Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Donald Trump and American Anger

Donald Trump gives a peace sign at CPAC 2013 conference.
Donald Trump at CPAC 2013. (image courtesy of Gage Skimore)

8/27/2016 Justin Arn

While the national press continues to dog on both the electorate-at-large and Donald Trump for believing in "unfounded conspiracy theories," I have generally held my tongue.  But this morning I had the misfortune of reading an article regarding fact-checking on Facebook. The jist of it was that a concerted effort was going to be made to thwart hoax news and disinformation that is frankly, pervasive on the social media giant.

Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, I found the piece extraordinarily condescending to the public-at-large. The implication made by the article and by most national news outlets is that the public does no research whatsoever, and simply accepts everything it reads. This piece, written by and for professional 'fact-checkers,' hurrahs the profession, extolling the desperate need for fact-checking and research in a age when outright lies assail the American consciousness at every turn. I agree with that view to a certain extent, but feel that the origins of the current milieu of disinformation must be accounted for as well, and that this society of fact-checkers bears some responsibility, and that the national press corps bears most of it.

The national news media has no ground to stand upon in judging Americans' penchant for believing in, what the press may feel, are unfounded allegations. Time and again it has proven itself unworthy of the task it so boldly claims of holding government and power structure accountable. On the contrary, the mass media seem more complicit in disinformation dissemination, than integral to its abolition.

Below is my response to the article I read this morning.
It is an admonition of journalism for wrapping itself in the righteousness of truth, while at the same time ignoring its utter failures to present any semblance of that truth to the public.

Stylized Image of Donald Trump, By John Haines at Pixabay
Trump and Trust in Media

I'm very glad to have come across the article you've published about fact-checking. It was brief, informative, and frankly, provides some hope for the future of objectivity. Having a Facebook Page that's dedicated to helping researchers arrive at truth using digital tools and exhaustive research, it is meaningful to see how other groups in society are responding to what I can only describe as the rampant disinformation, that clutters up Facebook feeds.

I do have a question for you, however, and I believe it is relevant to this entire issue. I would posit that the rise in disinformation, and more importantly, the public' susceptibility to it over the last dozen years is, likely, proportional to the falling confidence and trust the general public has in the western mass media as a whole.
Here's a Gallup Poll  for reference.

Has the media asked itself  why the confidence of the public is so shaken?
Therein lies the root of the problem, wouldn't you say?

Every time I hear or read the press discussing this very topic, their conclusions sounds like boilerplate nonsense. No-one seems to have an answer as to why only 4 in 10 Americans trust the mass media to report fairly and accurately.

Ironically, you hear those same junk answers coming from newscasters and conservative pundits these days attempting to explain the rise of Donald Trump. It is clear they have no idea how this man is appealing to so many voting Americans. "People must be angry or something, right?"
Yeah. right.

Yes, Americans are falling for unchecked facts and wild stories in record numbers it seems. Although I'm not a Trump supporter, I can tell you what it is that is making the pundits scratch their heads. They won't believe me anyway. They're too pretentious for that.

The reason Trump won the Republican nomination and may even win the election is simple. He is confirming to people the things they already believe. He's telling them what, in their minds, amounts to truth. And some of these “truths” seem to directly contradict your “facts.” He is appealing to that side of the American mind that is angry about the financial crisis. After all, the American People still remember all those financial “facts” about home prices that the media was spouting out for years before the crash.  They were very helpful indeed.

They are angry over Iraq, and Afghanistan, and the entire global fiasco that is American foreign policy. Of course the mass media has been there the whole time spitting out government supplied “facts” through each of these campaigns. They are angry about the 9/11 story, and the complicity of anyone that has doggedly adhered to the absurd narrative of those days' government issued “facts.”

And lastly, they are angry at the mass media for having completely failed in its duty to accurately, fairly, and completely, report to the American public those things that it had and still has a duty report upon.

The American people have stopped seeing a difference between the press and the politicians. Everyone is complicit. That is not what you want to hear but it is how the public, the real public is feeling. And that is the press' fault.
You had a job to do. You failed. Your job, was to speak truth to power... You still fail.

Unless your name is Seymour Hersh, or you work for The Intercept, Propublica, or one of the few other news outlets that are doing honest reporting these days, the American press corp should quit bitching about what the public "falls for," and focus on the crap they are broadcasting to that very public.  The fact is that all this complaining is just another way of  propagandizing.  Besides, it is the press' great failure over the last dozen years or so that has aroused such disdain for “facts” these days, anyway.

Moreover, until the press comes to terms with its own complicity, and realizes that its ultimate responsibility is at odds with those upon whom it reports; that the white house correspondents dinner is a kick in the teeth to most citizens, we can expect Americans to get their news from sources who haven't necessarily checked all their “facts.” But then, hey, no big deal, it's not as though we can say that the mass media checked any of theirs either, right?

The message to the press is this: trust in the media and whatever facts they come up with can begin being rebuilt one way and one way only. Revision.

You want people to believe you? Why don't you start by taking Oliver Stone's advice and quit referring to the Kennedy assassination as anything but a coup. Why don't you start asking yourself some simple questions like how does an airplane made aluminum that is irreparably damaged by geese manage to punch a hole through solid concrete, even in the wing section? Or how does an entire building free fall collapse despite suffering no apparent damage whatsoever?  That was a historical first by the way... Hell there may even be a news-story there!

Protesters in New York City carry saying "World Trade Center Building 7 didn't just blow itself Up!"
Building 7 didn't just blow itself up! .... or did it?

I don't care about Donald Trump and give even fewer f*cks about Hillary Clinton. We as a Nation are screwed either way. Bernie Sanders may have been the only chance this country had to redeem itself in this election season.  But wait, the national media reported that Hillary Clinton had won the Democratic nomination before California had even finished voting... I wonder how in the world anyone went about checking that "fact."
Great Job guys.
Truth to Power, remember?

This article by Mattathias Schwartz from TheIntercept.com may further elucidate my point.