Thursday, January 12, 2017

Fake News

I watched Trump's press conference yesterday and have to admit it was equal parts disturbing and hilarious. His rambling intro, the lawyer reading prepared remarks from the paper for an eternity, his endless "terrific, great, beautiful" references. All vintage Trump. The next four years are going to be something to behold.

What everyone is talking about though was his rather rancorous exchange with Jim Acosta of CNN. Acosta tried to ask a question right after the organization he represents ran a risible story about Trump knowing full well that the story lacked credence and every other news outlet except the revolting BuzzFeed passed on the story. The story itself might be true, unlikely, might be partly true, less so but still unlikely, completely untrue, pretty likely, or one giant troll, very likely. That isn't the point so much as it is that CNN ran this story without due diligence and proof. It was clearly political rather than journalistic and Trump was right to shut down someone representing a "news" organization that is clearly OK with publishing unverified nonsense. Why should he stand there and take questions from a group that is openly hostile to him, not in a sense of the press holding politician's feet to the fire but rather in a personal and partisan enmity? As a reminder, the First Amendment guarantees a free press. It does not guarantee the right of any particular member of said press to ask and have answered a question by anyone else. If Trump takes steps to curtail the freedom of the press, or of free speech or free association or the right to freedom of religious exercise or the right to keep and bear arms, etc., I will be right there at the front of the line to call him out on it. But CNN doesn't get special treatment just because they have the word "News" in their organizational name.

Which brings me to a broader point. In response to Trump shutting down Acosta and doing so with the clever reversal of the entire fake news narrative which is now about as credible to the average American as "climate change", the recently out of the closet to the surprise of no one Fox News anchor "Shep" Smith threw a fit:
“[C]NN’s exclusive reporting on the Russian matter was separate and distinctly different from the document dump executed by an online news property,” Smith said. “Though we at Fox News cannot confirm CNN’s report, it is our observation that its correspondents followed journalistic standards and that neither they nor any other journalists should be subjected to belittling or delegitimizing by the President-elect of the United States.”
I grant you that Trump's tone was kind of ugly and a little nasty but then again he isn't a politician so if you spit in his face you can expect a kick in the crotch in return. In some ways it is kind of a refreshing break from the faux courtesy that so many in Washington put on when you know they hate each other.

What is interesting about Smith's statement is that he doesn't condemn someone being belittled, he specifically objects to journalists being belittled. Smith appears to buy into the notion so common in New York and D.C. that those who claim to be journalists are a special priestly caste who are above reproach by the little people. Nothing irritates "journalists", and that apparently includes people who read news off a teleprompter, quite like not getting the deference they think they deserve. This relatively small cabal of "journalists" get to decide the terms under which the President has to interact with them, what news is worthy of being published (All the news that's fit to print.....according to us), who is or is not a journalist, and more insidiously what news is promoted and which is not based on clearly partisan standards and intent.

Far too many journalists think of themselves as above the rest of the nation, the arbiters of truth. We saw this on display the other night with the ridiculous speech from Meryl Streep declaring Hollywood and the press as the only people who can be trusted to "safeguard the truth". If actors and actresses would go back to just being entertainers and if journalists would go back to reporting actual news and letting people decide what to think for themselves, we would be better off but there doesn't appear to be any danger of that happening anytime soon. For now and the foreseeable future reporters and other journalists will continue to see themselves as a special clerical class in America and at the same time will continue to see their influence and their audience shrink because Americans no longer rely on journalists nor do we trust them. We pretty much laugh at them now and nothing infuriates the self-important elites in New York and D.C. when the peasants stop bowing to them and start laughing at them.
Post a Comment