“First the media is accused of inciting, then sympathizing, then associating–until they suddenly find themselves accused of being full-fledged terrorists and subversives.”
These are the words Christiane Amanpour, the Chief International Correspondent for CNN, said at a press freedom gala in 2016. CNN has frequently been the target of the Trump administration for promoting what they call “fake news”.
In reality, the coverage from CNN has been critical of the Trump administration for continually lying about various issues. Some of these lies include Trump’s crowd size, which involved Sean Spicer, the White House Press Secretary, lying four times in five minutes during a White House Press Conference and Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway lying about a massacre involving Muslim immigrants.
Multiple news organizations have debunked claims that Spicer made about inauguration crowd sizes and Conway is on record claiming, multiple times, the massacre took place, throwing doubt on whether her excuse, that it was a slip of the tongue, is true.
During Spicer’s heated rant to the White House Press Corps, where he took no questions afterward, he admonished the press for inaccurately reporting facts about Trump’s inauguration crowd size. Conway later told Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that what Spicer did was give “alternative facts”. To Todd’s credit, he responded that alternative facts are lies.
Trump made multiple statements claiming that he won despite “millions” of illegal immigrants voting in the election. Election officials have denied any widespread voting fraud. Even Bill O’Reilly, a right-leaning Fox News host, grilled Trump on these claims asking Trump multiple times about providing evidence to his claims. After dodging the questions Trump eventually said,
“Forget that. Forget all that.”
More recently, Trump accused the press of not reporting terrorist attacks during a speech at MacDill Air Force base in Tampa, FL to U.S. servicemembers “It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. In many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons and you understand that,” said Trump, an accusation the White House attempted to back up by releasing a list of terror attacks that the media did, in fact, cover extensively.
A New York Times article, which named sources, reported on a dysfunctional White House that has seen friction surrounding its decisions and the rise of chief strategist Steve Bannon has been decried as “fake news” by Trump.
Trump also tweeted: “I call my own shots, largely based on an accumulation of data, and everyone knows it. Some FAKE NEWS media, in order to marginalize, lies,” after Joe Scarborough, who, on his MSNBC morning show suggested,
“…Bannon’s calling all the shots.”
The media, to its credit, has been performing the exact function it is here for. However, there are two obstacles currently in place that are hindering this important piece of American democracy.
Rightly or wrongly, the media is viewed by those who voted for Trump as having a liberal bias and when they are confronted with someone they view as liberal they connect that person’s words with the media. They deny all claims made by the media because of a misguided belief that they are “fake news” and instead rely on more dubious sources, which include Trump’s Twitter account. These people did not suddenly come to think this way in a vacuum.
Part of Trump’s appeal is his pandering to those that didn’t do well under former President Obama. They have lost their jobs or seen their paychecks lessened. They’ve watched their towns become shells of what they once were. They don’t feel that anyone cares about them. It’s hard to care about other issues when you can no longer provide for your family or you don’t feel respected in your own country. A promise of a job or respect is a powerful tool that Trump is using masterfully.
An ugly thing is happening on the left. Empathy is being lost. Trump supporters are looked down on. They’re called racists, bigots, idiots. And they’ve been called these things for years. Maybe this is happening because folks are emulating what they see on “SNL”, “The Daily Show” and whatever John OIiver decides to talk about each week. The separation of satire and how to treat another human being in person is being eroded; the keen wit that the writers of those shows possess is being left behind and all that’s left is the meanness without the softening blow of comedy.
Perhaps, talking to someone like they’re not garbage is an important step in convincing them they should agree with you. Put simply, maybe not act like an asshole? If you think that’s not needed, please ask yourself how calling people racists, bigots and idiots helped get Hillary Clinton elected.
The Second obstacle hindering the fourth estate is that the media is not providing a united front when a legitimate news organization is called “fake news” by the Trump administration. How beautiful would it be if every news organization ran the headline, “CNN is not fake news” and supported their fellow journalists and editors by not allowing the “fake news” title to be hijacked by those that wish to pervert its true meaning?
By not defending factual accounts from legitimate sources, the media is allowing the Trump administration to divide and pit media organizations against each other. When CNN or the New York Times is culled from the herd for providing facts, it is only a matter of time before other organizations face the wrath of a thin-skinned bully. The fourth estate is here to call BS. It needs to continue to do so. It’s already been accused of inciting violence. It’s already being said that the media sympathizes with subversives. The next step is accusing them of colluding. After that, America will start to see journalists jailed. Let’s not let it get that far.