President Trump amped up attacks on the mainstream media last month with an email to Republican supporters where he once again calls the press an “enemy of the people.”
According to a report from industry publication Broadcasting & Cable, the president said, “I’ve said it before and I will say it again: the Mainstream Media is out to bring down my Administration,” and “It’s a 24/7 barrage of hit jobs, fake stories, and absolute hatred for everything we stand for as a movement. They don’t care about the truth. They don’t care about what’s right. They only care about propping up the liberal Democrats they worship and destroying anyone who wants to put America First. There is nothing they won’t do to stop us.”
The point of the email’s language was to bring attention to the GOP’s latest “Mainstream Media Accountability Survey.“ The survey focuses on four specific news outlets, CNN, NBC, MSNBC and Fox News, asking whether each can be trusted to report fairly on Trump’s presidency.
Oddly enough, the survey popped up in my Facebook feed, so I had a look. The questions are not only stilted, they have the faint scent of a threat. The survey is the stuff of an autocrat wannabe, when the reporting of facts make the leader look less than savory, it gets spun as unpatriotic.
For example, the first question asks: “Do you trust the mainstream media to put the interests of Americans first?”
When it does the job correctly, the press does indeed put America first, because they report facts. The press isn’t called the fourth estate because they serve as the White House public relations firm. Although vast swaths of people may not like what they read or hear in the news, the checks and balances the press provides—does us all a very big favor.
Truth be told, facts arm us all with the the tools necessary to make informed decisions.
It’s pretty clear that the Trump administration’s campaign against truth has a lot to do with the amount of ink and airtime Russia has consumed. But these are the stories that are showing us how important it is to weed out unsavory actors from positions of influence.
For example, how is the reporting that led to the downfall of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates unpatriotic? Why are meticulously reported stories about Mike Flynn, his son or other current or former power brokers within the Trump machine not putting America first?
Manafort, Gates and Flynn would likely be in the White House today, holding positions of power, were it not for the mainstream media’s dogged pursuit of truth.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Oct. 30 that “today’s announcement (of Manafort and Gates arrest) has nothing to do with the president, has nothing to do with the president’s campaign or campaign activity.”
But up is down and right is left if one takes Sanders literally. What she says is simply not true.
And there are plenty of Republicans who know—deep in their hearts—that Sanders and other members of the administration who engage in blatant dishonesty are being unethical as they blather lie after lie. But instead of calling it out, they make excuses and cower in closets of self serving political certitude, placing party politics first, not America.
By using stealth tools, such as this survey, to not only influence the narrative, but sow seeds of fundamental doubt in the system of checks and balances, the GOP machine is a willing participant in the campaign of falsehood. Depending on the results, it’s likely this survey will be used by the president to at least threaten the media’s mission. It’s chilling to contemplate that this is what our democracy has evolved into.
Question 21 of the new survey is particularly telling: “Do you believe that the media has been too quick to spread false stories about our movement?”
Exactly what movement are they talking about?
Maybe you too would like to visit the Mainstream Media Survey and share your thoughts.