The U.S. mainstream media sold to the biggest lie
Updated 17:51, 10-Jan-2021
Daryl Guppy

Editor's note: Daryl Guppy is an international financial technical analysis expert. He has provided weekly Shanghai Index analysis for Chinese mainland media for more than a decade. Guppy appears regularly on CNBC Asia and is known as "The Chart Man." He is a national board member of the Australia China Business Council. The article reflects the author's views and not necessarily those of CGTN.

America felt a brush with tyranny as rioters, incited by the president, stormed the Capitol building. The Founding Fathers would have cause to worry. The barricades of the U.S. mainstream media, the free press, largely failed and in a Faustian bargain, some had become complicit in last week's events.

The events in the Capitol revealed structural issues that go to the core of U.S. society and its future ability to heal the divisions exacerbated by four years of President Trump. It's these double standards – one new and one old – that will define the challenges of not just the next four years but the next generation of Americans and America's engagement with the world. It's no longer a structure of government suitable for export.

The first of these is the new battlefield between traditional and social media. Some observers were quick to condemn the social media giants for providing Trump with a  platform to propagate his lies and incite his supporters.

Zuckerberg finally found the courage to have Facebook ban Trump, not because of his falsehoods but because he incited violence. Mainstream media leaped on Zuckerberg's admission as a vindication of their attacks on social media, and in so doing, they absolved themselves of blame for the storming of the Capitol.

But they must also share responsibility for tolerating the endless litany of lies and mistruths. The Washington Post tracked more than 20,000 false or misleading claims and is still counting. But this simple cataloging of lies is not the same as taking a  stand and calling out these deceptions – an obligation that validates the role  the mainstream media claims for itself.   

Some mainstream media have become and remain partisan promoters of extremism rather than reporters. These media outlets became foot soldiers of extremist social media by interviewing only those drawn from the same pools of falsehoods and recirculating a babel of lies and half-truths.

Mainstream media's  attribution of responsibility to social media is really a shared burden and demonstrates a new set of double standards.

Chaos after a pro-Trump protester breaches the Capitol building, Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., U.S., January 6, 2021. /AP

Chaos after a pro-Trump protester breaches the Capitol building, Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., U.S., January 6, 2021. /AP

The second of these double standards has been a festering sore for more than a century. It is summed up in two photographs. The first depicts a long line of Darth Vader-style  police lined up on the steps of the Capitol to prevent access. The second photo, taken several weeks later at the same location, shows an undermanned thin blue line of apparently ordinary on-the-beat  police.

The first photo is the police response to the  Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstrations. The second is the response to the rally that not unsurprisingly led to an assault on the Capitol after well-foreshadowed incitement from the president.

This double standard in policing response is not just a passing footnote. It signals a long-lasting and apparently irreconcilable division in society. Unlike poverty and the gap between the rich and the poor, this division is very difficult to resolve with personal effort. Being a person of color in today's America most frequently condemns you to living with a set of double standards that, as these two events at the Capitol show, are well known and accepted by many.

The depth of this duality is highlighted by the sight of the Confederate flag held aloft by one of the rag-tag insurrectionists in the halls of Congress.

It is reflected in the double standards of the discriminatory approach to arrest and punishment. The BLM demonstrations held outside the Capitol building led to more than 400 arrests. The storming and looting of the Capitol's inner sanctums resulted in not one on-the-spot arrest inside the building.

The outraged media coverage is notable for its widespread silence about these double standards, which, at best, rate a passing mention rather than a genuine examination.

This week America had a brush with tyranny and sedition in a way that the constitutional founders could not have imagined. Trump's lasting legacy is reopening the schism in American society that has festered for more than a century. The objectives of reconciliation of "malice toward none; with charity for all" laid out by Lincoln in his 1865 inauguration address and carved in stone on the wall of the Lincoln Memorial remain an aspiration rather than a reality.

If this citadel of lies and double standards is to be demolished, mainstream media must accept responsibility for the active role it must play in preventing a repeat performance.

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