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The Media’s Conventions Are A Weapon the Trump Administration Will Turn Against Them

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Ygelsias has an explanation for the gross media malpractice that characterized the 2016 campaign. In summary, 1)there were Trump scandals, 2)there were reporters covering Clinton, 3)they don’t care about policy (or think their watchers/readers don’t), 4)they don’t want to appear in the tank, 5)they need something to talk about, 6)EMAILS! are, well, not really something but they can pass for something for out daily story, and that nice Rep. Chaffetz always has news for us. Conclusion: Both Sides Do It, and Hillary Clinton’s email management practices are the equivalent of Trump’s sexual assaults, countless cons and grifts, serial dishonesty, complete ignorance of public policy, etc. etc.

As Adam Serwer points out, this is going to get worse before it gets better:

During the 2016 presidential campaign, reporters marveled at the ability of Donald Trump and his surrogates to create an alternate reality in which statements made by the candidate had not been made at all—from his view that global warming is a hoax, to his nonexistent opposition to the Iraq War, to his refusal to say he would concede in the event of a loss, to his remarks about his relationship to Russian strongman Vladimir Putin. These are people who could argue that the sky is green without a blink. They were able to win a presidential election while doing so. Now they will have the entire apparatus of the federal government to bolster their lies, and the mainstream press is woefully unprepared to cover them.

The first reason is that political journalism is highly dependent on official sources, which are chased with abandon. Miller’s defense of stenography seems absurd in hindsight, but there is a grain of truth in it. Government sources are granted a high degree of credibility, and official lies can be difficult to dispute. Contrary leaks from highly placed sources can offer an important check on the official story, but the breadth of the surveillance state built by Bush and Obama, a surveillance state now in Trump’s hands, will make such leaks difficult.

For Trump administration mouthpieces, both public and anonymous, lies will now come with an officiality that will be difficult to contest. The total Republican control of government means that Democrats will struggle to get their objections to carry much weight, much as they did prior to the Iraq War.

Another obstacle is that media objectivity is not a fixed point. It is carefully calibrated to the perception of public opinion, because media organizations do not want to alienate their intended audience. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews offers a telling example of how media figures shift to identify with their perceived audience, which can ultimately mean cozying up to power. During George W. Bush’s absurd war pageantry in May 2003, Matthews remarked that Bush looked like a “high-flying jet star,” and that Bush “won the war. He was an effective commander. Everybody recognizes that, I believe, except a few critics.” The Iraq War is arguably still ongoing.

Lying unapolgetically worked very well for Donald Trump and he paid no price for it. Why would he stop?

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