Alternative facts are everywhere. Each interview between the White House and the mainstream media devolves into a shouting match over who lied about what, as if they were an old married couple fighting over a dryer lint trap.
But the problem is that the Trump administration and the media are not an old married couple, they are institutions who have worked together for a grand total of three weeks – yet both have lied so much that Pinocchio’s nose is so long you could chop it down and use the wood to build the border wall.
The lies are so out of hand that 48% of respondents think the Trump administration is untruthful, which seems like a lot, except it is bested by the 53% of respondents who think the media is untruthful. That means that the media is seen as less reliable than the average possible father on a Maury paternity test reveal (this analysis ignores the paternity tests where there are three possible fathers, which are the best paternity tests).
While the lies are piling up on both sides, the media must realize that their lies are much more dangerous. Trump has a lesser interest in telling the truth, because part of a politician’s job is to lie. When Obama said “if you like your plan, you can keep it,” everyone knew that wasn’t true. It’s like when a real estate agent tells you that a house built on an environmental superfund site is a “good value” – the only value is that you will be able to save money on gloves when your children are born with just 3 fingers.
Politicians have to be salesmen. They have to figure out the best law, and then they have to figure out how to sell it. For instance, when Obama pushed his student loan policy through, he claimed that it would cost $25 billion, but it’s actually going to cost at least double that. Yet you can’t call Obama a liar anymore than you can call Ron Popeil a liar for selling you spray-on hair doesn’t work.
Politics is like dating. If everyone told the truth, there’d be no second dates or second terms. No one is sitting down on a date and saying, “Hello, I’m 46, my only hobby is playing Farmville, and if this relationship lasts longer than five dates you’ll never see me wearing anything other than sweatpants.”
But journalism is different than politics. The purpose of the press is not to lead, or govern, or pass legislation. The purpose of the press is to tell people what is really going on. Lying, even on little issues, renders the industry useless. When the mainstream media scoffs at Trump’s inauguration crowd sizes by using a picture before people even arrived (a photo which is refuted by their own later gigapixel photo), it is propagating deliberate misinformation that is directly at odds with their mission to inform.
Such information is far more damaging than Trump boasting that his inauguration was bigger than Obama’s (when we all know it probably wasn’t), because Trump’s job isn’t to report facts. It’s the difference between a man lying that he caught the biggest fish in history, and the fish and wildlife service lying that someone caught the biggest fish in history – the first is bragging, the second is a scandal.
That is not to say that Trump’s claims aren’t dangerous – they could easily push his administration into Kim Jong Un-level parody, with weekly ridiculous lies – like claiming that Donald Trump started play calling for the Patriots in the second half and caused them to “win Bigly.”
But even these lies wouldn’t destroy Trump the same way lies destroy the media. The media loses credibility when Bloomberg and CNN insinuate that Milo Yiannopoulos is rallying white supremacists to instigate violent riots, when the reality is that Milo was trying to give a talk to college republicans. It was left wing activists who rioted at Berkeley causing $100,000 in damage and injuring six (because nothing makes white supremacists more angry than people vandalizing Berkeley’s campus).
The media is in such a hurry to get stories out, that they take no time to ensure that those stories are accurate. The second a journalist loses his keys, he tweets out, “Breaking: President Trump is stealing keys in order to scratch the n-word into Barack Obama’s car,” before realizing a minute later that the keys are in his coat pocket – and Obama doesn’t even have a car. Sure the media may tweet out a retraction, but by the time they do, the story is so big it’s like whispering at a mob.
The media needs to realize that their sole job is to report accurate information. When politicians fudge the facts, they may get deals made and legislation passed. But when journalists fudge the facts, even a little bit, they forever lose the trust of the public.