”I think what no one in this room wants to admit is that Trump has helped all of you. He couldn’t sell steaks or vodka or water or college or ties or Eric. But he has helped you. He’s helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster and now you’re profiting off of him.”—Comedian Michelle Wolf at the 2018 White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
The country’s corporate media continues to normalize President Donald Trump’s bizarre and unethical behavior by using false equivalencies and tepid language in stories about him.
The truth is that Trump is an immoral, petulant liar, a racist hate monger who threatens our country’s democracy and, by extension, democracies around the world. Any reporting about Trump that doesn’t clearly reflect this view in one form or another is not only simply unreliable but also a tacit endorsement of a type of neoliberal tyranny that places profits above humanity’s basic welfare and survival.
Trump’s latest media stunt in which he has labeled an investigation into how Russia meddled in the nation’s 2016 election as “spygate” is the latest case in point. There is no spy. That’s a lie. It should be called a lie in headlines and in news stories. Here’s the absurd tweet Trump used last week to manipulate journalists into yet another breathless conundrum:
Clapper has now admitted that there was Spying in my campaign. Large dollars were paid to the Spy, far beyond normal. Starting to look like one of the biggest political scandals in U.S. history. SPYGATE – a terrible thing!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 24, 2018
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper Clapper didn’t admit there was “Spying.” There was nothing “far beyond normal” in paying for research and reports. There is not even a hint of political scandal or wrongdoing. Trump is simply lying to deflect attention away from the investigation into his own campaign over its suspected ties to Russia’s interference in our election. Why doesn’t the media report it that way?
Instead we get long media reports using false equivalencies like this one in The New York Times or the breathless “both sides” arguments from the inane talking heads on cable television news shows. All this normalizes Trump and just isn’t truthful. But it does, as the comedian Michelle Wolf pointed out, help the corporate media make a lot of money.
We can all understand the dilemma mainstream media outlets face. Does the very act of just reporting on Trump’s latest bizarre tweet or action normalize it to some degree? Should Trump simply be ignored at times? The answer is yes to both questions. But the real answer to righteously covering the immoral Trump is to discard the old “both sides” rhetorical format used by journalists and state the truth unequivocally.
Here’s some language in the The New York Times article I cited above about Trump’s recent lie over how a spy was embedded in his presidential campaign:
Mr. Trump’s allies argue that he has every right to manage the executive branch and every reason to be outraged at possible misconduct aimed at his campaign. But many law enforcement veterans say he is wreaking untold damage on institutions that form the bulwark of a democratic society.
Note the qualification in the idea that Trump has “every reason to be outraged.” That one bit of language renders the entire article meaningless and gives Trump yet another victory for lying to the American people. Who cares what Trump’s allies believe? Those allies support a liar and an angry tyrant and do so most likely for personal gain of some type. Those allies are not the equivalent of law enforcement veterans trying to uphold a “democratic society” through our legal systems.
Trump’s lies are genuinely harming the country by de-centering the entire concept of truth and thus threatening democracy. It’s wrong, immoral and fascist. That’s the main story the mainstream media has to report over and over in clear and direct language. It needs to adopt a more aggressive oppositional approach to Trump in its headlines and news columns with stronger, indicting language and without false equivalencies and untruthful contrarian views.
Trump, our country’s president, is an immoral liar and his allies and supporters don’t care. That’s the story, perhaps the only story, that needs to be covered. If the nation’s president gets away with lying, then why shouldn’t anyone else get away with lying? Without truth, there can be no real journalism or legal system. Nothing else much matters.