In a recent Washington Examiner article, “New poll shows why Trump’s ‘enemy of the people’ attacks on the media work,” Philip Klein broke down the results of a Morning Consult/Politico poll taken in the aftermath of the bombs being mailed to more than a dozen of President Donald Trump’s liberal critics and the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting by a “rightwing radical.” However, the implications of the Trump-MSM interplay and the stakes are bigger and more ominous than midterms or 2020.
Klein uses the poll to explain why President Trump’s “enemy of the people” rhetoric is winning with the American people, at least for his political prerogatives, including his 2016 election which he more or less told Axios that labeling the media as the enemy got him in…and he [President Trump] is right. Klein blames the lack of actual journalism in favor of ratings-driven conflict-bait. According the poll, President Trump is winning simply because he feeds the vicious us vs. them cycle perpetuating that political framework. Fifty-six percent of registered voters saw President Trump as being divisive but, more importantly, 64 percent believe the media is being even more divisive. The media attacks President Donald Trump but get the blowback from these attacks in addition to whatever “fake news” or “enemy” label he is directing at them.
Barring any significant shift in rhetoric or mainstream media coverage, it is a game President Trump can and will win. Yet, this isn’t a cautionary tale against an aspiring megalomanic hellbent on destroying the Fourth Estate or Freedom of the Press in order to sink in the hooks of neo-fascism. (He’s not.) It is about the media being co-opted by its own, and others’, political interests and agendas to the point that they are kompromat. There is a stark and ominous lack of effort at reconciliation along with the lack of honest mistakes, both contributing to the political polarization straining America’s democratic transition of power, a legitimacy requisite for our nation to function.
Equanimity of treatment in reporting about President Trump will not fix what has been exposed: a significant strategic vulnerability to domestic and foreign political influence operations, aided and abetted by the breakneck pace of social media as a formal and informal news delivery platform. The people who watched the fawning over and adulation of the former POTUS, and the bending over backwards to sweep the merest whiff of scandal under the minimal-to-zero coverage rug, know it.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi last week essentially said there will only be a restoration of civility if the Democrats win the House. Does she get a free pass because President Trump called CNN #FakeNews or tweeted about the “failing” New York Times? Does it really matter? No. This tit-for-tat is juvenile, distracting and degrading, turning us effectively into our own trashy reality infotainment show where we, useful idiots that we are, all die at the end. The joke is on us unless we refuse to play the game – Left, Right, Center or Indifferent. Think.
It’s the age of the Internet. Do your own research and take the emotion out of it. Play detective. CNN says this but FOX says that. Who are their sources? What are their motives/agendas? What else is happening beyond the context of this or that in the article or in the news clip? Because news – and politics – does not happen in a vacuum and it is not crafted with perfect information and even the most scrupulous journalist (or host) has biases; the worthwhile ones just know to do their homework and to check their egos and agendas in the green room.
This is not how modern media is supposed to work, at least in a healthy, functioning constitutional republic. This is how media is used pre-revolution or during war: It is weaponized for political ends and this is the blinking red light for a nation without the means to effectively control a careening press without fueling authoritarian conspiracy theory or actually becoming one. This time around, however, the revolution won’t be for Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Just ask our Founding Fathers.