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The coddling of American journalism

The Biden administration wants to protect journalists and experts from the ‘deplorable’ public.

Jenny Holland

Topics Politics USA

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The US government is coming to the rescue. No, not to deal with the soaring cost of living, rising crime or any of the things that are worrying most Americans. Instead, the administration of President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr is swooping in with $5.7million to spend on mental-health counselling for the corporate media.

As the Daily Caller reported last week, the government-funded programme, called Expert Voices Together, provides psychological care for journalists and experts in the public eye who believe they have been the targets of ‘misinformation-driven harassment campaigns’.

Presumably, if you think this sounds unusual, you must be one of those nasty, racist, far-right, conspiracy-peddling, horse-paste-munching, election- and climate-denying, anti-vax, drag-queen-fearing, immigrant-hating, Putin-loving crazies that the Biden administration likes to warn us about. ‘Why is the state paying to help journalists process their feelings? Couldn’t government money be better spent on literally anything else?’, is the kind of thing such awful people might say.

Thankfully, the Biden administration knows what is really important – and that, it seems, is making sure the upper-middle classes working in the legacy media don’t have to face any pushback from the great unwashed on X / Twitter. At least not without the help of ‘best practices from trauma-informed care’, as the Expert Voices Together programme offers.

The programme has been around since 2021, when the National Science Foundation (NSF), a government grant-making body, set up a pilot with the Poynter Institute for Media Studies and George Washington University ‘to address and reduce online harassment of journalists’. Federal funding for this project has grown significantly since. Around $750,000 was granted in 2021. And in 2022, an additional $5million was allocated to keep the programme running until August 2024.

According to Poynter, Expert Voices Together ‘uses evidence-based research to develop a programme of best practices for reacting when journalists are threatened, abused or harassed online’. Evidence! Research! Best practices! You can hear pencil-pushers everywhere rejoicing.

So far, so bureaucratic. When you read the fine print on the project, however, it becomes clear that this is a bit more than just a security blanket for weepy Taylor Lorenz-type journalists. Posted on the US government’s database of public spending, the grant summary provides some detail that is altogether more disconcerting.

For instance, the Expert Voices Together ‘toolkit’ will ‘offer a menu of options’ to journalists including the means to ‘monitor and report abuse’. Call me a deplorable if you must, but that sounds to me like the government is giving money to journalists to enable them to more effectively snitch on the public.

From the grant summary: ‘The system will comprise a secure, rapid-response technical platform, support from trained case managers and an intervention toolkit.’ Rapid response? Intervention? What does that mean in practice, exactly? If you call a journalist the c-word in the comments section, will one of the Expert Voices Together ‘team of scientists, technical specialists [or] psychologists’ give you a stern talking to? Will they push for social-media platforms to delete your content, or suspend or block your account?

As the Twitter Files revealed, academics, nonprofits and even state agencies have been shown to work behind the scenes to have certain voices silenced in the past. All in the name of democracy, of course. And to protect the ‘safety’ of those brave corporate hacks who work so hard to promote the elites’ view of the world.

It’s bad enough that today’s coddled journalists feel ‘traumatised’ by the slightest whiff of online criticism. More alarming is that the Biden administration has intervened on their behalf. This is an explicit attempt to protect the media elites from the ‘deplorable’ views of the people.

Jenny Holland is a former newspaper reporter and speechwriter. Visit her Substack here.

Picture by: YouTube.

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Topics Politics USA

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