The online newspaper HuffPost will wrap up its Listen to America Tour on October 30.
The project’s website strongly hinted that the six-week bus journey through places most HuffPost contributors would never have otherwise visited was intended to bridge the gap between red-state Americans and the media. It has failed miserably.
In this regard HuffPost reminds me of a junkie who claims to have gotten sober merely to win back his family’s trust. In reality the junkie is still sneaking around and getting high behind the woodshed when he thinks no one’s looking. HuffPost never, ever changes. Ever.
The Listen to America Tour did not listen to America. It lectured to America — about our bigotry, our xenophobia, our “Islamophobia,” and most of all about our “homophobia.” It rolled from city to city writing about issues that HuffPost editors care about rather than trying to hear locals’ concerns. The series was tone deaf and condescending.
HuffPost compounded its false advertising when it broke its promise to explore what unites us as a country. Even before one mile had registered on the bus’s odometer, editor-in-chief Lydia Polgreen wrote: “But at HuffPost, we believe there’s still so much that unites us as citizens. We aim to discover and highlight all that, and show what Americans have in common.”
What exactly “unites us as citizens”? These days everything is a political controversy from natural disasters to the NFL to the president’s phone call to a fallen soldier’s widow. Finding common ground is difficult, but HuffPost hasn’t even tried. Most of its feature stories have been about hot button issues that divide us: North Carolina’s transgender bathroom law, illegal immigration, and homosexuals, homosexuals, homosexuals.
And I predicted all of this. Back in July I penned a piece called “HuffPost wants to meet Middle America. What could possibly go wrong?” In it, I expressed my hopefulness that this media titan would make some needed reforms while also voicing my doubts that it could.
I predicted, for example, that the tour would churn out plenty of what I call “It’s hard being X in Y” stories. Hack journalists love these. They seek out members of what they consider to be “marginalized groups” and create spectacles out of their supposed daily struggles. Favorite “marginalized groups” include illegal aliens, blacks, atheists, Muslims, and — above all — homosexuals.
These stories are problematic for a number of reasons. First, they rely almost entirely on self-reported anecdotes — e.g. “I got pulled over for driving while black! Waaaah!”
Second, reporters seem to have strange notions of who exactly is marginalized in our society. It seems axiomatic to them that it’s hard being “gay” in the South (it’s not), but it never occurs to them that it might be harder being an evangelical Christian in Manhattan. Third, the stories rely almost entirely upon people’s feelings, as if emotions are newsworthy.
This just in! A ‘gay’ kid in Kansas feels bad! Full story at eleven.
Finally, these stories seem designed not to listen to what people are saying in a particular location. They seek out minority groups — the smaller the better — to discuss an issue that is important only to them. Here’s one from Provo, Utah. It’s the obligatory “It’s hard being ‘gay’ in Utah” story which I predicted back in July:
Located in Provo, Utah, a community where about 90 percent of its residents affiliate with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), Encircle: LGBTQ Family and Youth Resource Center opened its doors to the public earlier this year. Motivated by the high youth suicide rate in Utah (one of the highest in the nation) and coupled with the alienation from family or faith communities that too many LGBTQ youth and adults experience, the nonprofit organization’s founder, Stephenie Larsen, decided to build the resource center to save lives and to create community.
If the reporter was trying to find the pulse of this community, she failed. Besides the vitriolic anti-LDS bias, there’s also the fact that this story uses as its starting point the fact that homosexuals’ many, many mental problems don’t resonate with most people in conservative Utah. “LGBTQXYZ” issues aren’t exactly water cooler talk in Provo. So what do people talk about? Heck if I know! I’ve never been there. But if they’re like most people, it’s probably jobs and the economy. Very few people in Provo fret over gay rights, and if they do they are likely on the other side of the issue.
HuffPost did not visit Provo to hear about issues that the locals care about and to give them a fair hearing. It went to Provo to smear its residents as bigots. It needed a locale to give its pre-conceived story some cover and, alas, it found one.
The formulaic “hard being X in Y” stories seem to make up a substantial part of the tour’s output. The tour bus stopped in Dearborn to host a panel discussion about the difficulties facing Arab- and Muslim-Americans sixteen years after 9/11. Huffpost, like most liberals, doesn’t remember 9/11 as the day when Muslim terrorists murdered almost three thousand Americans but rather as the day when “Islamophobia” went mainstream. To hear them tell it, you’d think a bunch of white Christians crashed airplanes into Mecca.
HuffPost likes these trite “Muslims Fear Backlash” stories so much that it served up a double. Here’s one about two teenaged Muslim girls “navigating girlhood and Islamophobia in their America.” There really is no news here. The reporter simply asked a girl in Missouri and another in Minnesota to kvetch publicly about their daily trials and tribulations, which they were more than happy to do.
Look at me! I’m a victim!
The catalyst for this piece was the murder of another Muslim girl, unknown to either of the subjects, in suburban Washington, D.C. The victim, Nabra Hassenen, was abducted and killed while walking home from her mosque. For a few days the media loved this story because they assumed (without evidence!) that the girl had been killed for being a recognizable Muslim. Other types of people can be murdered for all sorts of reasons, but pretty young Muslim girls are apparently killed only for their religion.
But then the alleged perp was found, and it turned out to be Darwin A. Martinez Torres, an illegal alien from El Salvador. Oops! That wasn’t supposed to happen. It was likely a case of road rage. Once the leading suspect was determined not to be a white male in a MAGA hat, the story faded from view.
The “Navigating Girlhood and Islamophobia” piece was Fake News. The two Muslim girls seemed convinced that Hassenen had been killed because of her hijab, and the HuffPost reporter did nothing to dispel that myth. It’s easy to see why. Not only did this inconvenient truth not fit the narrative, but it actually supported another narrative that no right-thinking liberal would touch with a ten-foot pole: that there seems to be a lot of violent crime in this country committed by people who are here illegally.
“Hundreds of miles away, in Florissant, Missouri, 17-year-old Salsabel Fares learned about Hassanen’s death through her friends and from her parents. …The murder stunned her. She told HuffPost she nearly broke out in tears when she heard about it. ‘I was so incredibly upset,’ she said. ‘It just scared me reading it. Because of my religion, I fear for my safety and I fear for my life.’”
This would have been an opportune time for the reporter to mention that Nabra Hassenen was not killed for her religion. Her killer was likely one of those “DREAMers” I’ve heard so much about, and she was murdered for a very mundane, silly reason. It could have happened to anyone.
HuffPost’s Listen to America tour was an exercise in futility. No one at that publication was at all interested in meeting and engaging with people from flyover country. They were interested in pushing their agenda, which remains the same whether they’re back home in their offices or on the road.
File this project under “Epic Fail.”