The Top 10 Non-Stories of 2023
In a 24/7 news cycle, the media’s existence depends on churning out an endless stream of content — but the legacy media most prolifically creates non-stories. A non-story is a news story that should never have been reported, usually a triumph of “narrative” over facts that attempts to spin away some aspect of a bad story or magnify an otherwise insignificant good story. The non-story exists to massage the news, not to report the truth.
Here are 10 of the most overreported, non-stories of 2023.
1. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, “Christian Nationalist” Radical
From the moment Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) won election as Speaker of the House, the media myth machine has attempted to paint him as a raving, theocratic radical bent on writing his biblical views into U.S. law at all costs. Their preferred pejorative, “Christian nationalist,” is an amorphous, nebulous, and essentially meaningless term. Yet no action seems too insignificant to feed the “Christian nationalism” narrative, no accusation profound enough to require journalists to examine the evidence before reporting it. Rep. Summer Lee (D-Pa.) erroneously linked Speaker Johnson, a man his colleagues say “radiates the love of Christ,” to multiple white supremacist mass shootings. Not to be outdone, Democratic consultant James Carville called Johnson and his fellow conservative Christians “a bigger threat than al-Qaeda.”
What did the media say, and how did they justify their charges? Time magazine printed an article by Andrew Whitehead and Samuel Perry on “The Christian Nationalism of Speaker Mike Johnson.” Their proof of Johnson’s theocratic leanings? He prefers “traditionalist social relationships” and once said America has “Judeo-Christian roots” (Which religion is Judeo-Christianity?). The New Republic pointed out that Johnson flies a flag emblazoned with the message “Appeal to Heaven,” a standard carried into battle during the Revolutionary War.
Politico interviewed Kristen Kobes Du Mez on “The Christian Nationalist Ideas That Made Mike Johnson.” That idea is summarized (in Johnson’s words) as saying that “America is the only nation in the world that is founded upon a creed … the Declaration of Independence,” and (in Du Mez’s words) that Speaker Johnson believes America is a republic, “founded in this biblical worldview, and that it’s not a democratic free-for-all. And so again, this is Christian supremacy.” (Du Mez may want to note Joe Biden made nearly identical comments to Johnson’s during last September’s “Dark Brandon” speech at Independence Hall.) Such fact-free reasoning may explain Du Mez’s participation in “God and County,” a hit piece helmed by Rob Reiner, that paints any churchgoer who opposes abortion as a “Christian nationalist.” The Southern Poverty Law Center’s new “Project CAPTAIN” similarly ties all opposition to the LGBTQ+ agenda or abortion to “white Christian nationalist ideology.”
Perhaps the most egregious example of this subgenre came from J.D. Wolf who wrote, in a video of a 2022 sermon, “Johnson can be seen nodding” as a speaker opposed the dehumanization, enslavement, or genocide of blacks and Jews. (MSN found Wolf’s story insightful enough to share it with its large platform.) Christians, and anyone with common sense, should be seen shaking their heads at the media’s attempt to stigmatize America’s founding documents, silence traditional believers, and condemn people of faith to a future of taxation without representation.
2. “Book Bans”
Facing plummeting approval ratings, Joe Biden took out his first campaign ad of the 2024 election season in April promising to support abortion-on-demand and oppose purported GOP efforts at “banning books.” (Biden’s commercial falsely implied Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) banned “To Kill a Mockingbird.”) The legacy media built out the narrative that Republicans are holding open bonfires of disfavored books:
- The Hill tallied “The five states with the most book bans” in April;
- “Presidential hopeful DeSantis inspires push to make book bans easier in Republican-controlled states,” reported the Associated Press in May;
- “Challenges to library books continue at record pace in 2023,” asserted the AP in September; and
- “There have been attempts to censor more than 1,900 library book titles so far in 2023,” stated NPR (at your expense) in September.
In reality, the “book bans” in question forbid public school libraries from giving minors pornographic books — books which often contain graphic visual depictions of atypical sexual practices. Among the titles frequently found on this list are “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe, which includes explicit illustrations of a man having sex with an underage male, as well as fellatio and other sexual practices. Another “banned” book, “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison, describes a fourth-grade boy fondly reminiscing about performing oral sex on an adult man. Some of the depictions are too graphic for TV networks. When DeSantis held up a picture from one such book during a debate with California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) in late November, the Fox News Channel’s cameras pulled away.
Parents, and society, have a vested interest in keeping pornography out of children’s hands and limiting underage exposure to porn in general. Unlike hardcore porn, these books are widely available at public libraries, to adults, or for purchase/donation. Keeping such books out of the hands of children no more “bans” these books than the Motion Picture Association’s “R” rating “bans” R-rated movies from the same age cohort. Parents can even expose their children to R-rated movies, if they wish — but no one else legally can. Perhaps that’s what triggers the Left.
3. The “Triumph” of Bidenomics
Although voters have felt economic pain most of President Biden’s term in office, he embraced the term “Bidenomics” this summer. “Bidenomics is working,” the White House announced in June. The media, too, said the economy had turned around and expressed shock the American people didn’t realize how good they have it. ABC News groused that “the American people aren’t giving Biden credit.” In fact, “Biden goes into 2024 with the economy getting stronger, but voters feel horrible about it,” said the Associated Press in December. The desire to portray a booming economy led NBC to run the unlikely headline, “Why Americans are going hungry despite a strong economy.”
It’s true the U.S. spent a record-breaking $119 billion on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or “food stamps”) in 2022, thanks to Biden unilaterally enacting the largest benefit increase in the history of the program. (He raised SNAP benefits 21% in 2021, without Congress.) And even more American households use SNAP in fiscal year 2023. But food costs for all Americans have risen 25% since 2020 — 17% since Biden took office; the average American, who pays into, rather than takes out, federal food assistance, gets nothing. Gasoline, too, remains $1.17 a gallon higher than on nauguration day. Interest rates reached the highest level in 22 years (5.25-5.5%). The year-on-year inflation rate is still above the Federal Reserve’s 2% target.
Wages have slowly begun to creep up, rising an estimated 13% since January 2021 — but that’s four points lower than the 17% inflation that has taken place on Biden’s watch, according to CBS News. In real dollars, the average American needs to earn an extra $11,400 a year to maintain the same standard of living he or she had in January 2021. Residents of the District of Columbia need to net a raise of more than $17,000 a year to stand still, according to Republicans on Congress’s Joint Economic Committee.
Until the economy begins paying dividends to the average American, Joe Biden would be wise to stop putting his mouth where your money isn’t.
4. Abortion Is a “Winning” Issue for Democrats
After staving off a big red wave in the 2022 midterms and putting the abortion-expanding Issue 1 over on the voters of the bellwether state of Ohio, liberals believe they have found their winning issue in 2024. Democrats and the legacy media (but then I repeat myself) say such state initiatives and local races prove their predetermined story that voters endorse the Democratic Party platform of taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand until birth (or later). Some Republicans call for the GOP to find “consensus” by only protecting unborn babies who would die from late-term abortions.
But that’s not where abortion consensus may be found. In reality:
- 74% of Americans oppose funding abortion overseas, according to a KofC/Marist poll;
- 71% of the American people believe abortion should not be available past the first trimester;
- 63% of Americans oppose sending abortion-inducing pills through the mail;
- 55% of all Americans support laws protecting a child from his or her first fetal heartbeat; and
- 53% of Americans oppose forcing taxpayers to underwrite abortion in the United States.
Only 8% of Americans agree abortion should be “legal in any circumstances,” according to a Gallup poll. (Three times as many people believe abortion should be “illegal in all circumstances.”)
There’s no reason a pro-life candidate cannot win by comparing protections of the unborn against the Democrats’ unbridled abortion radicalism — unless the GOP wills the issue to go away by ceding the issue to the Left.
5. Ukraine “Defeats” Russia
The Washington Post explained in February, “Why Ukraine will win the war.” Politico ran an essay in June titled “Ukraine is winning — and it is changing.” As it turns out, it was authored by Dennis Shmyhal, the prime minister of Ukraine. Gaslighting readers about Ukraine is an international phenomenon as the U.K.’s conservative newspaper, The Telegraph, also ran an article by former U.K. Defence Minister Ben Wallace insisting, even in October, “Ukraine is winning. Now let’s finish the job.” Yet a month later, The Economist claimed “Putin Seems to be Winning the War in Ukraine — for Now.”
The facts on the ground present a different picture. “Ukraine ends year in disappointing stalemate with Russia,” PBS reported. In fact, the stalemate has lasted for months, since Ukraine’s unsuccessful offensive this summer. “There is no clear breakthrough in sight,” stated The New York Times; indeed, “Russian forces have scored small territorial gains along Ukraine’s eastern front in recent weeks.” The news comes months after Ukrainain President Volodymyr Zelensky began drafting men as old as 60. He stretched this limit by sending a draft notice to Archpriest Dimitriy Sydor, the 69-year-old pastor of Holy Cross Cathedral in Uzhhorod. The elderly Christian leader belongs to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is officially disfavored by Zelensky’s government.
Whatever the battlefield situation, the American people want Congress to turn its focus back to the American people’s needs. “Overall, 55% say the US Congress should not authorize additional funding to support Ukraine vs. 45% who say Congress should authorize such funding,” reported CNN … in August. “And 51% say that the US has already done enough to help Ukraine while 48% say it should do more.” It’s a question of priorities.
6. Senator Tommy Tuberville “Hurt” Military Readiness
President Biden can prioritize Americans, when they donate to The Big Guy. After the Dobbs decision, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced the military would pay for pregnant soldiers stationed in pro-life states to travel to another state for an abortion.
Congress neither passed a new law nor repealed the Hyde Amendment, which arguably makes the Biden administration’s executive action illegal. Biden simply announced the new policy as a fait accompli, probably while daring Republicans, “Watch me.”
Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) chose not to watch or stand by. He placed a months-long hold on the blanket promotion of members of the military until the Defense Department changed its policy. Biden, in return, asserted that Tuberville’s actions were “harming military readiness, security, leadership, and troop morale.” White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre chimed in, “The senator’s action and the failure on the part of the 48 Republican senators to do something about it are dangerous. They are harming our military readiness.” But in reality:
“Senator Tuberville’s unanimous consent hold on general and flag officer nominations, which went into effect March 8, slows but does not ban the promotion of officers. Rather than approving all such promotions in a batch, senators can approve each of the approximately 250 affected officers individually. ‘It only takes a couple hours per nominee. We could knock these out one [by] one, but Chuck Schumer doesn’t want to do that,’ [Republican U.S. Senator Mike] Lee [of Utah] revealed. That confirms Senator Tuberville’s account of Democratic inaction, who said he had only one 10-minute phone conversation with Secretary Austin since last December. The Biden administration has ‘made absolutely no effort to find a compromise in our situation,’ he told The Daily Signal in June. Democrats seem to enjoy ‘using Tuberville as a whipping boy too much’ to give it up, Lee told Perkins. If Biden would back down from his decision to compel government-funded abortion travel, ‘We could lift these holds, get these people confirmed immediately, like today.’”
7. Electric Vehicles Will Save Us
Jet-flying global elites long ago decided you must sacrifice in order to meet their goals. “Meeting the [p]resident’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050 will require large-scale adoption of electric vehicles (EVs),” said a White House document released in December. To make the Spartan life they have planned for you more palatable, they claim this will improve the economy — and force taxpayers to invest accordingly.
The Biden administration dedicated $12 billion in loans and grants to convert U.S. auto plants into EV plants — including $2 billion in handouts of your tax dollars to enormous corporations. Biden dedicated another $3.5 billion to help build EV batteries, which CNN notes, “comes as Biden tries to win over the powerful United Auto Workers union, which has thus far withheld its endorsement of his reelection bid.” It’s hard to know what this money will accomplish. The Biden-Harris administration set aside $7.5 billion from the “Bipartisan Infrastructure Law” in 2021 to build electric chargers — but as Politico reported, “Two years later, the program has yet to install a single charger.”
But if consumer sentiment is any indicator, Biden may as well save our money: The American people do not want electric vehicles. A Washington Post poll found more than twice as many people want traditional, gasoline-fueled cars and trucks than any other alternative, leading the Post to fret that “a hesitant American public … could still hold the country back.” (If the government is preventing the majority of Americans from doing what they want, who’s holding whom back?)
Americans are voting against the Democrats’ EV Utopia with their dollars. Ford lost $2.41 billion on its EV unit in just two quarters this year. General Motors lost $1.5 billion on EVs in a single quarter. “EVs were supposed to be the answer. Now they’re the problem,” reported Barron’s. Economist Steve Moore said, “We’re going to see the EV market become the next big flop, because car buyers don’t want them.” In November, nearly 4,000 car dealers asked the Biden administration to back off its EV obsession. “The supply of unsold BEVs (battery electric vehicles) is surging, as they are not selling nearly as fast as they are arriving at our dealerships — even with deep price cuts, manufacturer incentives, and generous government incentives,” they wrote. “With each passing day, it becomes more apparent that this attempted electric vehicle mandate is unrealistic based on current and forecasted customer demand. Already, electric vehicles are stacking up on our lots which is our best indicator of customer demand in the marketplace.”
Instead, in November, the Biden administration offered Americans a chance to win a total of $13,500 by sending a video of themselves with their electric vehicle to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A month later, House Republicans listened to Americans, voting to block Biden’s decree rule to shift to EVs by 2032.
Some Democrats are beginning to see the light. On December 21, the Maine Board of Environmental Protection planned to adopt a California-style plan requiring electric vehicles and hybrids to make up 43% of all new car sales for 2027 models and 82% by 2032 — but it had to cancel the vote due to a massive power outage. “Forcing Mainers to purchase cars and trucks powered by electricity when our grid is insufficient, charging stations are few and far between, and a storm like yesterday’s would render 80% of cars useless is, to say the least, ill-advised,” said Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine).
When Americans consider whether to shift to EVs, they should remember the Maine.
8. Letting Americans Vote Poses a Threat to “Our Democracy”TM
Every four years, Democrats discover a new threat to American democracy, who just happens to be the Republican presidential candidate. Yet no candidate sends the Left into bouts of fear-driven hysteria quite like President Donald Trump.
If voters elected Trump next November, “American democracy could be over,” vouched MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough on December 18. “He will imprison, he will execute, whoever he is allowed to imprison, execute, drive from the country.” Scarborough, a former Republican congressman, is outranked by fellow MSNBC commentator Claire McCaskill, a former Democratic senator — both in rank and hyperbole. “A lot of people have tried to draw similarities between Mussolini and Hitler” and Donald Trump, said McCaskill on November 21. “The difference, though, I think, makes Donald Trump even more dangerous, and that is he has no philosophy he believes in.”
Yet the Left mirrors the tactics of the brownshirts — attempting to imprison Trump in a desperate effort to keep his name from appearing on the ballot. Now, the Colorado Supreme Court has decreed democracy is too precious to be trusted to voters. By a 4-3 vote, the court’s Ivy League graduates issued a 133-page, unsigned opinion declaring “Trump is disqualified from holding the office of president under section 3 of the 14th Amendment” for allegedly inciting an insurrection on January 6, 2021.
In reality, Trump has been convicted of no crime; Trump has done nothing violating the legal definition of “incitement”; and the Civil War-era provision to prevent Confederate soldiers from returning to office may not apply to the presidency (nor to dozens of former Confederates who served in Congress after federal legislation repealed the prohibition). If Democrats are illegally attempting to prevent voters from choosing the candidate of their choice, who’s a threat to democracy?
9. Democrats Are Losing Minority Support
Not only legacy media outlets promote non-stories. Numerous conservative outlets have trumpeted polls showing minority groups’ support for Joe Biden declining.
It’s true that black and Hispanic voters have — just as they did at roughly the same point in Barack Obama’s presidency. Between April and September 2011, black support for Barack Obama fell by 28 points — from 83% to 58%. Obama went on to win 93% of the black vote in 2012. Eight years later, Joe Biden claimed 87% of the black vote, 65% of the Hispanic vote, 64% of self-identified LGBT voters, and 61% of the Asian vote. This September, Trump had the support of only half of registered Hispanic Republicans, according to a Univision poll.
Optimistic stories about Republicans carrying off a Reagan-style landslide that sweeps up the black, Hispanic, and Asian vote are fake news. They take for granted that the polls’ size and sample accurately reflect niche demographics. They assume “pale, male, and stale” Joe Biden will be the nominee. And they forecast a voting change virtually unprecedented in previous election cycles.
10. Republicans ‘Pouncing,’ ‘Seizing,’ etc.
It’s a classic media move: When anyone accuses a liberal of a scandal, the media attack the accuser. Often, the media assert, the critics “pounced” on an individual, whom they often note has received online harassment or “threats” to maximize public sympathy.
Joe Biden has more gaffes than most presidents, so the media have run this angle more often in 2023, with headlines such as:
- Yahoo News (February 3, 2023): “Republicans pounce on Biden over appearance of Chinese spy balloon;”
- S. News & World Report (February 23, 2023): “GOP Pounces on Opportunity to Politicize Ohio Train Derailment Disaster;”
- The Hill (March 23, 2023): “Republicans seize on transgender rights ahead of 2024;”
- ABC News (September 17, 2023): “Democrats seek to separate President Biden from son Hunter’s indictment as Republicans pounce;”
- New York Times (December 10, 2023): “As Fury Erupts Over Campus Antisemitism Conservatives Seize The Moment;”
- The Hill (December 11, 2023): “GOP smells blood in the water in elite school antisemitism controversy;” and
- New York Times Magazine (August 5, 2023): “How a Sexual Assault in a School Bathroom Became a Political Weapon” (about a sexual assault carried out by a skirt-wearing male in a school restroom).
An unbiased media would have thought the most salient parts of these stories are that the Biden administration let a Chinese spy balloon float over the entire country unmolested and transmit sensitive information to the Chinese Communist Party; that President Biden visited Ukraine and Palestine but not East Palestine, Ohio; that the president’s son was indicted for selling access to the White House while his father was vice president; that campus curricula promoting intersectionality and critical race theory led to an outbreak of anti-Jewish sentiment; and that school administrators appeared to lie about an underage girl’s sexual assault, so they would not derail their transgender bathroom policy.
Or am I pouncing on the media by pointing this out?
Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.