The wages of fake news

This article by Victor Davis Hanson at the Hoover Institution’s “Defining Ideas” Journal offers an excellent compendium of the bogus reporting through which the mainstream media has attempted to take President Trump down. Hanson writes:

In just his first month in office, reporters have already peddled dozens of fake news stories designed to discredit the President—to such a degree that little they now write or say can be taken at face value.

No, Trump did not have any plans to invade Mexico, as Buzzfeed and the Associated Press alleged.

No, Trump’s father did not run for Mayor of New York by peddling racist television ads, as reported by Sidney Blumenthal.

No, there were not mass resignations at the State Department in protest of its new leaders, as was reported by the Washington Post.

No, Trump’s attorney did not cut a deal with the Russians in Prague. Nor did Trump indulge in sexual escapades in Moscow. Buzzfeed again peddled those fake news stories.

No, a supposedly racist Trump did not remove the bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from the White House, as a Time Magazine reporter claimed.

No, election results in three states were not altered by hackers or computer criminals to give Trump the election, as implied by New York Magazine.

No, Michael Flynn did not tweet that he was a scapegoat. That was a media fantasy endorsed by Nancy Pelosi.

Want more? Hanson refers us to Daniel Payne at The Federalist.

Looking ahead, Hanson wonders how seriously we should take the alarmist pronouncements of media stalwarts like Ezra Klein, Glenn Thrush, and Dana Milbank:

Ezra Klein at Vox just wrote a warning about the autocratic tendencies of Donald Trump. Should we believe him? Perhaps not. Klein was the originator of Journolist, a “left-leaning” private online chat room of journalists that was designed to coordinate media narratives that would enhance Democratic politicians and in particular Barack Obama. Such past collusion begs the question of whether Klein is really disinterested now in the fashion that he certainly was not during the Obama administration.

Recently, New York Times White House correspondent Glenn Thrush coauthored a report about initial chaos among the Trump White House staff, replete with unidentified sources. Should we believe Thrush’s largely negative story?

Perhaps. But then again, Thrush not so long ago turned up in the Wikileaks troves as sending a story to Hillary Clinton aide John Podesta for prepublication audit. Thrush was his own honest critic, admitting to Podesta: “Because I have become a hack I will send u the whole section that pertains to u. Please don’t share or tell anyone I did this Tell me if I f**ked up anything.”

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post has become a fierce critic of President Trump. Are his writs accurate? Milbank also appeared in Wikileaks, asking the Democratic National Committee to provide him with free opposition research for a negative column he was writing about candidate Trump. Are Milbank’s latest attacks his own—or once again coordinated with Democratic researchers?

I have reservations about President Trump. I worry, for example, about the “autocratic tendencies” Klein alleges. But I’m not prepared to take attacks by any of these three partisans seriously (it has been years since I’ve taken Milbank seriously).

Hanson continues:

[T]he election in 2008 of Barack Obama marked a watershed, when a traditionally liberal media abandoned prior pretenses of objectivity and actively promoted the candidacy and presidency of their preferred candidate. The media practically pronounced him god, the smartest man ever to enter the presidency, and capable of creating electric sensations down the legs of reporters. The supposedly hard-hitting press corps asked Obama questions such as, “During these first 100 days, what has …enchanted you the most from serving in this office? Humbled you the most…?”

Obama, as the first African-American president—along with his progressive politics that were to the left of traditional Democratic policies, enraptured reporters who felt disinterested coverage might endanger what otherwise was a rare and perhaps not-to-be-repeated moment.

We are now in a media arena where there are no rules. The New York Times is no longer any more credible than talk radio; CNN—whose reporters have compared Trump to Hitler and gleefully joked about his plane crashing—should be no more believed than a blogger’s website. Buzzfeed has become like the National Inquirer.

In this context, the new president stands to gain much at little cost, at least for now, by treating the media as the nemesis it is:

Trump now communicates, often raucously and unfiltered, directly with the American people, to ensure his message is not distorted and massaged by reporters who have a history of doing just that. Unfortunately, it is up to the American people now to audit their own president’s assertions.

The problem is not just that the media is often not reliable, but that it is predictably unreliable. It has ceased to exist as an auditor of government.

Ironically the media that sacrificed its reputation to glorify Obama and demonize Trump has empowered the new President in a way never quite seen before. At least for now, Trump can say or do almost anything he wishes without media scrutiny—given that reporters have far less credibility than does Trump.

Sad, but very possibly true.

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