Progressives woke up on November 9th to a world gone sour. Sure, we grieved for awhile but we almost immediately began thinking about how to resist the worst of what the Trump cabal promised to bring about. The good news is that there’s plenty that we can do. Specifically, Trump’s propensity for obvious lies offers all of us what will – sadly – likely be an ongoing opportunity.
We can inform ourselves and when media fails to sufficiently point out Big Orange’s mendacity, we can call them on it with whatever tools we may have, for example, send admonitory emails or make phone calls to the editor of our local papers, submit letters to the editor for publication, or use Twitter or Facebook to point out examples of lax reporting.
Greg Sargent points out examples of one type of the media failure I am referencing. He examined the headlines that greeted Trump’s effort to take credit for bringing Sprint jobs to the US – a move by Sprint that was announced in April of 2015 and that did not necessarily have anything to do with Trump (who also seems to have at times inflated the number of jobs from 5000 to 8000). With a few exceptions, most of the headlines obligingly repeated Trump’s claim although the body the articles may have suggested reasons to doubt its veracity .
Sargent suggests that in cases like this bit of unsupported braggadocio, “if the headline does not convey the fact that Trump’s claim is in question or open to doubt, based on the known facts, then it is insufficiently informative” or even “misleading” because many people simply “scan headlines without digging deeper into the stories and the factual details.” He suggests that care in constructing headlines is important because:
.. it’s obvious that Trump has adopted a strategy of actively trying to game such headlines in his favor. Trump’s claims about Carrier jobs staying in Indiana turned out to be significantly less rosy upon closer inspection. And remember when Trump falsely claimed credit for keeping a Ford plant here that was going to stay anyway? It really doesn’t take much to convey it in a headline when Trump’s claim is in doubt
Headlines are not the only place where media may mislead due to an overly casual approach to reporting. Recently, in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article on newly proposed right-to-work-for-less legislation in Missouri, the reporter glibly stated that the legislation would make it unlawful to force workers to join unions, a blatantly misleading statement. Workers are not now required to join a union, although, if they enjoy the benefits of a union contract – from which they cannot by law be excluded – they must pay at least a portion of the dues paid by union members. Folks who receive benefits paid for by the actual union members are nothing more than free-loaders if they don’t pay their share of the cost.
Examples of such misrepresentation are rife and promise to be especially common as media struggles to deal with the serial-liar and champion deflector who will soon be President of the US. In fact, the failure to deal with his lies and the false narratives emanating from political propaganda outlets like Fox News and Breitbart.com may have significantly contributed to the fact we are now facing a walking, talking disaster like our new President-elect.
It becomes our obligation to point out problems in reporting and presentation of news when we notice them and to demand that journalists do better. Responding to the lies of the Trump mafia by refusing to let our media either inadvertently or intentionally perpetuate them is one of our first tasks. So, let’s get busy – if we are to be effective, there has to be lots of voices calling out Trump and other rightwing liars along with their media enablers.
*1st sentence of last paragraph slightly rewritten for clarity.