What If There’s a Reason?

Reading time – 1:54; Viewing time – 3:12  .  .  .

Candidate Trump carried on an unrelenting war on the “dishonest press.” He declared that they are all liars, that they can’t be trusted. Now, as president, he has made the stunning pronouncement that the press is the enemy of the American people. Note that’s the same message V.I. Lenin delivered in establishing communism in Russia. All of Trump’s claims are true, he admonishes, except, of course, for those few who report favorably about him.

Clearly, there are some in the press who have an agenda other than simply reporting the news and calling out that behavior has some merit. On the other hand, that describes only a very small percentage of reporters (can you name even one?) and certainly doesn’t describe those from major outlets, like The New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. Still, Trump has pummeled those and others with a continuous blistering attack of vague, vitriolic accusations.

But what if there is more to this than Trump’s mental pathology? What if there are practical explanations for his fusillades? Let’s see if we can conjure what those might be. I have two to offer.

First, this is a time of populist anger at anything that might fall into the category of “establishment,” so attacking such things as the mainstream press both gives voice to the anger of the people and establishes Trump as one of the people. Really, how else would a farmer in Nebraska be able to identify with a gold-plated elitist from New York? That’s a powerful ploy, powerful enough to get him elected.

Second, and this is the truly pernicious one, imagine what is to come. There already has been a great deal of reporting on Trump’s business activities and the specter of conflict of interest and perhaps outright law breaking is more than a shadow on the horizon. To expect further revelations from determined investigative journalists is realistic and Trump won’t like that reporting. His only defenses will be to lie about it and to attack the reporters. If journalists are held in low enough esteem by then (and the national approval rating of the press is currently about the same as that of Congress), he may be able to get the people to ignore or even oppose adverse accusations about him. He may be able to yet again portray himself as an innocent victim of a dishonest press. Without that Fourth Estate to protect us, he may be able to spark a populist uprising against Congress itself. Who knows what will happen from that?

What’s your notion of why Trump maintains the drumbeat of attack on the press? Enter it in the Comments section below so we can think about this together.

As a corollary to this question, you must read Bret Stephens’ comments delivered at the Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture at the University of California, Los Angeles (here in print and here in video, which includes additional discussion). In this age of “alternative facts” and the mind numbing acceptance of what should be found abhorrent, Stephens will restore your belief in integrity and make you believe that it still lives.

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  • Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.
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6 Responses to What If There’s a Reason?
  1. Sharon Sanders Reply

    Trump is a narcissistic egocentric sociopath. So many great labels to give him. They all boil down to the fact that he’s the worst possible person, along with his buddy Bannon, to run this country. They are not the only ones, but they are in charge right now–and our country is in great danger of imploding–also, watch out for the Kochs and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). They all have their hands in the cookie jar.

    • Paul Winsor Reply

      Yes he is. Yes they are.

      He needs to be removed from office no later than 4 yrs from now and lose the Republican hold on Congress in 2 years.

      However we need many of the 61 million President Trump & 65 million national Republican voters to arrive at this point of view and change their vote next time.

      Challenging their core beliefs is not likely to get them to make a considered choice.

      They don t believe things will be that bad. They don t believe that a free press tells them the truth. So if we start with the free press and the truth, we can agree on something. The free press cannot provide the truth, only their interpretation of set of incomplete reference material. So,alt facts exist. Below is a non-political example.

      So next time you engage with a “stupid” Trump voter, maybe start by agreeing with one of their core beliefs. The free press can provide the facts to the best of their ability with the limited information they have and space available. Sometimes biases exist. It is not the truth!

      So the stupid person is now nodding their head. Based on the concept of psychological reciprocity, most people will then be drawn to agree with the next thing you say.

      What should that statement be? My guess is, “I’m scared, how do you feel?”

      Example for alt facts:

      CBC News Dec 16, 2014 (Public broadcaster)

      “Canadian generosity in decline with just 22.3% of tax filers giving to charity.”

      CTV News Nov 14, 2014. (Private broadcaster – Bell Media)

      “Charitable giving in Canada up 8% in 2014: Poll”

      Which is right? Are there obvious biases? Hmmm. Alt fact, facts, theories…definitely no truth.

  2. Jim Altschuler Reply

    Trump reminds me of a cobra — he slithers around, tries to hide himself in flora that is similar to his own coloring, rears up and makes himself look bigger by spreading his “hood” to scare his opponent and/or intended victim, them methodically strikes with a painful bite and enough venom to make to make the attack-ee really sick.

    By the way, I really like your tie.

  3. Paul winsor Reply

    Jack, I did read it several times. I don t want President Trump to succeed in a coup that eliminates your democracy. If that is his end game then he must be stopped!

    In order to influence the 61,201,031 citizens that voted for President Trump we need their effort and compromise to turn the country in a better direction.

    To influence them and start a civil conversation we need to avoid challenging their Core Beliefs. In my view the discussion about facts, alternate facts, lies, exaggerations, under statements, etc is a hotbed of potential conflict.

    The issue I have is about facts and truth. Journalists, at best, provide information that, to the best of their knowledge, is accepted as true,

    As Bret Stephen’s boss said, journalism, builds fact upon fact until a cathedral appears. That is never absolutely correct. There is always room for differences of opinion even with the same reference information. Hence banging this drum will challenge CB’s.

    That said, reality is always fuzzy. As an example, imagine a journalist wrote about an annual meeting we had in the Water treatment industry. The journalist, read the agenda, minutes and interviewed some attendees. The article is 10 paragraphs long. Do you think that this would be truth or facts? No, everyone at the meeting had a different point of view and remembered what was important to them.

    Free Press is critical. It is never the truth, it is an effort to express the truth to the best of the journalists knowledge and skill.

    Why does this matter?

    Accept it, we won t ever know the truth. Trump is right on that point. Those that believe in Trump will not turn towards you if you argue about something they rightfully don t agree with.

    We need to beat the drum about something all sides agree on – common ground.

  4. Paul winsor Reply

    Have you ever been reported on? About your business or a personal achievement.

    Did you notice something?

    It is aggravating to read it? So many exaggerations and missing thoughts.

    Often the press are not experts in the field they report on. They find a tidbit of an issue, research, editorial process, then release it and then on to the next one.

    Politicians are normally very diplomatic and absorb the frustration, put on a big smile and carry on.

    Trump does not seem like that. When he feels that frustration it turns to anger, disgust and he retaliates immediately while holding a get even grudge.

    Which is better the politician that sucks it up (hides the feelings) or one that wears his emotions on his sleeve.

    Obviously Americans disagree on that.

    • Jack Altschuler Reply

      Paul, I think you’re far too kind and accepting of Trump and what he is doing. I urge you to watch the video or read the text of Bret Stephens’ address, both linked within the written blog. Note his comment that Trump’s criticisms are darkly brilliant. It’s the “darkly” part that I find deeply troubling.