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Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Media fights against "fake news"

Americans Take Heed!

It's beyond belief stupid for the main stream media (MSM) to be in a defensive position about how to debunk the crazy concept of "fake-news".  Nevertheless, Donald Trump succeeded in putting this terrible hyphenated concept into our lexicon of "new normal" usage; the term may be the ugly legacy of a failed administration. Unfortunately, however, the use of fake-news has not failed, because many ignorant people, incredulously believe what is "fake" to be true.  

Consequently, Donald Trump has successfully undermined the foundation of Free Speech in our democracy by co-opting the First Amendment privilege. He's created proof for the notion of a "sucker born every minute". 

Donald Trump Is Successfully Undermining a Foundation of Our Democracy- in Cosmopolitan By Tara Setmayer

Image result for Free press logo

May 2, 2017

During the first 100 days of the Trump administration, there's been an ongoing war with the press, carried over from the 2016 campaign. 

Moreover, the effect it’s having on the American people is something that should concern us all, regardless of political party.

A contentious relationship between the press and the president has existed since George Washington. Our founding fathers had their own issues with newspaper coverage they didn’t like, yet they always respected the uncompromising necessity of having a free press — so much so, they made sure the right to a free press was enshrined in the First Amendment

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Thomas Jefferson, said, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
Image result for Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson

It is not the press’s job to stroke the egos of the powerful or to act as enablers, but to serve as both the guarantor of the free flow of information and the watchful eyes of accountability for our government, businesses, and other powerful entities in society. But Trump arrogantly thinks the media is there to serve him.

Trump began laying the foundation to undermine the institution of a free press early on in his campaign. Once the media accepted that he was a serious candidate, they started scrutinizing him like a serious candidate, uncovering information that would’ve normally ended any other politician’s campaign. His attempts to discredit anyone who tried to hold him accountable for his lies and inconsistencies on any number of issues (i.e. the “failing New York Times”) served a troubling harbinger of how he would handle the rigors of governing. And the fact that he not only survived but won indicated the public’s willingness to go along with him, despite the implications for our democracy.

During one of his many campaign tirades against the media, Trump even suggested opening up libel laws so news organizations could be sued for writing “purposely negative and horrible and false articles.” (Ha! Trump is himself the abuser of these tactics!).

News outlets can already be sued for publishing false information in certain circumstances, but in Trump’s mind, negative and false are the same thing. If someone writes something that’s anything less than glowing about him, it’s “fake news.”

Trump's threats to Freedom of the Press continues from the Oval Office. In January, less than a week after Trump’s inauguration, his chief strategist Steve Bannon (aka a SNL creature "the grim reaper") called the media the “opposition party” and said it should “keep its mouth shut.” Trump continued to blast the media as “fake news” on Twitter and at the campaign-style rallies he keeps holding. And this past weekend, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus told ABC’s This Week that the administration has in fact looked into changing libel laws. This is not only ridiculous but dangerous. Any attempt to use government authority to repress dissent is more in line with an authoritarian than an American president.

Thankfully, Trump cannot do any such thing unilaterally. Most libel laws are established by individual states and anything federally would have to be passed by Congress. Good luck with that.

But Trump’s rants as president calling the press the “enemy of the American people” and his repeated use of the term “fake news” whenever the media challenges him have caught on. Even the media establishment embarked on its own marketing campaign to remind Americans of the importance of their role as arbiters of truth and freedom. 

During the Motion Picture Academy's Oscars, the New York Times ran an ad stating, “The truth is more important now than ever.” And the theme of this year’s annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner was “Celebrating the First Amendment.” 

Famed reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein emphasized the importance of getting “both facts and tone right” and underscored the need to uphold journalist integrity. 

“Follow the money — but also follow the lies,” Bernstein said. “Our job is to put the best obtainable version of the truth out there. Period. Especially now.”

In that vein, the dinner’s headlining comedian Hasan Minhaj (a Muslim) poignantly brought up the dynamic of trust versus truth.

“You know what’s crazy?" he said. "Every day on The Daily Show, we do these jokes all the time: ‘The administration lies, Trump flip-flops.’ It doesn’t matter. His supporters still trust him. It has not stopped his momentum at all … It’s true! And I realized something — maybe it’s because we’re living in this strange time where trust is more important than truth. And supporters of President Trump trust him. And I know journalists, you guys are definitely trying to do good work. I just think that a lot of people don’t trust you right now.”

According to a new Morning Consult poll, Minhaj is correct. Thirty-seven percent of Americans said they trusted Trump’s White House to tell the truth, while 29 percent opted for the media. 

Given how dishonest Trump has been (The Washington Post’s "Fact Checker" column called him the “most fact-challenged politician” it has ever encountered), it speaks volumes about the state of affairs. If the public doesn’t trust the press to report the facts, where do they go to seek the truth?

A Vanity Fair poll out last month also backs up this sense of public mistrust of the media. In this survey, respondents were asked if a free press does more harm than good. Shockingly, 36 percent of Republicans said it does (!). 

Think about that. More than a third of Republicans are now questioning the value of one of our most fundamental rights.

For decades, Republicans have argued, with good reason, that a liberal bias in the mainstream media exists, so suspicion of specific media outlets isn’t new. What is alarming is the notion that the institution of a free press is harmful. This latest survey data is another byproduct of Trumpism infecting the GOP.

I’m not saying the press is perfect but historically, the alternative has resulted in oppression. Hero worship of men in power in a democracy erodes the checks and balances that protect “we the people.” As Sen. John McCain accurately warned, “If you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That's how dictators get started.”

Americans, take heed.

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