Monday, July 18, 2016

How the Media is Helping Donald Trump

I have rallied against the irresponsibility of the mainstream media before, particularly its penchant for assigning a false equivalency between today's Republican Party and the Democrat Party.  Now, with Donald Trump, the danger from this irresponsibility, especially the media's failure to question Trump, demand answers, and expose his endless lies threats the nation.  The same irresponsibility allowed Bush/Cheney to take America to war based on lies.  The danger now is vastly more serious as a man with mental health issues stands as the nominee of the Republican Party.  This isn't a reality TV show.  This is immensely serious, yet the media continues to fail to do its job.  If America falls to Trump's form of fascism and misogyny, the media will bear a significant part of the blame. A column in the New York Times looks at this existential danger.  Here are highlights:
When Donald Trump began his run for the White House, many people treated it as a joke. Nothing he has done or said since makes him look better. On the contrary, his policy ignorance has become even more striking, his positions more extreme, the flaws in his character more obvious, and he has repeatedly demonstrated a level of contempt for the truth that is unprecedented in American politics.
Yet while most polls suggest that he’s running behind in the general election, the margin isn’t overwhelming, and there’s still a real chance that he might win. How is that possible? Part of the answer, I’d argue, is that voters don’t fully appreciate his awfulness. And the reason is that too much of the news media still can’t break with bothsidesism — the almost pathological determination to portray politicians and their programs as being equally good or equally bad, no matter how ludicrous that pretense becomes.
[T]the fact is that voters who don’t have the time or inclination to do their own research, who get their news analysis from TV or regular news pages, are fed a daily diet of false equivalence.
This isn’t a new phenomenon. During the 2000 campaign George W. Bush was flatly dishonest about his policy proposals; his numbers didn’t add up, and he claimed repeatedly that his tax cuts, which overwhelmingly favored the 1 percent, were aimed at the middle class. Yet mainstream coverage never made this clear.
Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, has a reputation as a policy wonk, committed to fiscal responsibility, that is utterly incomprehensible if you look at the slapdash, fundamentally dishonest policy documents he actually puts out. But the cult of balance requires that someone on the Republican side be portrayed as a serious, honest fiscal expert, so Mr. Ryan gets slotted into that role no matter how much a con man he may be in reality.
Still, there are con men, and then there are con men. You might think that Donald Trump, who lies so much that fact-checkers have a hard time keeping up, who keeps repeating falsehoods even after they’ve been proved wrong, and who combines all of this with a general level of thuggishness aimed in part at the press, would be too much even for the balance cultists to excuse.
But you would be wrong.
And in the last few days we’ve seen a spectacular demonstration of bothsidesism in action: an op-ed article from the incoming and outgoing heads of the White House Correspondents’ Association, with the headline “Trump, Clinton both threaten free press.” How so? Well, Mr. Trump has selectively banned news organizations he considers hostile; he has also, although the op-ed didn’t mention it, attacked both those organizations and individual reporters, and refused to condemn supporters who, for example, have harassed reporters with anti-Semitic insults.
Meanwhile, while Mrs. Clinton hasn’t done any of these things, and has a staff that readily responds to fact-checking questions, she doesn’t like to hold press conferences. Equivalence! 
As I said, bothsidesism isn’t new, and it has always been an evasion of responsibility. But taking the position that “both sides do it” now, in the face of this campaign and this candidate, is an act of mind-boggling irresponsibility.

Be very, very afraid.

1 comment:

EdA said...

Unfortunately, once again Paul Krugman gets it right.

Although sometimes, reporters actually do try to commit journalism. This article from Saturday's New York Times details the piece of trump's long and miserable career of making things up and getting away with it. As far as I know, this has sunk into the swamp, along with the Washington Post's report on the piece of trump's financial links with Russian plutocrats.

"“Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Trump’s son, Donald Jr., told a real estate conference in 2008, according to an account posted on the website of eTurboNews, a trade publication. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”"

I don't think I'm being particularly xenophobic in wondering whether trump's decision-making as a president could be affected by the fact that much of trump's net worth is linked to the financial well-being of friends of Russia's dictator.