“Lies that aren’t true.”
“Hurricane of lies.”
“How do you feel about those lies?”
This is a small sample of the media response to former President Trump’s CNN Townhall interview last week. Conservatives have called it a “media meltdown,” claiming the event was a clear win for Trump.
But what should we make of the seemingly unified response, the unanimous point of view that this former president’s shortcomings can be summed up in one word that should be shouted from the rooftops at every opportunity: “Liar! Liar! Liar! Liar!”?
Clearly, the talking points were in play following the event. But it seems there is something deeper going on with the media’s response.
My take is this: the media, clearly struggling with how to cover former President Trump — what they actually mean when they say this, I believe, is not how to cover him, but how to stop his ascendancy, or how to present him so that he looks as bad as they think him to be — have decided on this as their strategy, namely, call him a liar over and over.
But is this a fair characterization? Were other presidents handled with this same expectation of relentless truthfulness?
It seems not.
Does anyone recall then-President Bill Clinton shaking his index finger at the camera and saying, “I did not have sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky?” Or President Obama, when campaigning for Obamacare, repeating ad nauseum, “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan?” Or that same administration’s lies about dealing with a so-called moderate faction of the Iranian government during the Iran nuclear deal, which representatives of his own government later said they knew did not exist?
Literally none of these leaders were subjected to the kind of ridicule and even censorship as this one, which prompts the question: Why such strict and unusual measures? Why Trump? Why now?
As events unfold, it seems there is a story to be gleaned, the story of what used to be: independent media. But the media did not remain independent. When faced with a changing environment, brought on first by cable news, then the internet, the old, so-called independent news organizations were forced to adapt, so that, instead of keeping their ideas of independence and objectivity — which they’d adhered to for so many years — in the forefront, they tossed them aside for increasingly overt partisanship.
This began in earnest during the Obama years when I distinctly remember Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC’s “Scarborough Country,” and still bearing the mantle of Republicanism, chide his colleague Chris Matthews, host of “Hardball,” for cheerleading the incoming Obama administration, reminding him that he’s supposed to be a journalist. But Matthews chafed at the comment. He was for his country, he said, suggesting his old allegiance to truth and objectivity was over.
Things grew more partisan from there, as, one after another, incidents of wrongdoing emerged with little or no media concern. Events like the FISA warrant violations, which were used as a pretense for illegal FBI tactics against the former President, or news that the Steele dossier was itself a bit of “Russian disinformation,” came and went with very little reporting by the once-claimed independent press, even after the same organizations had spent years reporting the opposite — that the president was just the kind of compromised leader that the false reports claimed him to be.
And now we seem to approach critical mass, that moment when the media, after years of reporting on Trump’s non-existent Russian ties, finds itself in a position similar to Oedipus when he learned that the person guilty of killing his father and bringing a curse on the Kingdom of Thebes was none other than himself. For it is the media, not the former president, that is guilty of promoting the biggest lies of our time. It is them, not anyone else, who should commit themselves to restoring virtue and peace to our war-torn politic.
The recent facts of the Durham report, which found literally no connection between Trump and Russia, is a perfect opportunity for the once “independent” media to rebrand itself. It should reclaim its old standards of honesty and objectivity and really focus on getting to the heart of what’s wrong at the Justice Department. For only then can Thebes become a peaceful kingdom once more, the way it was after Oedipus’s time. They should push just as relentlessly for change at the DOJ as they did for proving Trump’s ties to Russia. Our Republic depends on it.
Along with his father, Allen Keller runs a lumber business in Stevenson, Alabama. He has a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from Florida State University and an MBA from University of Virginia. He can be reached for comment at email@example.com.
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