new prime time TV show with their name on it.
This is a tale in how far one man will go to prostitute his credibility to claw his way to the top of a partisan feeding frenzy. One man leads the pack in his insatiable appetite for the spotlight. He is, by every available account, a journalist, but he isn’t contented with being boxed in by traditional expectations of strait-laced newsmen, which is… to report the news. This journalist has higher-minded aspirations than just relaying the facts, unmolested and unspun. They must be bent into shape through the injection of his opinion. In his own warped and distorted lexicon, he calls it justice, tolerance, truth. But in just a moment you will discover that this man positioned himself in another corner: the noxious swampland of shameless self-service.
The following is a portrait of a big league reporter named Jim Acosta. An unremarkable man who far too often indulges a delusion in which he’s perpetually positioned as a proverbial alamo against Trump, his administration, his agenda.
Although he doesn’t have have an opinion-based show of his own, he treats the televised White House Press Conferences as though they were. His many, bemusing displays of self-grandiosity have propelled him to the top of an angry Resistance class whose first priority is to chide and undermine Trump Administration officials, sidelining their responsibility to objectively report on the facts.
An unceasing holler of competitive outrage has wrapped its tendrils around every facet of American culture, and the media is no exception. It is for this reason that Jim Acosta’s antics are a prime-candidate for case-study. He is not the only one to exploit this phenomenon, right or left, but he’s certainly one of the loudest.
Under normal circumstances, reporters or journalists shedding any pretense of objectivity in favor of a nakedly partisan agenda would stain their credibility. But these aren’t normal circumstances; it’s the time of The Resistance, and the media must throw objectivity to the wind in order to resist the President’s agenda. All of this is a transparently self-servicing push to up the dosage of a proverbial anti-Trump drug that predictably never satisfies the progressive rabble.
None of this is to say that journalists haven’t traditionally played fast and loose with the facts to suit their own narrative, but under the Trump Administration members of the American journalistic cabal have sunk to an unprecedented low. Many are seriously convinced that Trump is a fascist or something, so in their mind, they’re justified in resorting to punditry and even outright deception.
Journalists are meant to go out and collect information in the field, not make proclamations on morality or how the government should be run. Both MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and New York Times’ Maggie Habberman exist for very different reasons. One occupies the role of offering his opinion on how the government ought to be run, the other relays to the public how it is being run.
The danger of blurring the line between opinion and objective journalism leads to the loss of our understanding of what is true versus what we want to be true. The press is the guardrail that prevents government from veering off the path of transparency and accountability. But when the news becomes indistinguishable from opinion, where does the public turn? In fact, when the citizenry can no longer trust the news for an honest portrayal of the issues, this enables the government to cloak itself in the absence of trustworthy investigation. It’s crucial to hold journalists accountable if we want the system to work as it was intended by the Framers of our Constitution. It is for this reason that the freedom of the press was enshrined as our first amendment.
In his lustful pursuit of fame, Acosta takes to seizing the spotlight hungrily whenever the chance presents itself. This means debating administration officials, scolding the President himself and puffing out his chest atop a soapbox, while expecting a salute from the American people.
An infamous example of such journalistic malpractice would be when Stephen Miller was sharing information on a revamped immigration policy when Acosta began declaring that immigration policy must conform with a poem.
This journalist willfully misrepresented an immigration policy that takes cues from Canada and Australia- countries that nobody in their right mind consider racist or white supremacist. Acosta justified this outburst by claiming adopting a preference for English-speaking immigrants is a veiled attempt to block non-white immigrants. It is either stunningly ignorant or dishonest (we’ll let you decide which is worse) for Acosta to disregard the 125 million people in India alone who speak English and outnumber the entire populations of the UK and Australia combined.
Regardless of how you feel towards this policy, he wrongly used his position to promulgate obvious historical fabrications and assigned a nonexistent malicious motivation simply because it offered him an opportunity to grandstand on national television. Bringing up a random historical non-factoid like a poem isn’t in Acosta’s job description as a journalist. Such a desperate appeal is a marker of a man less concerned with truth and more with whatever makes his aggrieved audience perceive him as courageous or steadfast.
But these realities are a mere distraction for Mr. Acosta. It’s certainly more lucrative to flail your arms about and decry racism than to examine the law by its merits, and that’s the malignant growth on journalism today. It’s not clear how his grandstanding and character assassinations did anything to shed light on the facts of the matter, but that’s fine so long as he receives the applause he so desperately wants from the chronically outraged.
Presumably it’s this applause he practically pleaded for when repeatedly tweeting about his heckling of the President. Regardless of how one feels about the President’s track record, it should be obvious that a journalist’s first duty is to ask probing questions that lead to greater clarity of an issue, not to pointedly accuse the president of lying.
Acosta’s ploy obviously achieves nothing good, but he does succeed at fracturing the country for his own professional gain. This explains why he threw a temper tantrum when then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer decided not to televise his press-conferences. Acosta’s failed attempt to present his posturing as a noble campaign for government transparency falls laughably short of the mark. Do we really need to be able to identify the fabric of Spicer’s tie to know what’s going on in government? No, these fruitless confrontations were used as some sort of launchpad to national recognition; recognition Acosta couldn’t possibly get by performing the less glamourous duties of our nation’s journalists.
When all else failed, he decided to wail loaded questions at the President as he was getting into Marine One. In Acosta’s curious little mind, his thunderous voice drowns out helicopter rotors and he’s entitled to answers on demand from the most powerful man on earth.
Wherever your political allegiances may lie, we must expect better of our reporting class if we want to restore the press as a reliable source of information. Press conferences aren’t reality television nor a platform for reporters to air their personal grievances.
Jim Acosta gives us a model for the exact kind of contagion we should be quarantining, not spreading, no matter how tempting it may be to succumb to the siren call of immediately-gratifying, knee-jerk partisan outrage.