18 January 2017

Lies, damned lies and Donald Trump

In his latest screed against Donald Trump and the American news media -- proving that you don't have to take a side for one or the other -- Eric Alterman writes: "American journalists simply don’t know how to report on a president who is also a compulsive liar." The cynic in me is tempted to doubt this, since many of them have had decades of experience. But that wouldn't satisfy Alterman, the Nation columnist who every few weeks blames the media for failing to denounce Trump or the Republican party with sufficient rigor. For years he's gone against the grain by denouncing the media for cowardice rather than bias. He believes that the media has been intimidated by constant Republican whining about bias, but has also succumbed to a cynical, incorrect belief that "both sides do it" that blinds them to the unique evils embodied by the Republican party, and the still worse evils embodied by the President-elect. Varying his theme, Alterman claims that reporters "have no experience covering an American president who doesn’t even pretend to care about truth." He goes on to make slightly more sense for a moment:

Mainstream journalists are used to collaborating with politicians to tell the truth a little bit at a time. Lies are accepted when they fit the master narrative, but they need to hover within an acceptable range of plausibility. At the very least, they require the pretense of evidence, however specious it might be.

But again, Trump is alleged to be unique in his disregard for the truth and freedom of the press. The media have an imperative duty, Alterman insists, to call Trump a liar, and it infuriates him to hear an editor say that you “run the risk that you look like…you’re not being objective” by calling any politician a liar -- on the news broadcast, presumably, rather than in an opinion piece. What the editor meant, I hope, is that you would not look objective if you focused on  one politician's lies while ignoring those of other politicians. I don't think Alterman wants us to ignore Democratic lies, but he clearly doesn't see them -- whichever statements he considers lies -- in the same category as Republican or Trumpian lies. Alterman plays by "If you're not against him, you're for him" rules, the only ones that allow him to see Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC as "unpaid advisers-cum-supplicants to Trump." But if lies themselves are the problem then all lies should be exposed and denounced equally, and then what time would you have for the rest of the news? I suspect, however, that even for Eric Alterman some lies count more than others, and in his case the standard for weighing the wickedness of lies is certainly as ideological and partisan as anyone else's. I'd be all for a daily survey of proven lies by politicians without regard for party, and a quantitative test of Alterman's assumption that Democrats lie less than Republicans. But if it's the news media's job to show someone like Trump unfit for office, as I assume Alterman wants, it's also their responsibility to show whether the opposition is fit for office rather than declare them entitled by default, as I assume Alterman also wants. If it's the media's job to educate the American people, that might also mean a lot more than Alterman really wants. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Media has been on-board with the powers-that-be ever since they've been allowed into certain annual meetings of the corporate world (Bilderburgers, etc.) I am NOT saying this in terms of the paranoid/delusional conspiracy theorists. What these people do is pretty much out in the open and it has little to do with a small group attempting to control the world. But, rather, the "movers and shakers" setting up prices, etc. for the year. Another group (I forget what they're called) that meets in NoCal every year to "worship" at some large wooden owl statue have, within the past couple years, also begun allowing "journalists" and other media personnel to attend their event.

It is all simply part of the "1%" getting everyone necessary on-board to continue their plan to globalize the world economy.