The War against the Media is a fake war that can’t be won
You’ve probably heard by now about the war against the media, the President’s battle against the perceived “Fake News.” And you probably heard about it through some sort of news report, brought to you courtesy of “the media.” Because that’s what the media does. It gathers and delivers information to you, the viewer/reader/listener, as it happens so that you can be better informed.
That’s why I’m confused by this war. I realize that some news outlets stretch the truth and offer their own interpretation of the facts so that it conforms to some particular agenda. But I also understand that there are many longstanding reputable outlets that go to great lengths to ensure that the information they’re sharing is accurate and not fake. In that sense, I’m not sure who the enemy is in this war, nor what side of the war I’m supposed to be fighting on.
As a former journalist, I was once employed as a full-time agent of “the media” and even provided anonymity to a couple of sources along the way. I obviously support a free press and think that journalists should continue to ask questions and write stories, without fear of government, to act as a check and balance of our elected officials. And I support the use of anonymous sources when it comes to getting at the truth, especially when reporters are blocked from access, left out of the loop and otherwise stonewalled.
So, does that make me the enemy in this war? That can’t be right either. I’m no fan of fake news. My years as a journalist provided me with a good nose for sniffing out fake news (though I realize others struggle to recognize it) and I have made a conscious effort to not share anything fake if I come across it. But maybe that’s not enough — especially in times of war. Maybe I should be ridiculing that one Facebook friend who shares fake news by yelling at him — in an ALL CAPS comment on his post — and start referring to him as a “Lyin’ Fake News Facebook Friend.”
But wait, that friend isn’t part of “the media.” Well, not really. He just shares stuff that he finds on the Internet that conforms to his view of the world — and then argues with his followers who challenge him. Hmmm. Maybe that does make him part of “the media,” after all. Isn’t what he’s doing just as bad as what the all-news cable channels are doing? None of them seem to be helping in any constructive way.
The point I’m trying to make is that waging a war against something as vast and undefinable as “the media” may make for a good news soundbite (note the irony there) but, in the end, it’s a fruitless effort.
So why even bother? Well, for one, it serves as a distraction. If we’re focused on this war against the media, maybe we won’t pay attention to the news they’re sharing about the Russia investigations, health care reform and the battles over equal rights. But more importantly, the war on the media provides another scapegoat, another group of people that can be blamed for all that’s wrong in the world.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve heard it before. Substitute “the media” with “Muslims,” “Black people,” “immigrants” or “gays” and you’ll notice yet another form of the divisiveness that’s becoming synonymous with this administration. With this constant state of “us versus them” plaguing this nation, the last thing we need is another “them” for someone with mental health issues and a weapon to pursue. We’ve seen that happen too many times already, horrible acts committed by people who just don’t seem to understand that the cries of Fake News are really just fake battle cries from a fake war.
Trump is outnumbered and definitely outsmarted by his perceived enemy in this war. The media is not backing down from its coverage of the Russia investigation — or wherever else that might lead them. They aren’t backing down from the criticisms of unpresidential behavior. And they will not let closed-door policies slip through the cracks without sounding the alarms for the American people. In other words, they will continue to do their jobs — just as they’ve done for generations long before Trump entered the Oval Office.
I’m opposed to fake news and discourage the sharing of it — by everyone, including the leader of the free world — but I refuse to buy into some alleged war with the media over it. I will continue to consume — and pay for — responsible journalism that makes me a smarter citizen and more informed voter.
And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who feels this way.