04.10.2017 08:05 AM

The fake media construct in the age of the Unpresident

Krugman in the New York Times:

The attack [on Syria] instantly transformed news coverage of the Trump administration. Suddenly stories about infighting and dysfunction were replaced with screaming headlines about the president’s toughness and footage of Tomahawk launches.

But outside its effect on the news cycle, how much did the strike actually accomplish? A few hours after the attack, Syrian warplanes were taking off from the same airfield, and airstrikes resumed on the town where use of poison gas provoked Mr. Trump into action. No doubt the Assad forces took some real losses, but there’s no reason to believe that a one-time action will have any effect on the course of Syria’s civil war.

In fact, if last week’s action was the end of the story, the eventual effect may well be to strengthen the Assad regime — Look, they stood up to a superpower! — and weaken American credibility. To achieve any lasting result, Mr. Trump would have to get involved on a sustained basis in Syria.

…One thing is certain: The media reaction to the Syria strike showed that many pundits and news organizations have learned nothing from past failures.

Mr. Trump may like to claim that the media are biased against him, but the truth is that they’ve bent over backward in his favor. They want to seem balanced, even when there is no balance; they have been desperate for excuses to ignore the dubious circumstances of his election and his erratic behavior in office, and start treating him as a normal president.

You may recall how, a month and a half ago, pundits eagerly declared that Mr. Trump “became the president of the United States today” because he managed to read a speech off a teleprompter without going off script. Then he started tweeting again.

David Frum, one of the few principled Republicans left, made essentially the same point over on Twitter:


This – I say as a former full-time journalist, a teacher of journalism, and a lifelong student of journalism – is a profound failing of the journalistic craft. From the first day in J-school, you see, we are trained to “get the other side of the story.”

So, we ferret out the “other side” – even if that side of the so-called dialectic is a proven liar, or a devoted neo-Nazi, or is just one deranged voice in opposition to millions of sane ones.  And we bestow upon that single addled voice as much credibility and prominence as the many on the other side of the divide.

That dynamic – along with the equally false one that prohibits us from passing “value judgments” – gives the solitary lunatic/white supremacist even more credibility.  Even when we know that Donald Trump is a racist, sexist conspiracy nut who is unfit for the position of dog catcher, let alone President of the United States.  Even then.

My (aspirational, ideal) journalism takes judicial notice of reality: i.e., racism is bad, sexually assaulting women is bad.  It is okay to say so; it is imperative we say so.  And, ipso facto, it is bad journalism to call white supremacy “white nationalism” and neo-Naziism “the alt-Right.”

My (perfect world) journalism rejects giving as much prominence to a misogynistic loser who lives in his Mommy’s basement as I would to an accredited surrogate of Hillary Clinton.  That is doing a disservice to reality, and disservice to one’s readers.

Will any of this change?  Perhaps. Maybe.  I’ve seen scattered evidence, since January 20, that Messrs. Krugman and Frum aren’t alone: many journalists are starting to accept that they are partly culpable for Trump’s improbable victory, and are doing what the Russians (ironically, given what should be the top news of 2017) call samokritika – self-criticism.

Journalists are starting to accept that some of the traditional journalistic aphorisms – “getting the other side” and “no value judgments ever” – aren’t doing us, or them, any good.  They create a false reality, because they’re fake news.

And we all know who benefitted most from the explosion in fake news in 2016, don’t we?

 

8 Comments

  1. Bill Templeman says:

    Warren, speaking of fake news and the journalistic craft, did Faith Goldy ever respond about her smear campaign on you? Just wonderin’ She and her Rebel colleagues seem blissfully unrestrained by the advice to”get the other side of the story”

  2. dave constable says:

    My CBC News this morn tells me our Prime Minister says that Assad must be held accountable.

    Our Canadian journalist do not seem t be asking questions, at least, not in public, about what physical evidence our government has that the Assad regime made a gas attack on this town. The circumstantial evidence says that the regime did not make a gas attack, but none of our journalists are asking questions such as: Why would a military bomb a munitions depot with gas? Given the military and political success of the Syrian regime of late, why would they commit political suicide with a gas attack on a small town? Did our ally, USA, attack a sovereign nation with no evidence and before UNSC had finished its work on the issue? Did our ally, USA, commit a crime? Who is benefiting from the deaths of these people? Are we, once again, basing foreign policy on some videos?

    (…oh, and, Prime Minister, would you like to see some photos and vids from Yemen?)

    Yeah, sometimes our reporters and journalists do well, but sometimes they seem to me strangely silent and accepting.

    • dave constable says:

      He’s back.
      I thought the irascible Scott Ritter was gone ,but Huff Post has him back today. Some of you remember him in 2003 doing a whole lot of writing and arguing that the Washington narrative for invading and occupying Iraq was false. His article today says the same about Washington’s narrative on Syria, and the justification of the missile attack.
      He then goes after our media’s selling of more war.
      It crosses my mind that our North American media cried ‘Sorry, sorry, sorry’ about Iraq in 2003, but are now doing the same again.

  3. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Warren,

    I’m just as concerned about fake-reality. Right now, H.R. McMaster is holding sway over national security policy. Out went Bannon (who purportedly threatened to resign if removed from the NSC), along with McFarland. She was a supposed protégé of Flynn.

    That’s what got minimal results in Syria but for how long? Trump’s natural inclination isn’t to start a war with Russia so what does the White House do if Assad continues to resort to Sarin? McMaster will no doubt be pushing for further action and American involvement, while the business-minded Trump hesitates.

    In short, when push inevitably comes to shove — the great communicator of everyone else’s choking, will give us the mother-of-all-chokes.

  4. ms says:

    This two sides to every issue problem that journalists have and continue to promote, has been best highlighted for the last 20 yrs on the environmental issues, and GHG emissions. The UK recently has a few media outlets finally say they would stop promoting the side of the climate deniers,as it was backed by facts or science, but too little too late. Plus the media is a vehicle of the big corporate donors and owners….another reason why the journalistic integrity and narrative is so skewed.
    so this latest fiasco, I wont hold my breath to getting the truth from MSM. Appreciate bloggers, or rogue players like David Frum.
    And boy I miss jon stewart these days, more than ever.

  5. ms says:

    wasnt backed by science, I thought I had edited, lol

  6. Kelly says:

    “In no way do we look at peace happening in that area with Iranian influence. In no way do we see peace in that area with Russia covering up for Assad. In no way do we see peace in that area with Assad as the head of the Syrian government.” Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations

    “In no way do we look at peace happening in that area with Saudi influence. In no way do we see peace in that area with The United States and it’s poodles covering up for the Saudi Royal Family. In no way do we see peace in that area with an American stooge as the head of the Syrian government.” Everyone Else, citizens of the planet.

  7. MississaugaPeter says:

    Please provide the name of one progressive journalist who was looking for something positive to write about Trump.

    Trump did what the Soros globalists wanted, therefore he was given the change in channel. Like Pavlov’s dog, he is getting rewarded.

    The ego wants to be loved and remembered while creating a dynasty financially and politically. I wonder how many “wag the dogs” we are going to endure through the next 4 years.

    Just had my son download “Wag the Dog”. Going to watch it with both sons now. Suggest all do likewise. No one has yet explained to me who videotaped children dying while not offering their own mask or explaining how they were not affected as well.

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