George Duncan

Marketing copywriter/consultant, author

Archive for the category “Donald Trump”

Will the real fake news please stand up?

At his most recent theatrical production in Phoenix, Donald Trump bore down relentlessly on his “fake news” meme, accusing the media of the deepest, darkest of offenses against him, against America and of being just plain “bad people.” From his point of view, he may be right. For example, the press noticed that Trump planned his Phoenix hoopla just after the national revulsion that met his statement regarding the Charlottesville riot. Also, the big, bad Washington Post had the nerve to publish Trump’s 1000 lies, exaggerations, fairy tales, etc. since the inauguration. Talk about fake news!

As an example of how the press lies about him, he read the statement he made the night of the Charlottesville riot. He read most of it including, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence” conveniently leaving out the phrase “on many sides” …”on many sides” — the very words that marked Trump equalizing those defending the statue’s removal with the armed white supremacists and Nazi attackers. Trump converted that part of the coverage to “I just didn’t say it soon enough!” But the crowd at Phoenix either didn’t notice the difference or didn’t care. It’s easier to castigate the media than to think through such complicated dynamics. Maybe that should be the Post’s 1001st lie.

Interesting isn’t it? The press (i.e. media) has held a very special place in America since the days of Ben Franklin, often referred to as “The Fourth Estate.” Thomas Jefferson, who was vilified almost daily by the press of the day, nonetheless declared, “If I had to choose between government without newspapers, and newspapers without government, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose the latter.” Now, all of a Trump sudden they’re “failing” and lying, etc. but oddly, only about Trump! With all that, he doesn’t hesitate to meet with The New York Times’ and Post’s editorial boards when he has something to snow—say. Of course, it’s obvious to people with a brain that he must try to destroy the press because they’re telling the truth about the president, as they have done for more than 200 years. Like he had to fire acting Attorney General Sally Yates and FBI Director, Jim Comey for the same reason, and Comey suddenly became a “nut job.” And the newspapers and TV networks that record and report these events are “enemies of the people.” Not that the press is perfect. The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof, put it best:

Critics are right that we in the national media are often out of touch with working-class America, and distressingly often, we are lap dogs instead of watchdogs.

Yet for all our failings, journalism remains an indispensable constraint on power. Trump has systematically tried to delegitimize the institutions that hold him accountable — courts, prosecutors, investigators, the media — and that’s the context for his vilification of all them, for we collectively provide monitoring that outrages him.

I’d suggest those folks who believe the media “hates America,” take the time to find out for themselves. Go down to the local newspaper office and look around. Meet an editor or two and ask them about their work. Go online and check out one or two of the Posts’ 1000 lies and fake news. Make some calls. Find out for yourself where the information came from. Trump likes to say the press has no sources. Well, of course, they often can’t reveal their sources as he well knows. He accuses the press of misrepresenting him. How is that possible when everything is on video tape? I just watched one of the administration’s increasingly rare press briefings and I would estimate that Sarah Huckabee Sanders answered approximately 20% of the questions, awkwardly ducking the rest one way or another. And some of those answers were little more than White House boilerplate.

In Phoenix, Trump said CNN was turning off their cameras and refusing to air him – as he spoke into those same CNN’s cameras! Check the coverage for yourself. Have you noticed the rope line of men and women with cameras at the back of the room whenever Trump appears? Do you really believe those poor schlumps are part of some kind of vast conspiracy to misrepresent Donald Trump? Ask yourself what any newspaper or TV station would have to gain by trying to “erase our country’s heritage.” How would they do such a thing? Yes, there are some anti-administration blogs and newsletters mostly in social media, but don’t confuse those with established news organizations.

As I pointed out in an earlier post, silencing or controlling the press is one of the first actions of authoritarian governments and dictators of various stripes. Indeed, some repressive governments even now have begun using Trump’s denigration of the media to justify attacks on their own media, and limiting access to US press according to a report in The New York Times. Increasingly, with Trump’s erratic behavior, the Russia probe and more, the press may be our only way to maintain sanity.

Just sayin’…

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In My Dreams

This will require some full disclosure, but what the hell, if it helps, it’s worth it. Fact is, since finding that counting sheep made me allergic to wool, I began lulling myself to sleep these nights by creating an imaginary foundation which, of course, has very substantial resources. One arm of this organization is devoted to “social events” like drug abuse, local poverty, parenting and more. The other arm addresses public information, broadly defined. I have a director in mind for the social work, and a chairman for the foundation. My focus most recently is on the public information function. A major mission of this arm is to counter the pernicious effects of Trump’s constant onslaught of lies and “fake news” and Republicans’ failure to do what they were elected for, and to find ways to bring honest, accurate information about government and progressive policies to the nation’s voters. To head up this group I recruit Lawrence O’Donnell, a major force behind the landmark series “West Wing,” and currently doing yeoman work hidden away on MSNBC’s “Last Word” program, which airs at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

One of the ventures I have in mind for Lawrence is to direct the production and distribution of 15-minute videos hosted by him and others and sent to network (not cable) programmers for inclusion in their local news and information broadcasts. Clever, huh? So guess what.

I open up the July 24th issue of Bloomberg Businessweek and…viola! There it is! The whole concept. Only it’s being implemented as I lay there dreaming by none other than the stomach-turning Boris Epshteyn (that’s not a misspelling) and the Sinclair Broadcast Group, described by Bloomberg as “the Fox News of local TV!”

Sinclair currently sends brief videos to 65 local station newsrooms who are required to run them. With a capacity to expand to 173 stations, Sinclair is positioned to spread right-wing poison to Ma’s and Pa’s coast to coast, rural areas and cities alike. And what alternatives are there for these folks? Virtually none. Add to that the old reliable Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Drudge, David Levin, plus local crazies on local stations and the question that screams out is WHAT ARE PROGRESSIVES DOING TO COUNTER THIS ONSLAUGHT OF RIGHT WING PROPAGANDA? Virtually nothing!

Progressives have MSNBC on cable and little else of mass distribution. The relativity few Trump types who read The New York Times dismiss it as fake news and, sad to say, Trump has largely succeeded in labeling the “mainstream media” as liars and worse, at least as far as his base is concerned, whenever they encounter something that challenges their – or his – beliefs. Al Gore gave progressive broadcast a shot with Current TV, but had to abandon it to low ratings. Online sources are mostly preaching to the choir. Beyond that, I’m unaware of any serious attempts at straight or progressive news and information distribution. Distribution is key. Truthful information has to reach local communities and smaller cities and towns everywhere in order to have any meaningful effect, as the 2016 election so painfully proved.

How many amendments are there to the U.S. Constitution? 32? 25? 17? Not sure? Someone – I don’t know who – recently suggested that high school students be required to answer the 100 questions that are part of a citizenship application. It was called civics when I went to school, but it has somehow disappeared from school curriculum in recent years. It’s a good place to start, a way to build a better informed electorate, but we obviously need more. We need to help people distinguish a “voter database program” from the voter suppression effort currently being attempted by Trump via Kris Kobach and his fellow suppressors, so they will speak out against it. Or at least believe the press when they do.

Is there no one in the Democratic Party savvy enough to develop a progressive news source that will reach out to ordinary Americans and talk straight? On my desk is the latest mailing from the Democratic National Committee outlining various efforts the DNC is taking in door knocking, phone calls, and other methods for “grass roots” organizing for “Resistance”— complete with a stick-on wallet card headed RESIST. What does that mean beyond sending them a check? Why doesn’t an organization such as this think outside the box? Someone there should take a look at the recent 28-page document published by the Southern Poverty Law Center entitled “100 Days in Trump’s America.” It spells out, in real world terms, how the Trump administration got where it is, the mainstreaming of the radical right, profiles of key people, a 100-day timeline, and suggestions for participation.

Why not reach out to people everywhere, every income level, every education level, every zip code, and provide proven, factual information on the issues of the day? Frankly, I’ve listened to DNC Chair Tom Perez a number of times and all I hear are the same old “liberal” slogans that the recent election has shown are just another echo chamber. Trashing Trump, however justified, is not a program. Maybe Tom should ask if he can publish the SPLC’s document under DNC auspices. That would get checks…and maybe some action.

 

Just sayin’…

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