This blog has been keeping track of how MSNBC and Fox are dividing the country into opposing news colonies with vastly different world views. It's clear that both organizations have a business plan that aims to reflect the biases of their very different audiences. MSNBC, of course, leans hard left and anti-Trump. Fox, with a few exceptions in its afternoon programming, seems to have joined the communications team of the Trump 2020 presidential campaign.
For the past several months, I have been recording both MSNBC's "Morning Joe" and "Fox and Friends", both of which combine some straight news reporting with plenty of ideologically slanted banter. Lately it has been fascinating to observe the contrast between Fox's fixation on the crisis of Central American asylum seekers storming the borders and MSNBC's apparent decision to ignore the story almost completely.
Fox's framing of the border story is consistent with President Trump's interests in hyping the crisis for the sake of his reelection. A truly effective leader would be working with Congress to hammer out legislation that would close the enormous and foolish gap in our asylum policies. But such an approach would require a Congress that is not hamstrung by the ideological purity demanded by the open-borders ideologues who are now the driving force in the House of Representatives. In its vacuous approach to the story, MSNBC has reflected the fecklessness of the congressional Democrats.
So imagine my surprise last Thursday when, as I fast-forwarded through "Morning Joe" looking for stories about the border, the word "CRISIS" appeared in large block letters at the bottom of the screen. Could this mean that the "Morning Joe" team, which delights in ridiculing the Trump administration, had decided to acknowledge that the flow of hungry, desperate, poor Central Americans across the border at a rate of 100,000 per month actually is a crisis, i.e., a situation urgently in need of a legislative fix? Could MSNBC actually be attempting to jolt Nancy Pelosi into action?!
Fat chance. The crisis story that had seized MSNBC's attention had nothing to do with the surge of desperate humanity across our border, where they seek out the overwhelmed Border Patrol, confident that they will soon be released to travel where they wish. This "Morning Joe" version of crisis involved new revelations about the Trump administration's draconian policy of family separation, which last year galvanized press attention for several months. The crisis that had appeared in block letters on my TV was part of a headline that read: "THE SEPARATED MIGRANT FAMILIES CRISIS".
Now that is a story that stirs the souls of reporters for MSNBC, whose world view reflects the cosmopolitan, coastal coziness and conviction of moral superiority that flourishes on the island of Manhattan. It is the prevailing sensibility not only at the major news networks, but also at the New York Times, and at the charitable foundations like Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller, that fund the immigrant-rights movement and its campaigns to "shape" the immigration debate by branding as racist anyone who wants to limit immigration.
Meanwhile, as MSNBC reported on the Trumpian perfidy, "Fox and Friends" was presenting its third live feed of the morning from Tapachula, Mexico, a city just north of the Guatemalan border. There reporter Griff Jenkins was observing that the northward flow comprises not only Central Americans, but also people from around the world who have passed through Central America on their way to the U.S. border. They have gotten the word that U.S. immigration policy now consists of a four-word phrase: "The More the Merrier!"
Let's acknowledge that "Fox and Friends", which is clearly committed to celebrating Trump as a genius while exposing the Democrats as lefty loons, has overplayed the asylum crisis. But MSNBC seems to be committed to the same head-in-the-sand denial of problems with mass, unregulated immigration that fomented the populist backlash that made Trump president. As George Packer of The New Yorker wrote, "The middle-aged white working class has suffered at least as much as any demographic group because of globalization, low-wage immigrant labor, and free trade. Trump sensed the rage that flared from this pain and made it the fuel of his campaign."
MSNBC may be disgusted that Trump inflamed that rage in ways that were often flagrantly offensive. But even those of us who share that disgust can only be amazed that so many reporters and pundits — especially those in the New York-Washington corridor — are cosmopolitan, comfortable, and completely unconcerned about the legitimate worries of millions of Americans about what is happening at the border.