How the Press Lies about Itself

Ever notice how the press smushes stuff together?  If you say something about illegal immigration, like how you don't want it, the media say you're against immigration in general, which is to say "brown people," which is to say, aha, you have been exposed for what you are: a racist, a bad person, probably a Republican, and quite possibly a World Wrestling Entertainment habitué.  All this for pointing out something no more complicated than that when you decide to have laws, they ought to be obeyed, and when they're not obeyed, they should be enforced.  You want to say no, no, no, it's only illegal immigration I want to have a look at, but they blur the lines, pretending you're saying something you're not, something broader than that, so you can be vilified and ridiculed for the stupid, racist thing you're not saying.

In the same way, you can be very much in favor of the free press but against dishonest, agenda-driven reporting – i.e., "fake news."  In each set, one of these things – legal immigration and the free press – is not like the other one – illegal immigration and fake news – and that's true no matter how much somebody scruple-challenged might bleat otherwise in order to gain purchase on a fraudulent, dishonest position.

Make no mistake: all this smushing together of things does not flow from sloppiness or lack of discipline – it is purposeful.  It's how they get away with flat-out lying about things, smearing those they disagree with and whom, therefore, they wish to invalidate, and it's why claiming there is no such thing as fake news is itself fake news.  How's that for a hall of mirrors?

I'm not sure who decided they're allowed to do this, to vilify you for saying something they say you're saying rather than something you're actually saying, but somebody did, because it's quite a feature these days.

Maybe it was this guy A.G. Sulzberger, the publisher of The New York Times, who met with the president on July 20 to decry Trump's "anti-press rhetoric" and "attacks against journalism," which would make you think Trump is anti-press and that he attacks journalism when  the things that get his knickers in a twist have nothing to do with bona fide journalism.  In fact, Trump opposes such techniques as leaving things out that would completely change the story if diligently reported; de-contextualizing to create a false impression; relentless repetition of negatives while studiously averting one's gaze from anything positive; overwhelming use of anonymous, uncheckable sources; and so on, all in the service of a particular agenda, a particular point of view.  That is fake news.  Rather than reporting facts – all of them – and then letting those facts illuminate truth, the media decide first what the truth is, by their lights, and then report only those things that support that truth – their truth – while omitting the ones that, if reported, would only serve to obscure their truth.

Watch for it: watch how ego-bloated mediocrities like Jim Acosta vault atop their high horses, posturing like the Lone Ranger.  They cite the genuinely courageous deeds of any number of international reporters.  They recite a long litany of authentically important journalistic mandates – as if it were those things Trump is complaining about, as if it were those things Trump would put an end to.  That being the case, they declaim, there is much at stake, and he must be destroyed as a matter of maintaining the sanctity of the fourth estate and saving the Republic.  They are the knights; Trump is the dragon.  This sort of thing is as dishonest as it gets, and yet the Acostas of the world who ride it for all it's worth would have you believe they embody a special kind of nobility.  You can't even call it a straw dummy.  It's an erector set of calculated misdirection promulgated by people who inhabit perhaps the only industry that would tolerate, let alone applaud and support, this particular form of unrefined mendacity. 

They need to be called out on it every single time, that's how important this fight is.  Whenever they pretend Trump is attacking something he's not, he needs to relentlessly point out: I'm not against the free press.  I'm against fake news that is destroying the free press.  You're the ones endangering the free press, not me.  I'm trying to save it.

He's not wrong in this, and the saddest spectacles are the Republicans and conservatives, themselves the victims of a biased press over and over for years, who are, unlike Trump, too timid to stand up to these media and who want to immunize themselves from the media attacks the likes of which Trump experiences daily.  They therefore chime in that, yes, they agree that it's really quite unfortunate, don't you know, and a bad idea for Trump to be attacking the free press – as if that's what he's doing – and thereby validating the smear.

Preservation of the First Amendment and protection of a free press require foursquare resistance to an astonishingly arrogant group of minimally talented hacks with a massive ethical blind spot and an inordinate, unearned cache of power that they are completely incapable of wielding responsibly.  It is they, not Trump, who pose a threat to the foundational role of the free press.  There are real reporters out there, and they are heroes.  These are people like Sharyl Attkisson; Bob Costas; Katherine Herridge; and, thank heaven, a decent number of others...

They are fighting a tough battle.  That is the exquisite, excruciating irony: the biggest threat today to a free press is not Trump, who's doing everything he can to blow the whistle on the people putting Walter Lippmann branded lipstick on a partisan political pig and calling it news.  It's the people claiming that an attack on that is an attack on the free press itself.  Phooey.  Getting rid of the tsunami of fake news will save the free press.  For that Trump should be applauded and supported by anyone who really does understand the essential role of the press and the critical need to keep it honest, which does not include, unfortunately, much of the press itself.

Henry Scanlon is a writer and photographer from Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.  See more at www.henryscanlon.com.  Twitter: hscanlon33.

Ever notice how the press smushes stuff together?  If you say something about illegal immigration, like how you don't want it, the media say you're against immigration in general, which is to say "brown people," which is to say, aha, you have been exposed for what you are: a racist, a bad person, probably a Republican, and quite possibly a World Wrestling Entertainment habitué.  All this for pointing out something no more complicated than that when you decide to have laws, they ought to be obeyed, and when they're not obeyed, they should be enforced.  You want to say no, no, no, it's only illegal immigration I want to have a look at, but they blur the lines, pretending you're saying something you're not, something broader than that, so you can be vilified and ridiculed for the stupid, racist thing you're not saying.

In the same way, you can be very much in favor of the free press but against dishonest, agenda-driven reporting – i.e., "fake news."  In each set, one of these things – legal immigration and the free press – is not like the other one – illegal immigration and fake news – and that's true no matter how much somebody scruple-challenged might bleat otherwise in order to gain purchase on a fraudulent, dishonest position.

Make no mistake: all this smushing together of things does not flow from sloppiness or lack of discipline – it is purposeful.  It's how they get away with flat-out lying about things, smearing those they disagree with and whom, therefore, they wish to invalidate, and it's why claiming there is no such thing as fake news is itself fake news.  How's that for a hall of mirrors?

I'm not sure who decided they're allowed to do this, to vilify you for saying something they say you're saying rather than something you're actually saying, but somebody did, because it's quite a feature these days.

Maybe it was this guy A.G. Sulzberger, the publisher of The New York Times, who met with the president on July 20 to decry Trump's "anti-press rhetoric" and "attacks against journalism," which would make you think Trump is anti-press and that he attacks journalism when  the things that get his knickers in a twist have nothing to do with bona fide journalism.  In fact, Trump opposes such techniques as leaving things out that would completely change the story if diligently reported; de-contextualizing to create a false impression; relentless repetition of negatives while studiously averting one's gaze from anything positive; overwhelming use of anonymous, uncheckable sources; and so on, all in the service of a particular agenda, a particular point of view.  That is fake news.  Rather than reporting facts – all of them – and then letting those facts illuminate truth, the media decide first what the truth is, by their lights, and then report only those things that support that truth – their truth – while omitting the ones that, if reported, would only serve to obscure their truth.

Watch for it: watch how ego-bloated mediocrities like Jim Acosta vault atop their high horses, posturing like the Lone Ranger.  They cite the genuinely courageous deeds of any number of international reporters.  They recite a long litany of authentically important journalistic mandates – as if it were those things Trump is complaining about, as if it were those things Trump would put an end to.  That being the case, they declaim, there is much at stake, and he must be destroyed as a matter of maintaining the sanctity of the fourth estate and saving the Republic.  They are the knights; Trump is the dragon.  This sort of thing is as dishonest as it gets, and yet the Acostas of the world who ride it for all it's worth would have you believe they embody a special kind of nobility.  You can't even call it a straw dummy.  It's an erector set of calculated misdirection promulgated by people who inhabit perhaps the only industry that would tolerate, let alone applaud and support, this particular form of unrefined mendacity. 

They need to be called out on it every single time, that's how important this fight is.  Whenever they pretend Trump is attacking something he's not, he needs to relentlessly point out: I'm not against the free press.  I'm against fake news that is destroying the free press.  You're the ones endangering the free press, not me.  I'm trying to save it.

He's not wrong in this, and the saddest spectacles are the Republicans and conservatives, themselves the victims of a biased press over and over for years, who are, unlike Trump, too timid to stand up to these media and who want to immunize themselves from the media attacks the likes of which Trump experiences daily.  They therefore chime in that, yes, they agree that it's really quite unfortunate, don't you know, and a bad idea for Trump to be attacking the free press – as if that's what he's doing – and thereby validating the smear.

Preservation of the First Amendment and protection of a free press require foursquare resistance to an astonishingly arrogant group of minimally talented hacks with a massive ethical blind spot and an inordinate, unearned cache of power that they are completely incapable of wielding responsibly.  It is they, not Trump, who pose a threat to the foundational role of the free press.  There are real reporters out there, and they are heroes.  These are people like Sharyl Attkisson; Bob Costas; Katherine Herridge; and, thank heaven, a decent number of others...

They are fighting a tough battle.  That is the exquisite, excruciating irony: the biggest threat today to a free press is not Trump, who's doing everything he can to blow the whistle on the people putting Walter Lippmann branded lipstick on a partisan political pig and calling it news.  It's the people claiming that an attack on that is an attack on the free press itself.  Phooey.  Getting rid of the tsunami of fake news will save the free press.  For that Trump should be applauded and supported by anyone who really does understand the essential role of the press and the critical need to keep it honest, which does not include, unfortunately, much of the press itself.

Henry Scanlon is a writer and photographer from Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.  See more at www.henryscanlon.com.  Twitter: hscanlon33.