Woke Media is Undermining Democracy

Batya Ungar-Sargon, Deputy Opinion Editor at Newsweek, talks about her new book, Bad News: How the Woke Media is Undermining Democracy

Earlier this week, I had a chance to chat with Batya Ungar-Sargon, Deputy Opinion Editor at Newsweek, about her new book, Bad News: How the Woke Media is Undermining Democracy. What follows is a lightly edited transcript from part of our discussion:

Matt: I think Trump radicalized the media. Instead of sort of just being straight down the middle, they’re like, “We have to fight fire with fire, this guy is horrible. We have to be just as bad as him.” And I think what happened in the process is that Trump in a way succeeded. And you know, he called it “fake news,” and they became it. They became fake news. What do you think?

Batya: Well, I have a chapter describing the phenomenon you're talking about just the way he was treated in the media and the way his followers were treated in the media. [But] I do think the data suggests that a lot of the pressures you just identified have been at work for much longer than just Trump. So, for example, the “Great Awokening” is a phenomenon described by sociologists to refer to a time in around 2015—which was before Trump—when white liberal opinion began to outpace black and Latino opinion on how far left it could get on issues of race. So there was a moment in recent history where white liberals became much more radical on race than black and Latino Americans. And that happened before Trump. And it started, the same sociologists argue that this started with digital media, so around 2011/2012, they've tracked how organizations like the New York Times and The Washington Post and NPR and CNN and even the Wall Street Journal, have started to use woke words with just exponential frequency. So you started seeing words like “white privilege”, “marginalization”, “oppression”, “Islamophobia”, “transphobia”, these ideas that are, you know, come out of an academic context, right, just starting to skyrocket in the liberal mainstream media. And so that sort of thing you're talking about is real. It definitely amped up under Trump; they definitely molded themselves as a mirror image to Trump, but the pressures had started long before that…

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