Editorial

Trump’s Real Media Angle

Friday, July 28, 2017

Unless you’re receiving the daily emails sent by Donald Trump and his team to supporters, you’re not getting the full dose of venom that is being directed at the nation’s news media.

A recent email from Trump himself begins, “Friend, I’ve said it before and I will say it again: the Fake News Media is the real opposition.” He goes on to write that media are working “hand-in-hand” with “the Left,” resulting in “an unbelievable lack of journalistic integrity.”

The point of the email was to sell supporters “Fight the Fake News” bumper stickers. Trump claims to be victimized by “a 24/7 barrage of hit jobs [and] fake stories.”

“The future of our great country,” Trump writes in closing, can be protected if enough of these bumper stickers are purchased and displayed.

A few days later an email from Team Trump carried the subject line, “Official Poll.” It declared: “Regardless of what we accomplish, the Mainstream Media peddles Fake News in order to mislead the American people.”

The poll question was: “Do you think the Mainstream Media’s coverage of President Trump is too negative?”

Note what’s happening here. In the opening sentence supporters are instructed that media “peddles fake news” to mislead them. In the next sentence they are asked whether this is “too negative.” The choices are “yes” or “no.”

The email closes: “The President has asked us to reach out directly to our supporters to let us know what you really think.”

Trump and his cohorts are seeking to brand news organizations as “fake,” just as they branded Ted Cruz as “lyin’” and Hillary Clinton as “crooked.” Say it enough, and impressionable supporters take it as gospel.

All this lays the groundwork for the really bad news almost certain to come from investigators looking into election tampering by Russia and the Putin regime’s cozy relationship with Trump and his people. It’s all fake!

In a chilling statement on CNN last month that went largely unnoticed, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to Trump, spoke of discrediting journalists while taking presidential propaganda directly to the public through social media.

Trump’s goal, she explained, is the “democratization of information.”

Teams of social scientists and journalism professors might require months to fully unpack that remark.

Give Conway this much: she has a way of crystallizing Trump’s disdain for journalism with Orwellian precision. It was she, you’ll recall, who said the president was entitled to use “alternative facts.” That, along with the administration’s relentless campaign to brand negative reporting as “fake,” seems to be what democratization of information is all about.

Consider the underlying message. If bypassing news media by Trump is, in fact, democratic, then reporters’ efforts to gather, fact-check and contextualize news must somehow be viewed as un-democratic.

And there is Trump’s real angle. Journalists covering this president are worse than fake. They are undemocratic, which is to say un-American. Coming soon to a bumper near you.

Building more walkable cities would be a step in the right direction.

©2017 Peter Funt