Mehdi Hasan: The media should pick a side — democracy

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Mehdi Hasan: The media should pick a side — democracy

The veteran journalist talks about why the longstanding habits of journalism are inadequate to this moment, how he wants to change things with Zeteo, and staying hopeful

Today, we invite you to enjoy the full audio version of our conversation with Mehdi Hasan. You can listen right here in the Substack app (or on the site).

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Meanwhile, read on for more of our edited transcript of the conversation.

In this second part, we talk to Hasan about why the major TV networks and newspapers have been unable — or unwilling — to deal with Trumpism and the onslaught of bad-faith argument and disinformation that has defined this era, about his strategies for dealing with candidates who bully reporters, what he wants to achieve with and what he thinks about the future of media, and how — even if he isn’t an optimist — he stays hopeful.


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In this moment we face an election that is as high-stakes as anything in our lifetimes, a war that, like the election, is a complete Rorschach test with different people seeing different realities. Then we have these protests over the war, creating more parallel realities. How would you assess the state of the American media that is covering and processing all of this?

The media is struggling both for understandable reasons and reasons of its own making. Look, I've been very critical of the U.S. media in particular. I was critical when I was at MSNBC, and I've been critical since I left MSNBC. But I also defend the media when it needs to be defended from bad-faith actors or lazy criticisms. We're in a historic moment, and you can add to that list you laid a once-in-a-century pandemic, but everything that was once in a century is now once every year or every month. So it is hard for a media industry that's struggling with retaining viewers and readers, struggling with budgetary issues, struggling with an advertising market, to cover all of this stuff. It’s just a bandwidth issue. 

Is our media industry fit for purpose? No. We don't, for example, have a sense of history. We struggle with context. Explanatory journalism bumps up against people worried about biases and impartiality and the view from nowhere. And at a moment when we really need to take stock of the threats to our lives, to our planet, to our democracy, we have a bunch of media organizations that are super cautious, super unable, often unwilling to do that.

Do you believe that we're actually in a new kind of time where the habits and skills you and I were trained in are inadequate? Do the ways you and I were trained to ask questions, or synthesize an argument, or report on a speech, just not work anymore?

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