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No, Trump doesn’t get away with lying because of how the media covers him

Except on those rare, fairly boring occasions when Donald Trump actually reads off the teleprompter a speech written for him by others, almost every public occasion on which he moves his lips and utters words is filled with lies, braggadocio and often disrespect toward various races, genders, Democrats, the leader of some allied nation who have genuflected insufficiently toward him, anyone else who has publicly criticized him and, some combination of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

That such utterances escape his pearly lips is known and knowable to anyone with ears to hear or eyes to read that are open to perceiving reality. 

Before the rise of Trump, it was generally believed that no one could get away with so much lying and hate-mongering and succeed in presidential politics. Now we know different. And have to figure out how to respond.

The fact-checkers and truth-squaders do a great job cataloging the lies. In a better world, that would suffice to relieve Trump of his credibility. But, with the rather large group of his loyal supporters, it doesn’t have that effect.

 (I haven’t written about his approval ratings for a couple of weeks, so I’ll slip it in here: The recent small uptick in his approval rating that I noted four weeks ago, has been followed by a small downtick, roughly restoring the norm, which is that Trump’s approval rating, based on the average of many approval polls maintained by FiveThirtyEight, is back to where it always has been; a touch more than 10 percentage points under water, with 42.3 percent approving and 53 percent disapproving. That’s bad, but incredibly stable compared to any other president since the invention of approval ratings.)

How to understand this? Do his loyalists not know he lies to them constantly and engages in fairly blatant promotion of racism and sexism? Do they not care? Do they not mind? Or do they know, and care and mind and either approve of it or believe these problems are worth overlooking because of all the wonderful things he is doing for them and to annoy those they dislike, at home and abroad?

In a recent column for The Washington Post, Greg Sargent blames the media, or rather, as he puts it, “the conventions of political reporting often constrain reporters from conveying just how crazy, depraved and saturated in malice and hate some of [Trump’s] rally performances are.”

Sargent refers to “press coverage that sanitizes away the wretched, hateful sides of Trump’s performances could help his appearances carry forward Trump’s mission of electrifying the base, under the radar, without clearly conveying to all those other voters — those who may not be tuning in as attentively to the 24/7 manure show that is this presidency — the truly depraved nature of what he’s dumping in their backyards.”

Is this right? Does Trump get away with constant lying and racism and sexism because the media “sanitizes it away?”

I don’t really think so. Anyone who wants to know — or is even willing to consider the possibility that Trump lies constantly — has easy access to the fact-checkers who have cataloged and continue to enumerate his unprecedented thousands of lies, omissions and half-truths. 

Even the straight reporters who aren’t allowed to opinionize and don’t specialize in fact-checkery are not at all shy about pointing out falsehoods and other contradictions from reality in their coverage.

A reporter assigned to cover a Trump is not exclusively assigned to truth-squading the rhetoric, but is not precluded from — nor do they mostly shy away from acknowledging — Trump’s heavy reliance on what Kellyanne Conway has called “alternative facts,” which is an alternative fact-y term for half-truths and pure falsehoods.

Yes, Trump is the president and what he says is news, and reporters have to report it. And in today’s news norms, when he lies it’s easier than ever — and more necessary than ever — to report that. But when he says something that’s not a lie, that’s news too, and must be reported. And when he traffics in racist and sexist tropes, you can report that, too, although if you are still playing by the old rules, you are supposed to just report it, not condemn or otherwise editorialize about it.

But, with apologies to Sargent, who’s on the side of honesty and truth-telling, not everything that Trump says is exactly a “lie.” If he’s race-baiting or male chauvinizing or otherwise demagoguing, that’s news, too, and the norms for the non-commentariat reporters is that you just quote those things and allow readers to make of it what they may.

So, sympathetic as I am to the horror Sargent evinces toward Trump’s ability to get away with lying and race-baiting without losing supporters, I’m not sure blaming the coverage of Trump’s rallies is the key to fixing this. I wish I knew what was. But bear in mind: if by “fixing this,” one means getting some of his loyal 40 percent to consider other alternatives, whatever “it” is has to have the effect of reaching that group and encouraging a re-think. 

Comments (38)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 01/18/2020 - 08:56 am.

    “Anyone who wants to know — or is even willing to consider the possibility that Trump lies constantly”
    Eric, your great mistake, those folks don’t want to know, or they are more than willing to explain it all away with, this person or that person or everybody does it or conspiracy theories. We hear it, read it all the time from right wing conversations, Obama should have been impeached,and what does that have to do with Trump’s impeachment? They struggle to separate fact from fiction or relevant issues from irrelevant ones, Logic, rationale doesn’t seem to work well in these folks world, they have a conclusion and build the story to form the conclusion. Reminds me of the old computer saying: GIGO “garbage in garbage out”.

  2. Submitted by BK Anderson on 01/18/2020 - 08:58 am.

    Trump is a depraved, spiteful person, and his supporters clearly thrive on spite. He is also a pathological liar, consumed with his own grandiosity, although it’s unclear whether he believes his lies or not. Since his lies are usually something he has heard on some deplorable far right “news” site, it is difficult to know what he “really” thinks. He also persists in them after they are (always) revealed as lies.

    It also is very clear that he is an incredible ignoramus, who knows virtually nothing and whose head is chock full of nonsense. This is the common theme in all the “tell all” books that get released. One has to take Tillerson’s summation of the man as completely accurate. Historians certainly will.

    At this point, the Trump “movement” (which is merely a degenerating iteration of the conservative movement) is indistinguishable from a cult. The followers are beyond the bounds of reason, and look adoringly upon an ignorant, hate-filled conman and liar as some sort of perverted “savior”. The media could present them with facts beyond measure and it would only cause them to cling ever more strongly to the cult leader’s lies. That is the observed psychology.

    The reality is that we have a criminal lunatic in charge of the most potent military on earth. The rest of the democratic world is concerned beyond measure, as are the majority of Americans, but such things have no effect on the cult members. Indeed, the are perversely celebrated as a sign of the cult leader’s “strength”.

    The coming election will be undertaken in an atmosphere of unprecedented lies and absurd falsehoods by the Repub party and its nominee. His current supporters cannot be shaken by any fact or development, and there is no reason to even attempt it. When such a mass phenomenon has arisen in other nations, it usually can only be extinguished by a national calamity, such as Russian tanks showing up in the streets of Berlin.

    The traditional media (TV and print) has elected to operate as though Trumpism does not want to destroy them, no matter how many times Trump declares the free press an “enemy of the people”. The times call for them to discard the idea that Trumpism is a “normal” feature of American politics, and ensure that the true nature of Trump’s malevolent spite are accurately (and fully) reported, despite the fact that the information cannot have the slightest effect upon the cult members. But that is something they are not prepared (or permitted) to do.

    It is therefore all in the hands of those citizens who say they do not approve of Trump, today’s 53%. Whether they band together to oppose Trumpism as the greater evil or fragment over minor issues will determine the future of American democracy. One is tempted to say that more information is hardly necessary to evaluate the man and his movement.

  3. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/18/2020 - 10:47 am.

    Polls reveal that a clear majority of Americans, and human beings throughout the world don’t trust Trump or believe most of his lies. In that sense he’s not actually getting away with lying, he’s just the POTUS.

    My impression regarding his supporters and Republicans in general is that integrity and honesty simply aren’t a priority, they don’t care whether or not their people are honest or lying (We learned this with Reagan if not Nixon). But that didn’t start with Trump- that goes all the way back to Nixon at least.

    I would point out the the assumption that someone like Trump couldn’t be president was a function of complacency and denial among “moderate” Democrats and those in consensus media. Progressive’s and liberals have long recognized the threat of someone likeTrump and have been warning of his approach for decades.

    If you recognize the criminality and dishonesty of Bush/Cheney, Trump is NOT as much of a stretch. Likewise if you recognize Kissinger’s crimes and treasons, and those of Reagan, and North, Secord, et al. a president like Trump is not beyond imagination. For progressives and liberals Trump was almost inevitable given the Democratic response to the rise of right wing reactionaries.

    The rise of Fascism in American HAS been reported, it just wasn’t reported in corporate/mainstream/consensus media like network television, cable news, or newspapers like the Strib, Wapo, or NYT’s.

    If you’ve been reading the Nation, or Z Magazine, or listening to Democracy Now!, Trump is nowhere near the big surprise Eric describes because our presidents, be they Democrats or Republicans have all been liars. From the Cold War missile gap, to Viet Nam, to Iran Contra and beyond, US Presidents lie, and they lie big. Even Obama lied about the “progress” we were promised in Afghanistan. In many ways, the only REAL difference with Trump is his tweets- were it not for twitter his lies would be not much more remarkable that Cheney’s or Sarah Palin’s.

    The problem the consensus media now has is that they’re affiliation with the elite status quo has been costing them their credibility. Decades of “bipartisan” regime failure have devastated American confidence in our political system, THAT’S how Trump got elected, Americans are so desperate for change and representation they were willing to roll the dice on Trump. In many ways the 2016 election was a choice between a failed political regime as represented by Clinton, vs. a chance for something different with Trump.

    The problem consensus media has is that they celebrated and fetishized Trump and guys like him for decades (why do you think there are sooooo many videos and interviews of Trump to comb through now?). So now the same media that celebrated Trump for decades is hyper critical of him, but that media has lost so much credibility that a lot people just aren’t listening.

    So no, we can’t blame Trump’s dishonesty on the media.

  4. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/18/2020 - 03:05 pm.

    I don’t think that Trump has a “loyal 40 percent” in the sense of a single constituency with a common motivation. What he has is a number of separate supporter groups that add up to an ideally (for him) distributed 40% translated to an Electoral majority.
    One subgroup is the ‘everyone does it’ crowd — they don’t analyze too closely so they believe that what Trump does is not significantly different from any other politician.
    A similar group says that Trump’s games are necessary to ‘clean up the swamp’ — his motivation is different from career politicians even if some of his actions are similar.
    Then there are the ‘flawed instrument’ evangelicals whose hot buttons he pushes — they are willing to convince themselves that there is biblical precedent (starting with Moses) for G_d choosing flawed instruments to carry out the divine will.
    I’m sure that one could add more with a little effort; the problem is that they end up in the same place: pushing the Trump lever.
    The good news is that it will just take a slight shift in voter sentiment based on four years of his actions to change the Electoral outcome. Just don’t hide behind the nonsense of ‘I’ll only vote for my ideal candidate’ — otherwise I’ll drop out or vote for a candidate who has no chance (a plea for ranked choice voting here). That just makes Trump’s reelection more likely, whatever your motivation.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/19/2020 - 11:00 am.

      Trump is bad, but simply defeating him in THIS election will not reverse the trend towards Fascism we’ve been witnessing in the US for decades now.

      The notion that winning elections by narrow margins so that we can return to a failed bi-partisan regime of relinquishing more and more power to right wing Republicans is in many way more dangerous than losing to Trump in 2016.

      We to reverse and destroy the trend towards Fascism, not merely decelerate it.

      We need a political Party in America that doesn’t simply focus on winning the occasional election at hand but is devoted towards providing effective leadership, representation, and progress towards becoming a more perfect union. Getting Biden into the White House by a narrow margin doesn’t come close to realizing that critical requirement.

      • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 01/19/2020 - 05:32 pm.

        As the optometrist would say when they are clicking the lenses: better or worse?

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/19/2020 - 08:48 pm.

        And that’s why we have Trump.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/20/2020 - 09:42 am.

          Yes,Paul, if only Democrats hadn’t let liberals run amok and pick all the candidates and run all of the elections for the last 40 years Trump would never have gotten elected. We really blew when put HRC on the ballot… please accept our apologies.

          • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/20/2020 - 02:44 pm.

            And in an unrigged election she would have won the Electoral as well as the popular vote.
            And HRC was no more a liberal than Bill was.

            • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/21/2020 - 08:44 am.

              So now Clinton was the victim of a “rigged” system? Actually a rigged system got her on the ballot, but that’s a different story.

              The New Democrats like Bill Clinton are not liberals, they’re moderate Republicans. We can say with near certainty that they instinctively dismiss and/or marginalize any liberal proposal they encounter. It’s an instinct you can clearly see today as they attack AOC, The Green New Deal, and any common sense liberal proposal that Republicans might not want to vote for. In fact, although the rhetoric was different, Clinton’s presidency in more ways than not was actually an extension of Reagan’s policies, it was in no way any kind of liberal roll-back. This is why the bi-partisan regime of the era was described as a duopoly. From the War on Crime, to welfare reform and financial regulation the Clinton regime has far more in common with Republicans than liberals.

              And yes, the primary function of corporate/consensus media was to serve the duopoly by marginalizing liberal and progressive ideas, advocates, and agendas. We saw this in 2016 when the vast majority of “News” media observers declared that while they “like” Sanders’s agenda, they didn’t think it was “realistic”. Turns out the biggest pipe dream of 2016 was that HRC was undefeatable.

              This mentality still attempts to dominate the political discourse although with less and less success. We’re still being told that candidates with single digit poll numbers and a fraction of the fund raising are the “ideal” candidates while we wring our hands over the possibility of putting liberal but “unelectable” candidates on the ballot. Whatever.

            • Submitted by Greg Claflin on 02/02/2020 - 04:18 am.

              I guess there we go, blame everyrhing on HRC or Obama. How about putting the blame squarely on the shoulders where it belongs. The American voter. Too apothetic to actually care about what’s happening in Washington as long as it doesn’t effect them. Willing to take 1 minute sound bites as policies of substance and not willing or too damn lazy to look at long term effects of actions taken by the people that are sworn to uphold our Constitution. You reap what you sow and currently it looks like a real bad harvest.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/20/2020 - 09:58 am.

      You are leaving out two keep Trump constituencies:

      1. Those who refuse to believe that he is lying. So-called lies are just more fake news; and
      2. Those who actively enjoy his lies, because they “own the libs.”

  5. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/20/2020 - 06:15 am.

    For Trump, language is not an instrument for communicating meaning, it is a tool to further his goals, and to otherwise disrupt the process.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/20/2020 - 09:38 am.

      Republicans have been weaponizing language for decades, Twitter is Trump’s main contribution to that effort. By and large I’ve always just heard Trump saying out loud what Republicans were saying more quietly for decades. This is why Trump “suddenly” found so much support within the Party when got elected. That un-budgable 30%-40% we keep talking about are the same folks to voted for McCain/Palin and Bush/Cheney.

      The idea that Trump is some kind of “new” Republican is truly a media myth. The unique feature trump brings to the landscape is that his behavior is so bizarre that even the consensus media can’t pretend he’s just another Republican. But that “pretense” has been toxic feature of our political landscape for decades.

  6. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 01/20/2020 - 08:59 am.

    To help out our conservative friends who seem to have lost their voice here:

    “Sure, he is lying, deceitful, narcissistic fool, but, just look at all the wonderful new judges he has appointed and how he just sticks it to everyone who disagrees with him. He is the chosen one and God wraps his packages in strange ways. So; if we need to swallow hard and sacrifice all or our core beliefs, engage in hypocrisy at unprecedented levels (No quid pro quo! Never forget Benghazi!) no problem, after all he is our lying, deceitful, narcissistic fool”.

  7. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 01/20/2020 - 10:44 am.

    It’s not just the lying: Anyone who has tried to watch a Trump rally “performance” (and boy! does he present himself as a performer) realizes that the crowd who adores him not only doesn’t care about how much he lies. They love the very nastiness of what he says and does, ostensibly on their behalf.

    They love the cruelty of separating little kids from their parents at the border. They worship Trump for the insults he throws around and how he trashes everyone who disagrees even slightly with him They eat up the way he disparages women for their looks, and that includes his women cultists, too. They relish his attacks on all foreigners and his mockery of the disabled and weak. They pant in enthusiasm for his championing and pardoning of military figures who commit criminal acts. He preens for these cultists, and somehow, they love it.

    The problem is more than Trump’s lies being ignored. It’s the urge to hurt others that lies beneath the 42% of Americans who follow Trump and have drunk the Kool Aid.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/21/2020 - 08:24 am.

      Absolutely Ms. Sullivan!

      To build on a point the most obvious and over-looked feature of Republican politics is it’s moral vacuity. This has always been ironic because Republicans are pretty much the only actors on the American political stage who claim to have superior moral authority.

      Exhibit “A” of the “Anti-Christ” foundations of Evangelical Christians and their Republican offspring has always been their constant desire and persistent political program of harming their fellow Americans and finding new ways to make people suffer. While Trump never met a dictator he hasn’t loved he’s been attacking the weakest, least offensive, and most defenseless people in our country, and the world. Evangelicals cheer him on and take great pleasure in his attacks. These people enjoy the spectacle of suffering yet declare themselves to be our moral compass. These aren’t the people who were fighting for their lives against lions in the Colosseum, these were the guys cheering the stands. Trump is Nero, not Jesus.

      When you have a party that’s this dedicated to inflicting some kind of pain and suffering, and you have this many people willing to vote for that… you’re looking at Fascism my friends.

  8. Submitted by Kelly Guncheon on 01/20/2020 - 12:11 pm.

    “A reporter assigned to cover a Trump is not exclusively assigned to truth-squading the rhetoric…” Such cynicism helps explain the media’s failure to report responsibly about Trump. It’s akin to demanding climate-change activists to walk or ride bikes to national gatherings.

    No one expects a reporter to be the exclusive arbiter of truth, and it’s a straw man to suggest someone does. There is not just a happy medium but an obligation to report professionally and responsibly. For example, there are not two sides to a fact, yet the media repeatedly seeks out and reports on someone or something who/that says water is not wet, giving them the credibility they don’t deserve.

    Another example, how about calling a lie a lie. The media fall all over themselves coming up with euphemisms for lying and lies. Many of his statements are manifestations of his ignorance; but many others are clearly and purely products of his dishonesty. Report it. Calling a lie an opinion or “incorrect” or a misstatement is a reporter’s job done poorly.

  9. Submitted by Charles Holtman on 01/20/2020 - 05:20 pm.

    Eric, you completely misread Greg Sargent’s piece. It has nothing to do with changing the view of a Trump supporter.

    Don’t think of the population as those who support Trump, and those who don’t. Think of thirds.

    About a third of the population is the Republican base. The Republican party has spent 50 years making the lives of ordinary folks more perilous, then exploiting their existential uncertainty by pointing them toward false enemies who will be punished (as Paul relates above). This is the appeal to the lizard brain, which operates on fear, not reflection. The Republican base isn’t critically assessing mainstream news. It’s simply responding to the protective role that, to them, Trump projects or, more accurately, to the nihilism that he represents.

    Another third are the folks who are aware enough of facts in the world, and have enough of a concept of civic responsibility, that they always will vote Democratic. Most of this third have no illusions about the Democratic party, but recognize that the Democrats always will be the lesser of evils, meaning that if any route remains to regain or advance a decent society, that route, in the present, runs thru the Democratic party.

    Sargent is writing about the last third: Americans who may be decent people, who may be educated people, but who for a variety of reasons have an appalling lack of awareness of political matters and of their own civic responsibility to cast a thoughtful vote. These are the people who get what awareness they do have from the mainstream media headlines and memes. Their engagement goes no deeper. And it is this third that decides elections.

    Without the mainstream media, the Republican party not only would fail electorally, but probably long ago would have ceased to exist in its post-1960’s authoritarian form. This is because the mainstream media, foremost, seek to preserve the two-party system by continuously normalizing the authoritarian Republican party back into the realm of a putatively democratic system thru various techniques that include Both Siderism; reporting and punditry that assumes, without justification, a symmetry of the parties or their voters around a normative middle; treating Republican words as democratic discourse when those who speak them intend them only as expedient tools of manipulation (see Hiram’s comment above); and, as Sargent notes, laundering Republican behavior that falls far outside norms of civil society so that for the unsuspecting and uncritical reader/listener it is just part of the ordinary political to and fro. The effect of all of this is to maintain this unengaged third in an ongoing, labile posture of “it’s all politics” such that they don’t see the point in voting or, if they do vote, will do it on the basis of some superficial and probably late-intervening motivation. Combined with all of the other Republican advantages, lawful and unlawful, just a little bit of this is what will tip an election.

  10. Submitted by joe smith on 01/20/2020 - 06:04 pm.

    Are you guys talking about President Trump arena rallies that have 20,000 folks inside and thousands outside? He can go to the bluest state and draw 20,000, easily. As Bloomberg talks to crowds of 10’s of people, Biden talks to hundreds and only the Socialists Bernie or Warren can attract thousands ,it bothers Lefties to no end that President Trump draws 20,000 everywhere.
    To make up for his popularity, the Lefties call him and his supporters names or claim Hillary really won the election. Sadly, the Left still can’t get over President Trump thrashed Hillary in the vote that mattered, Electoral College vote.

    • Submitted by BK Anderson on 01/21/2020 - 07:32 am.

      Yes, Joe, those are the cultists we are talking about.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 01/21/2020 - 08:55 am.

      No, we are talking about the guy who partially fills small arenas and then lies about the size of the crowd inside and out.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/21/2020 - 09:11 am.

      Sadly, the right can’t get over the fact that Trump lost the popular vote, and that he remains unusually unpopular.

      The fact that he lies like a rug just doesn’t matter.

      • Submitted by joe smith on 01/21/2020 - 04:33 pm.

        Sadly the Left feels popular vote wins elections. Newsflash, it’s the electoral college vote that matters.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/22/2020 - 09:06 am.

          On the one hand, you’re telling us that Trump has such great support that he can pack arenas wherever he goes. On the other hand, you’re telling us that his lack of popular support doesn’t matter, because – neener, neener, neener – he won the election anyway.

          There would seem to be a definite dissonance between those two notions.

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 01/21/2020 - 05:18 pm.

      How about a California or a New York trip? But lets ask the real question, Why does he do this? Simple answer, to control both sides of the dialogue, it comes right out of the dictators playbook, You have noticed no press briefings? Why, control both sides of the dialogue, don’t have to answer any questions, except the ones you give yourself, he even struggles with those.

  11. Submitted by Joe Musich on 01/20/2020 - 08:37 pm.

    The media was behind the curve for along time. The need to be objective and fair and balanced even before the terms became advertising terms shortened the grip on lots of reporting. In this link Robert Crumb the cartoonist gives us warning in 1989. Here …
    And Wayne Barrett was writing about what he was doing in the Village Voice In 1979. Here
    And who knows when Letterman started mocking him to his face.
    And yet I essentially agree that the media does not hold complete responsibility. That goes to the people behind the scenes who want the man in power. And that is those who are using people insecurities to empower their wealth. How ironic that junior titles his book Triggered. For that is exactly what this group is doing “triggering” those insecurities to gain support.

  12. Submitted by Pat Terry on 01/21/2020 - 08:56 am.

    Eric, you must not follow Maggie Haberman closely enough. Her picture should appear next to the word “enabler” in the dictionary.

  13. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/21/2020 - 11:04 am.

    One interesting thing about Eric’s piece, and a general characteristic of most “media” attempts at self criticism or responses to criticism- is the persistent failure to recognize the meta-narrative behind the superficial narrative.

    Objectivity and non-bias claims that classical journalists tend to cling to are a superficial narrative based on illusion and delusion. The idea that journalist stand outside partisan politics, ideology, and bias when they practice “balanced” journalism has always been a facile claim. In point of fact the “balance” criteria is it’s own ideology and style that restricts and contains discourse. Balanced reporting and commentary limits and marginalized information, ideas outside the narrow confines of bipartisan discourse, while legitimizing pseudo-controversies that service the status quo.

    Consider for instance the practical effect of promoting the psuedo-controversies regarding climate change and the theory of evolution. While pseudo-science and ignorance are given credibility in order to meet the demands of “balance”, the REAL outcome is to suppress and marginalize threats to the status quo.

    The meta-narrative is a media that services elite power structures and status quo-politics by using the rationale of “balance” to restrict possibilities and marginalize threats to the status quo. The myth of balance also promotes an artificially restricted political and ideological landscape. You can see this status quo promotion for instance with the media attempt to convert a few tense moment between Warren and Sanders into a battle royal of epic proportions. Setting aside the issue who or how much the Warren-Sanders tension could hurt… ask yourself who it helps?

    When you step back from the superficial narrative organized around “balance” and look at the meta-narrative behind THAT narrative the problem Eric is discussing becomes much more transparent.

    The “balance” narrative ties the media to elite interests, and relies on proximity and access to the elite to establish its credibility. That reliance on access and proximity is the fatal flaw of the “balance” narrative. Sure, the “balanced” media tries to cope with Trump now, but for decades their reliance on proximity and access led them to celebrate and fetishize the guy.

    The problem now is that the media is losing credibility along with the establishment they depend on for credibility and access. The problem isn’t how the media is covering Trump, the problem is how they’re NOT covering the rise of Fascism. Forget Trump, where’s the critical coverage of House and Senate Republicans? Sure, some in the consensus media have managed to make themselves comfortable with criticizing Trump’s lies, but what about McConnel, Pence, Devos, Pawlenty, and Emmer?

    While we may not be able to accuse Eric and his comrades of “sanitizing” Trump, we can make a pretty good case they are and have been sanitizing Republicans and Republican agendas. When was the last time you saw a critical piece about Gazelka, even Jason Lewis?

    Sure, Trump is the designated Republican they can all criticize, but the focus on Trump serves to distract us from the larger systemic crises that drives the rise of Fascism and failures of consensus bi-partisanship. In some ways the focus on Trump actually empowers him by leaving the real crises untouched and unrecognized.

    • Submitted by Bob Johnson on 01/21/2020 - 02:20 pm.

      It’s a pleasure to read your thoughts and take on this, Paul.
      Excellent insight at drawing facts together to form opinions.

      I recall MSNBC / CNN showing an empty podium in hopes Trump would soon arrive while Hillary was actually speaking at a podium.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/22/2020 - 10:18 am.

        My most sickening memory of those debates was the time moderators let Trump lurk behind Clinton and literally stalk her when she spoke. The moderators should have stopped it right there and told him to return to his seat.

  14. Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 01/21/2020 - 11:50 am.

    Trump would not be able to lie so much and get away with it, if corporate/mainstream media were not so good at cheerleading/manufacturing consent for eternal war profiteering, Monopoly/oligarchy, epic income inequality and the destruction of biodiversity in the name of economics

  15. Submitted by Henry Johnson on 01/21/2020 - 12:25 pm.

    Eric is right, the whole thesis about the media being responsible for the actions of someone they are covering is nonsense.

    Personally, I hate to say it, but I’d put much of the blame for “getting away with it” on the far too often apathetic, disinterested American electorate, and ironically among the very groups that have the most to lose by being disinterested and apathetic.

    The overall percentage of those eligible voters who actually voted in 2016 was 61.4%. according to the article linked-to below.

    That means almost 40% of our voting age citizens don’t give a damn about their own country enough about their own country to spend a few hours to go vote every 4 years. How pathetic is that?

    It’s true the republicans are trying to make it harder to vote in those areas where more likely-to-vote-democratic people live, but I think the impact of that probably is probably just a few percentage points, not a whopping 40%.

    And the actual voting rate for younger people is even more pathetically low at a dismal 50% in 2016.

    Again, ironically these are people who unlike myself have most of their lives in front of them, so they, not me, will be most affected by the direction this country is steering itself in.

    Yet, 50% of young people can’t be bothered to vote.

    People under 29 years old and younger tend to favor democratic candidates over republicans by a huge average of 20 points!!

    But I guess they are too busy “waiting for the world to change” as a John Mayer song goes, to give up non-stop phone texting long enough to go out and MAKE some change, instead of “waiting for it”. (Don’t get me wrong, love Mayer’s music, but the lyrics of that song are a terrible message to give out IMO).

    If the young people voting rate had been 75% in 2016, Trump would have lost badly, due to young people’s 20 point preference for democratic candidates.

    In similar fashion, you would think that Hispanics, who had been smeared and insulted and targeted by president Trump during the campaign, would have a higher than average voting participation rate.

    But nope, according to the article below it was 47.6%, over 12% lower than the average rate for all groups. Can’t be bothered to go vote.

    Asians had a similar low rate at 49%, and blacks somewhat closer to the average, but still below it, at 59.4%

    On the other hand, the rate for people age 65 and older was 70%.

    Whites clocked in at 65.3%, and I would guess, those age 65 and over and white might be more 75%

    So is it really any surprise that we have a government run by so many old white people, and 3 of the top 4 democratic candidates are old white people?

    And my guess is that among the true Trump believers crowd, the voter participation rate might be as high as 90%!! (just a guess)

    So the old expression “we get the government we deserve” might be sadly true.

    Not “we” the people who comment on this board who obviously are politically engaged, but “we” as a society, where almost 40% can’t spare a few hours to vote every 4 years, while my guess is that 90% of those who buy-in to someone like Trump DO vote.

    I would say apathy and general disinterest among a large swath of our electorate is perhaps a big, big part of our political system’s problems and our country’s problems.

    When almost 40% of a nation’s population isn’t even willing to vote, and I’d guess another 30% probably don’t really follow politics or care that much, a lot of mischief by politicians supported by a cult-like minority can be “gotten away with”, to use the phrase referred to in Eric’s article.

    Here’s an article where I got a lot of the percentages mentioned here –

    • Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 01/21/2020 - 05:03 pm.

      “That means almost 40% of our voting age citizens don’t give a damn about their own country enough about their own country to spend a few hours to go vote every 4 years. How pathetic is that?”

      Not as pathetic as both parties abandoning the poor and working poor in favor of corporations, banks and billionaires. Nor as pathetic as the media etc calling us consumers 10,000 times for every one time we are called citizens. Nor as pathetic as the idea that voting every four years for the lesser of two evils is democracy.

    • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 01/21/2020 - 06:31 pm.

      Henry – I concur in your diagnosis. In my comment above, though, I suggest that the mainstream media are deeply responsible for the condition you describe.

      As I came downstairs this morning, my spouse had NPR on (she agrees to turn it off in my presence). Reporting on McConnell’s plan to rush impeachment consideration thru in the dead of night, without evidence, without public access, began something like this: “Democrats contend that the Senate format for impeachment proceedings is inadequate and unfair.”

      I have paraphrased most of the sentence, as I don’t remember it verbatim, but what I haven’t paraphrased is the opening three words: “Democrats contend that….” To the many who, for different reasons, do not engage as their civic responsibility requires, all they hear from the mainstream media are those three words, over and over, day after day (substituting, of course, various other parties for “Democrats”). This is how a third of the citizenry is programmed to believe it is all “he said, she said,” all “politics,” all “both sides do it.” From there, it is the tiniest of mental steps to the conclusion that politics is others jostling for their own aims and voting is a pointless act.

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