Trump's "War on Journalism", and other codswallop
Have we seen a war so bloodless and without casualty as President Trump’s so-called “war on journalism”? But imagery of war, and Trump as the
menacing aggressor, is the narrative the LA Times’ Editorial Board gives us in its
of a lengthy anti-Trump hit piece.
As we now know, most of the coverage of Trump’s campaign was hostile
), as was the coverage during the first month of his presidency
). Media critics Newsbusters and
Media Research Center point out that the reporters always maintained a respectful tone when critical of Clinton, while the tone for the Republican
front-runner was, as President Trump once mentioned in a press conference, “such hatred”. With this information a question arises: could it be
that Trump’s war on journalism is in fact a defence against media hostility?
The author begins by lamenting that “in Donald Trump’s America, the mere act of reporting news unflattering to the president is held up as
evidence of bias”, an immediate straw-man. President Trump has never used the term “unflattering” to describe the reporting, nor has he used
unflattering reporting as evidence of bias. The author of the article is simply repeating the narrative instead of any facts of the matter. Sure, it
is a truism that Trump would prefer flattering to unflattering coverage—anyone would—but President Trump has always and consistently used the
terms “unfair” or “dishonest”, often emphasized with a flurry of hilarious epithets, to describe the reporting on him. His
“Mainstream Media Accountability Survery
” illustrates this by asking, in nearly
every question, if republicans and himself are covered "fairly" by certain media outlets.
Fairness is, of course, a pillar of ethical journalism. Even the LA Times’ presents fairness as a guiding principle in its own
. Yet we have an unfair misrepresentation
of Trump’s criticism in the very first sentence of the article.
To be fair to the author, this hit-piece is opinion, and should be treated like opinion. But tell that to those who believe and repeat it out of hand,
and the mass of people whose trust in mass media is drastically
. The article doesn’t address the core of President Trump’s arguments, and by extension, the core of
, avoiding them in favour of repeating the narrative talking points. Given that
individuals “who are shown in an adverse light should be given a meaningful opportunity to defend themselves” (as the LA Times own ethics
guidelines stipulate) why isn’t Trump allowed this courtesy? Perhaps because the criticism is exactly right.
A subtle example can be found in the same article. The author goes on to admit that Trump isn’t the first president to whine about the press,
mentioning how “President Obama’s press operation tried to exclude Fox News from interviews, blocked officials from talking to journalists, and
prosecuted more national security whistle-blowers and leakers than all previous presidents combined”. But the author goes on to imply Trump’s
behaviour towards the press is far more egregious: “But Trump being Trump, he has escalated the traditionally adversarial relationship in demagogic
and potentially dangerous ways”. He compares Trump's rhetoric to Stalin's and other despots, as is by now typical. The implication hidden on this
piece of equivocation is that Obama’s relationship with the press was merely “traditionally adversarial” while Trump’s is “demagogic and
Obama’s treatment of the press, his prosecution of more whistle-blowers and leakers than all previous presidents combined, his tendency towards
opacity despite promises of transparency, was not “traditionally adversarial”, but unprecedented and
]—and I would link to the LA Times article about Obama’s war on journalism, but I cannot find one.
Trump does not exceed Obama in adversarial stance, and is more in line with a
of the press. Even so, none of President Trump's
posturing, his adversarial stance, or his attitude, means he will take necessary action against the press.
Trump’s abhorrent war-crimes against journalists consist of failing to acknowledge “that an independent press plays an essential role in American
democracy”, he has “condemned legitimate reporting as ‘fake news.’”, “his administration has blocked mainstream news organizations,
including The Times, from briefings”, and the secretary of state broke the longtime tradition of taking the press corps to Asia. In short, and for
the most part, Trump has said some things about press that the press doesn’t like, and refuses to pay them any lip-service otherwise.
To drill the point into numbed minds even further, the author continues projecting his own attribution bias, ascribing invisible motives, hopes, and
desires onto Trump like a mind reader, revealing his strategy via something surely less than psychic powers:
“By branding reporters as liars, he apparently hopes to discredit, disrupt or bully into silence anyone who challenges his version of
reality. By undermining trust in news organizations and delegitimizing journalism and muddling the facts so that Americans no longer know who to
believe, he can deny and distract and help push his administration’s far-fetched storyline”.
Are you sure of that? And this from the same author who goes on to advocate truth-telling, and the ethics of his craft, while writing for the same
outlet that advises fairness as a fundamental principle.
There is no war on journalism, but complete and utter projection by the “fake news media”, the “enemy of the people”, who are engaging in a
form of atrocity propaganda
, waging war against their own president.
Thank you for reading,
edit on 6-4-2017 by LesMisanthrope because: edit