There’s an interesting piece in The Guardian by Andrew Marantz about trolls, technology companies and how both have helped to fuel the resurgence of the far right. He argues that part of the rise is because journalism and traditional media was spectacularly unequipped to deal with it: the desire to remain neutral that’s appropriate for writing about tariffs and treaties can be exploited by “a racist movement full of creeps and liars”. You see a similar dynamic in bigotry, climate change denial, anti-vaccination and so on where extremist views are presented as one perfectly valid side of an equally balanced argument.
Neutrality has never been a universal good, even in the simplest of times. In unusual times – say, when the press has been drafted, without its consent or comprehension, into a dirty culture war – neutrality might not always be possible. Some questions aren’t really questions at all. Should Muslim Americans be treated as real Americans? Should women be welcome in the workplace? To treat these as legitimate topics of debate is to be not neutral, but complicit. Sometimes, even for a journalist, there is no such thing as not picking a side.