The 2016 election was won by a person who ran a disgustingly racist campaign, was disliked and distrusted by the majority of Americans and whose fraudulent past was buried under the false mythology of his competence. By the same token, Hillary Clinton was also a disliked and distrusted candidate, as many pundits have opined in their post election analyses. That these pundits analysis is flawed can be seen in the following:
“The fact is that Hillary Clinton wasn’t unpopular when she announced her decision to run in April 2015. If you look at the Gallup survey in March of last year, 50 percent of Americans had a favorable impression of Clinton, only 39 percent an unfavorable one. So there was clearly no deep reservoir of Clinton hatred among the general public at the time. On the contrary: Americans liked her; they liked her quite a bit.
Already by June, however, her favorability had not only taken a hit. It had plummeted. By July, according to Gallup, her favorability hit an all-time low with only 38 percent positively and 57 percent viewing her negatively — putting her 19 points underwater.”
Those paragraphs are from an article by Neil Gabler who detailed his view that our nation’s mainstream media has actually drummed up the hatred of Hillary Clinton, less as a result of animus, but as the result of trying to create a seemingly even handed narrative. I think his logic is compelling. Follow this link “How the Media Manufactured the Public’s Anger at Hillary Clinton” to understand Gabler’s logic. My own premise is to take our phony, fraudster President at his word and understand that indeed “Fake News” is driving most of the political narrative in our country, but to comprehend that he owes his current position solely to “Fake News“.
Journalist Eric Alterman, writing at Bill Moyers and Company , analyzes a scholarly study from Harvard titled: Partisanship, Propaganda, and Disinformation: Online Media and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. Alterman’s piece appears in Salon headlined How conservatives manipulated the mainstream media to give us President Trump. Alterman concludes:
“Today we are living that disaster in the form of a president who is a racist, sexist, Islamophobic psychopath, and it is long past time that the members of the mainstream media woke up to the threat not only to their livelihoods, but to their entire reason for being. It’s a cliché, to be sure, but when it comes to a lie-filled media cloud, if you’re not part of the solution, then you are truly part of the problem.”
Alterman introduces the Harvard study’s conception of a media cloud as a device:
“to help us visualize the manner in which media is actually consumed. Because people tend to get their news in a haphazard way these days — picking up stories from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, local TV, talk radio, cable, network news, newsweeklies, daily newspapers, and the websites that may or may not be part of a daily diet — it doesn’t make sense to simply treat media consumption as a matter of statistics. Sure, many sources — like this one, for instance — are far more trustworthy when it comes to facts and evidence than many others, but most news consumers do not make this distinction.”
The point is that we, the news consumers, have a dizzying number of ways to get our news of the world today and our sources are far more diverse that the newspapers and television news outlets we define as the mainstream media. As he goes on:
“the media cloud project clarifies a number of points that ought to alarm anyone who cares about the future of American democracy and the ability of the mainstream media to cut through the massive layers of propaganda purposely created by far-right elements to confuse facts and undermine evidence. Indeed, what the cloud shows is that the mainstream media is much more likely to follow the lead of the liars than to challenge them.
Among the key findings of the report regarding the reporting of the 2016 election are:
- On the conservative side, more attention was paid to pro-Trump, highly partisan media outlets. On the liberal side, by contrast, the center of gravity was made up largely of long-standing media organizations steeped in the traditions and practices of objective journalism.
- Donald Trump succeeded in shaping the election agenda. Coverage of Trump overwhelmingly outperformed coverage of Clinton. Clinton’s coverage was focused on scandals, while Trump’s coverage focused on his core issues.
- Attempts by the Clinton campaign to define her campaign on competence, experience and policy positions were drowned out by coverage of alleged improprieties associated with the Clinton Foundation and emails. Coverage of Trump associated with immigration, jobs and trade was greater than that of his personal scandals.
- Immigration and Muslims/Islam were the two most widely covered substantive issues of the campaign.
What’s going on here is that conservatives are winning a war that liberals, centrists and, indeed, anyone who believes that politics should be tethered to recognizable reality don’t even know they are fighting. Racism and Islamophobia from outlets like Breitbart and the lunatic ravings of Infowars’ Alex Jones — which somehow make even Breitbart appear relatively reasonable — drove the news coverage of the election even in our most prestigious outlets. Twitter and Facebook were dominated by phony stories designed to discredit Clinton, and cable news, in its ceaseless quest for ratings and the advertising dollars that follow them, reinforced these priorities, allowing Trump surrogates to lie with impunity and without correction.”
What we saw then in the 2016 Election Campaign was the phenomenon of a Right Wing Propaganda Machine, FOX News, Breitbart and Infowars publicizing and scandalizing two factually ridiculous “Fake News Stories“. The first Benghazi was a phony crisis that was manipulated by the aforementioned Right Wing Propaganda Machine and the manipulation included Congressional Hearings producing no culpable evidence but copious sensational news stories; the mother of a Benghazi victim calling for criminal charges against Clinton at the Republican Convention; and even an adventure movie funded by a Right Wing Billionaire. While from the beginning of this phony crisis, it was obvious that Clinton shared no culpability for the murdered foreign service officers, the “Fake News” clamor laying blame upon Clinton forced the “mainstream” media outlets to cover the non-story. These news outlets hewing to their policy of even-handedness actually succeeded in advancing the “Fake News” about the Benghazi killings. The falsified uproar created an impression of Clinton culpability that was not supported by the actual evidence and in their cowardly even-handedness, our paragons of mainstream journalistic probity, help to create an unduly negative portrait of the Democratic candidate.
The Clinton E Mail Scandalwas the other over-hyped story that served to diminish the public’s view of Hillary Clinton. Although it was publicly known from the outset that former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condeleeza Rice also utilized private servers, the Right Wing propaganda outlets mercilessly hyped the story, forcing the mainstream media to cover it and thus giving equal time to the propagandist skewed version of what was there materially. Such was the grandstanding of the propagandist claque and the cynical outrage of Republicans in Congress, that the FBI investigated the case and Director James Comey found himself influencing the election as he tried to appear even-handed as well. As we now know there was nothing that compromised American security and the upshot was that this was another example of the “Fake News” got this unqualified con man elected.
Perhaps though, the biggest example of “Fake News” that led to the election of this disgusting person was the fact that our mainstream media, in their misguided understanding of journalistic ethics, failed miserably in conveying the truth about who Donald Trump really was. The stories of Trump‘s mistreatment of women, his bigotry and his failures as a businessman were and have been available since the mid 1970’s. Our mainstream media was nevertheless derelict in their reportage of Trump during the campaign, allowing for the most part the falsehoods about his business acumen to go unchallenged and in doing so to foster his claim that as a businessman only he had the skills to “fix” our government.
Yet the worst aspect of the real “Fake News” was that the election coverage of the Trump campaign and his outrageously simplistic platform, drowned out any attempt by the Clinton forces to get their own message across, while at the same time enmeshing her in phony scandals of no real electoral import. Covering the doings of this maliciously zany mountebank almost non-stop gave him the impetus and name recognition to prevail in the Electoral College.
For those of us of Progressive sentiments, who are committed to resisting and replacing Trump, our task is daunting. Unlike our opponents, we tend to rely on mainstream media outlets like the New York Times, the Washington Post and in the information age most heavily on CNN, MSNBC and websites like HuffPost and Politico. You will note that all of those mentioned are profit making entities and as such succumbed to the Trump phenomena because it brought them great profit. While there is much that is positive to be said about the integrity of these outlets, they all seem to suffer under the misunderstanding that they must always act evenhandedly in reporting the news. By doing so they often set up situations of false equivalency, the best example of which is reporting on a debate on evolution between a creationist and a biologist, as if each side was of equal value. Given the above I believe that a mainstay of our resistance and replacement must be understanding the “Fake News” coming from the news source We trust, because of their reliance upon the idea that they must be evenhanded.