It is an understatement to say that since the election of Donald Trump there has been an antagonistic relationship between his administration and the general press. Accusations of fake news, bickering over crowd size, the back and forth about Russian involvement in our elections, the use of alternative facts and on and on… Instead of trying to taking a stand on who is right, let me offer a different perspective: do not pick one. Instead use this as a challenge — the truth sometimes hides itself when there are so many agendas. It is up to us to find it.
For those avid Trump supporters, you can protest the news media’s apparent partiality; however, even you have to admit that there are too many questions about Russia, too little experience within Trump’s cabinet picks, too little professionalism across the board and too little substantive evidence to support claims and policy stances. His accusations of “fake news” should give you alarm when he attacks any article in opposition to him.
Note that “[Democrat President, Democrat office holder or liberal commentator of choice] did it too” is not an acceptable response. Although it works on social media, I treat it as something a second grader would offer.
Those that have issues with Trump need to be careful about your sources as well. Yes, there is plenty of negatives news to offer on Team Trump, but never forget that media is business. Take the New York Times for example. A media outlet that has not been a friend of President Trump, the Times has seen an enormous jump in subscriptions since his election. This creates a possible economic incentive to confirm negative perceptions (fair or unfair) around the administration and do it more boldly and sensationally than the next outlet.
The Trump phenomenon has exposed a problem with the way we consume news and “civilly” debate politics. The run-up to the Republican convention saw Trump take advantage of the media to the tune of at least $2 billion. It was not that hard — a media personality since the ’80s, it is likely that Trump understood that our media model is more responsive to bombast, reality-show drama and buffoonery than substantive policy discussions. The phrase “there is no such thing as bad publicity” is not a cliché for nothing.
There are examples when the media has had a fleeting instance of badly-needed self-reflection that is often too short-lived. For example, Maureen Dowd’s “Trump vs Press: Crazy, Stupid Love” states, “Financially pressed news organizations are not being shy about seizing the moment to celebrate — and cash in…” I also offer this segment on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, in which media irresponsibility is discussed.
This media model fuels the corrosive polarization we have in this nation. Over-dramatization and rush to judgement creates a hole in credibility that alternative news sources use to drive trucks through. That’s how you get a travel ban that is truly a Muslim ban that so many people refuse to accept. Those holes get wider and wider when the media chooses to cover superficialities that replaces substance.
Look at the coverage of Kellyanne Conway’s posture on a couch the day HBCU Presidents came to the White House to raise awareness on the lack of funding for their schools. The same media that did so little to cover the impact of Obama administration decisions on these schools now diverts attention over to Conway when Trump signed his executive order. This lack of impartiality causes distrust that the Rush Limbaughs and Sean Hannitys of the world are happy to leverage. Want more? In February, the Federalist, a conservative-leaning online publication, gave 16 stories reporters have run since the election (by now that list has grown) that were proven to be untrue or embellished. It reminded me of when NBC edited the 9-1-1 tape from the night George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. The facts alone were enough for the public, but NBC decided to make selective edits of the truth, providing a credibility gap that naysayers used to defend Zimmerman in the court of public opinion…and drive more division.
So it would stand to reason that all news is fake, or at least it all has a little slant to it (but sometimes that slant can be dangerous). My personal advice? Question everything, especially the things you hear that do not challenge you but support what you already believe. While it may be good for your debates on social media, it very well could be…fake news.
Photo by pasa47
An economic conservative till the end, Hughey strongly believes in the power of self-empowerment as the solution to many of society's problems. He is a business consultant for a management advisory firm in the Washington DC area and a contributor to Project 21, a black conservative organization. He also appears on television as a political and policy commentator on TVOne and RT. A graduate of Stanford Univeristy and Harvard Business School, Hughey believes that education and economic awareness are the keys to empower Americans to take back our nation.