"Nattering nabobs of negativism." That phrase came up in a conversation I had the other day. I am old enough to remember who said it, and the person is not in President Trump's administration. Richard Nixon's Vice-President Spiro Agnew said those words in a speech in September 1970.
In 1969, Vice-President Agnew said: "Perhaps the place to start looking for a credibility gap is not in the offices of the Government in Washington but in the studios of the networks in New York!" Not nearly as eloquent but you get the point. President Richard Nixon and Vice-President Spiro Agnew loathed the press.
It's such a memorable and jarring expression that we can almost forget why it was so important -- as the opening salvo of a political war that continues to this day. In an era -- this would be the late 1960s and early 1970s -- when the reality-based world was looking rather bleak, with new revelations about government spying and the White House waging secret military campaigns in Southeast Asia, it would be the Nixon White House that invented the strategy of not changing the message but instead declaring war on the messenger, the American news media.
Spiro Agnew in 1969. Source: https://www.weeklystandard.com/philip-terzian/spiro-agnew-a-man-ahead-of-his-time
The words that William Safire penned and that Spiro Agnew mouthed actually had enormous impact that has lasted until this day . They helped foster among conservatives and the folks that Nixon called "the silent majority" a growing mistrust of the mainstream media, a mistrust that grew over two generations into a form of hatred.
Today, the vast majority of Americans of all political stripes -- conservative, liberal, centrist -- don't believe the "nattering nabobs of negativism, a.k.a. the mainstream media, in record numbers.