“The media’s job, in my opinion, is to provide us with facts that are not alternative facts to Trump and Democrat’s alternative facts. But, to provide us with the facts that are, quite factually, the facts”
Donald Trump doesn’t tell the truth. He tells plenty of lies. Big ones. Small ones. Stupid and silly ones. And, of course, serious and dangerous ones.
He careens from the sophomoric boy who brags about things that can be easily found out to be untrue, misrepresented, exaggerated and outright deceit to an angry 70-year-old man who utters nonsense that makes even my teenage children shake their heads and wonder how he got elected President.
Yet, he did get elected President. Not with my vote or the vote of millions of other Americans but he is our President.
We aren’t yet a month into Trumps term of office and it’s clear that the next four years are going to be exhausting, exhilarating and, in some cases, downright scary.
So, what to do about a President, and those around him, who find it so easy to utter falsehoods as though saying them makes it true?
Before I continue I want to be clear I did not vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Both candidates had serious problems with the truth long before the election of 2016. Neither candidate had a monopoly on who could tell the biggest lie.
Trump, however, does own the number and consistency of lies he told during his campaign and continues to make after the campaign.
The reporting of Trump’s lies and those of his most public advisors has become a cottage industry and an obsession with America’s media.
It is impossible to find a news source of any type that isn’t committed to pointing out when Trump says things that aren’t true, or a comment by his spokespeople that is not only not correct but a complete fabrication.
There is, of course, a need to do that.
Lenin, and others in different iterations, said that “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.”
In America, we need the 4th Estate to make sure that lies told by elected officials – of either party – must be challenged so they do not run the risk of becoming the truth.
A Gallup poll from September 2016 states that “Currently, 26% of those aged 18 to 49 (down from 36% last year) and 38% of those aged 50 and older (down from 45%) say they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media.”
I suspect there are many reasons for this.
Many in the press want to assign their dismal poll numbers to Donald Trump constantly harping on how much the press lies.
Which is an interesting concept given that without the press’s non-stop coverage of Trump in 2016 he would have not become President and his constant harping of their alleged “lies” would have not had a chance to take hold.
I’ve already grown weary of the press’s coverage of Trump and his Administration.
It has taken on a predictable and rote tone.
It is also creating further problems for the media’s own credibility in an environment in which Americans are casting a dubious eye on every institution in society today.
The “tune-out” factor is already happening with less than a month into Trump’s Administration.
I suspect that is part of the Trump Administration’s strategy.
Outrage and obsession is hard to sustain for four years. It is hard to sustain for a month.
There seems to be little effort to pick one’s battle when it comes to the Trump Administration.
Truth be told not everything Trump and his Administration talk about involves lying. There are serious policy proposals they are advancing. Serious implications of those policy proposals that Americans need to know about.
From ObamaCare to foreign policy to trade policy to infrastructure investment there are things we should be debating in American life today that are finding themselves crowded out by the non-stop antics of the new guy in the White House and the people surrounding him.
The Trump Administration’s practice of creating lots of shiny balls of outrage for the media and opponents to chase is having its desired effect.
For the press the tough task is going to be when the fury ultimately fades away because it cannot be sustained what will they do to inform America about the world we live in and the impact of the decisions by the Trump Administration on that world?
More importantly, after they have exhausted us and themselves by pointing out every major Trump Administration folly – and gleefully and smugly focused on every minor silly folly – what will it do to present the truth to the alternative facts of the Trump Administration.
Equally important, what will it do to present the truth to the alternative facts of the Democrats who seem committed to assigning themselves to permanent resistance party status in America?
The media’s job, in my opinion, is to provide us with facts that are not alternative facts to Trump and Democrat’s alternative facts. But, to provide us with the facts that are, quite factually, the facts.
Clickbait headlines. Snide remarks about how long Trump shook the hands of a world leader. Belly laughing at a Saturday Night Live parody of Trump’s press spokesperson.
None of this is fact. None of this informs anybody. None of it does the work of the 4th Estate.
Nor does putting Elizabeth Warren on a pedestal as a “profile in courage” or allowing Al Franken to spew Trump-like accusations about the President’s mental health without challenge suggest the press is interested in anything but being the mouthpiece for the “Resistance.”
I long ago quit believing the canard that the media’s job was to be objective. It never has been.
But, not being objective isn’t the danger to the credibility of America’s press.
Being accurate and providing facts that are worthy of its role and responsibility as the 4th estate is its only currency in an environment where accuracy and facts are inconvenient things to far too many in positions of power in America.
This is not to say that the press is lying to the American people about Donald Trump or Democrats who oppose him or anyone who supports or opposes Trump or Democrats.
Telling us Trump lies is easy for the press. Because often Trump does lie.
Telling us Democrats lie is not as easy for the press. Even though Democrats often lie.
America needs its media to do more than just report on the lies of Trump, and not so often report on the lies of those who oppose him.
It needs the 4th Estate to inform us. Educate us. Present us with something more than a headline.
We spent an entire Presidential campaign without any debate about the substance of issues that will impact the future of our nation and the safety and security of the world we live in today and tomorrow.
There’s no shortage of issues the press should be writing and reporting and talking about that gives the American public some means to understanding the implications of policies being pursued by the Trump Administration and Democrats and Republicans at every level of government in America.
The easy work of reporting is letting us know when someone lies.
The hard work of reporting is to tell us something more than that.
Report the lies. By all means.
But fill our minds with knowledge that we can use to understand something more beyond the headline.
If all we are left with is Trump telling us the press lies and the press telling us Trump lies, then lies win.
And, America loses.